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ARLINGTON, Va. — The new Iraqi air force opened the gates of its first air base and announced the “stand-up” of its first operational C-130 transport squadron Tuesday, the New Al Muthana Air Base at Baghdad International Airport.

“The stand-up of this squadron is good for the country, and good for the [Iraqi] armed forces,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday at the Pentagon.

The squadron consists of three C-130 transports donated by the United States, and flew its first solo mission in December. It now numbers about 270 personnel, Pace said.

The entire Iraqi air force comprises between 700 and 800 personnel, including pilots, flight crews, maintenance crews and other personnel, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Smolinsky, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command Air Force—Forward.

The U.S. Air Force has been responsible for training and equipping the air force since November 2005.

In addition to the C-130s, the Iraqi Air Force is flying Mi-17 multirole helicopters donated by Russia and 16 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters given to them by Jordan.

The Iraqis also have some commercial Jet Ranger helicopters, which, like the Iroquois, are produced by Bell, Smolinski said.

The fleet also includes Sama CH2000, a U.S.-made two-seater used for military tactical surveillance, and the Comp Air single-wing aircraft produced by U.S. company called Aerocomp.

Small as the Iraqi fleet is, it is already “playing a limited, but effective, role in our operations,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. David Eidsaune, the Air Component Coordination Element director, told Air Force News.

Missions include transporting troops, supplies and distinguished visitors, “limited intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support” to the coalition, Eidsaune said.


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