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Iraq receives four US-built T-6A trainer aircraft

The T-6A trainer aircraft of the US Air Force.

TIKRIT (AFP/PTI): Iraq is to relaunch its air force which was decimated in the 1991 Gulf War and to train pilots for a squadron of 18-24 fighter planes, Defence Minister Abdel Qadr Obeidi has announced.

Obeidi said at the reopening of the air force academy in Tikrit, in northern Iraq, that the facility would produce a new generation of pilots, navigators and ground crew.

“We are turning a new page in the history of the Iraqi air force,” the minister said as he attended the arrival of four US-built T-6A trainer aircraft piloted by Iraqi instructors.

Under a $210-million joint venture between the two countries, Iraq is due to receive another four T-6As at the end of January, followed by seven more in December.

The US is also to provide flight simulators and training, which is to begin for Iraqi instructors in January before they take on their first students at the end of next year.

The Americans are to erect a 36-metre control tower by mid-2010 and a training centre in Kirkuk will be moved to Tikrit, which is to have 60 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

Obeidi said the country would have a squadron of between 18 and 24 fighter aircraft by the end of 2011, when the US military is due to have completed its withdrawal, to support the infantry and defend Iraqi airspace.

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