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Too many F-16s on Earth: is Iraq looking at Russian MiG 29/35 fighter jets?

BAGHDAD, (BM) – According to reports from the Russian aeronautical information portal Avia Pro, Iraq is considering the acquisition of several Russian-made MiG-29 fighters, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing the Italian news agency AnalisiDifese.

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Citing local sources, the portal in question would have explained that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense is currently engaged in negotiations with the Russian counterpart for the purchase of new MiG-29s in order to replace the US-made F-16 fighters currently largely stopped. to the ground.

It is not specified which version of the Fulcrum would be the subject of the negotiations, if the MiG-29M / M2 in service with Egypt for a few years and recently ordered by the Algerian Air Force or if even the new MiG-35 (pictured above)

After ordering 24 F-16C block 52 plus 12 F-16D block 52 (in the two photos below) delivered between 2014 and 2017 and having lost two single-seaters, the Iraqi Air Force would have 34 F-16s on the card but according to information provided by local military sources and also reported by the US media at least half of this fleet would not be able to fly due to maintenance deficiencies.

This is not just a cost problem but the absence of American specialized personnel, military personnel and contractors of civilian companies hastily withdrawn from various bases in Iraq, including that of Balad where the F-16s are deployed, after the Iranian missile attacks that occurred after the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Since then, many F-16s have reportedly been grounded due to lack of technical support and maintenance, and a senior Iraqi Air Force officer recently went as far as to claim that the Iraqi F-16 fleet is “almost non-existent”.

According to AviaPro “the possible acquisition of Russian MiG-29 fighters was considered exclusively by Iraqi military leaders, however, some experts believe that the sale of the same F-16s to other countries and the purchase of Russian fighters using the collected funds it could also prove beneficial to Baghdad.”

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An assessment that seems to reflect Russian aspirations to return to being the main suppliers of fighter jets to Iraq but which does not take into account the political and economic implications that would emerge in relations with the US if Baghdad took such an initiative.

Rumors have also been circulating for months that Iraq is also considering the purchase of S-300 or S-400 long-range ground-to-air defense systems, but at present no contract has been formalized. After all, it is very likely that in the event of any future purchases of Russian fighters and missiles, Iraq will still have to deal with the threat of sanctions from the United States.

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Iraq may buy also Russian S-400 missile defense system

The Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee will push the government to purchase Russian S-400 systems. Committee member Badr al-Ziyadi explained that a deal with Russia was needed to diversify sources of arms supplies as we reported on April 21 this year.

In the current conditions, the country’s leadership cannot rely solely on Western aid, according to parliament. True, the purchase issue itself is complicated by a whole range of factors, including the incomplete process of forming the Iraqi cabinet.

Al-Ziyadi said the topic of the acquisition of S-400 was raised in conversation with members of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (AF) of Iraq. Now he should be considered by the Prime Minister, to the post of which Mustafa al-Kadimi was nominated.

True, the politician who headed the National Intelligence Service has a different task now – to get approval and create a stable cabinet of ministers, which will not only not meet resistance from the Iraqi street, but will also arrange the main external players influencing the situation in the country. Thus, according to al-Ziyadi, the final decision on the S-400 can only be made after the new Iraqi government has been launched.

“Permission to acquire such complex systems requires a large financial allocation and a political decision,” al-Ziyadi admitted. “We cannot rely solely on the western camp – we need to lean toward the eastern camp.” Earlier, the parliamentarian complained that defense enterprises from the United States and Israel put pressure on the authorities in Baghdad so that they would not discuss the purchase of military equipment with other states.

“There are companies and businessmen who are trying to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts for the purchase of weapons in developed countries,” al-Ziyadi said. Nevertheless, the parliamentarian promised that the Iraqi leadership would still discuss arms deals not only with the Russian Federation, but also with China and Ukraine.

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The US State Department publicly warned official Baghdad about the consequences of expanding military-technical cooperation (MTC) with Moscow and the possible conclusion of a deal on the S-400. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Joey Hood said that the acquisition of air defense systems from Russia would lead to sanctions.

“So we advise our partners not to make such purchases,” the diplomat said then. The reason for such warnings at the beginning of this year was a publication in the Wall Street Journal, according to which Baghdad is conducting consultations with Moscow because of expectations that the military contingent of the international coalition led by the United States will leave Iraq completely.

The Russian side, in turn, argues that it is not afraid of the risk of imposing US sanctions in response to a possible sale of S-400 to Baghdad. “Americans are threatening sanctions to anyone who intends to develop military-technical cooperation,” said Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, on the sidelines of the Gaidar Forum. “This is not news, but a reflection of the policy pursued by Washington in order to implement its goal of dominating, eliminating economic competitors who offer partners in the international market products that meet their needs in terms of their parameters, price indicators. We are not afraid of these sanctions, we are ready to confront them.”

After cases of shelling of American targets in Iraq by Shiite militants became more frequent in recent months, the US Armed Forces command ordered the deployment of its own Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) in the republic. Interestingly, at the same time, an international coalition led by the United States decided to reduce its concentration at some key military facilities in Iraq, delegating responsibility to local security forces.

The Pentagon argues that this relocation process was planned in advance and was not associated with the threat of a new coronavirus or with military tension. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper assured that his country is still working in Iraq working to “contain Iran.”

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“It should be borne in mind that the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee has interesting leaders who are determined to strengthen and strengthen the legislative base for intelligence, security training organizations, and the police,” the program coordinator of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs told NG Ruslan Mammadov. “I think that in connection with the S-400 topic, some deputies have certain expectations: if the new Prime Minister approves this request now, he will be able to gain the confidence and votes of the members of the Security and Defense Committee. This is a serious internal history. Now for al-Kadimi every deputy counts. To approve the cabinet is not so simple.”

The expert does not believe that the issue of missile defense is the highest priority for Iraq, especially in the face of falling oil prices and the spread of a new type of coronavirus. “There are many other relevant topics for the political elite and for ordinary Iraqis,” Mammadov said. – There is a need for reforms, despite the fact that the country’s leadership is not yet ready for changes. The new elections, which may take place ahead of schedule, promise to show very interesting results, if only because changes were made to the law on parliamentary elections, and the very representation of political forces runs the risk of being slightly different than it was before.”

Nevertheless, the analyst says that the topic of S-400 has its relevance due to the fact that Iraq seeks to gain sovereignty. “In this regard, control over such systems would allow Iraqis to at least stop risks coming from third countries,” Mammadov said. True, in his opinion, it would be useful for the Russian leadership in a situation with the possible sale of S-400 to official Baghdad to take a wait and see attitude, because the political situation in Iraq has not yet stabilized.

Read more: Iraq sends a delegation to Russia to purchase the S-300 and S-400 missile systems

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