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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Will Iraq Have Enough Helicopters?

MILITARY

Defense analysts are trying to assess Iraq’s readiness to defend itself without the support of current U.S. forces, and are wondering if the country will have enough helicopters once the U.S. pulls out.

"At present, American forces are about evenly divided between combat and support units," explained John Pike, director of the respected intelligence Web site www.globalsecurity.org. In contrast, "Iraqi units are almost all combat units," he said. "The Iraqis don’t have much in the way of support units." One reason for this imbalance is that American forces have deliberately retained supply chain control to deter theft, Pike told Rotor & Wing. As a result, "supplies get flown around in American helicopters."

Mindful that the Americans will withdraw their supply support by the end of 2011, "We are pushing hard now and using our relations with different countries to cut the time required to equip the Iraqi army and we are achieving good results," said Brigadier-General Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry in a Reuters report filed from Baghdad. According to Reuters, General Askari said helicopters are what the Iraqi armed forces need most. Beyond saying that progress had been made in ordering them, Askari provided no details.

"The Iraqi military has a few dozen helicopters, and the American military has hundreds of helicopters in Iraq," said Pike. "If and when the Americans leave, they will take their helicopters with them. It will be interesting to see where Iraq will get hundreds of helicopters, as well as the spare parts to keep them flying — and whether they can keep the spare parts from vanishing into the black market."

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