Iraqi Su-25s and F-16s don’t fly – no maintenance, no spare parts

BAGHDAD, (BM) – The Iraqi Air Force faces a severe challenge in 2021. Although Baghdad has airborne equipment in Russian Su-25s and American F-16s, the fighters are grounded at their bases and are unlikely to be lifted into the air any time soon. The situation is similar to the unmanned aerial vehicles adopted in Iraq – the Chinese CH drones and the American tactical ScanEagle drones.

There are two reasons – lack of spare parts and ground support, due to frequent attacks on the bases where the fighters landed.

Currently, the F-16 of the Iraqi Air Force is not flying due to the frequent attacks of the Islamic State in Northern Iraq, Kirkuk province. The attacks are aimed not only at civilians but also at military bases in the area. This base is in Ballad, where American soldiers and teams for technical support of F-16 fighters are locating. The pilots of the 9th Squadron of the Iraqi Air Force located in this base.

This military base can be said to have been shelled almost regularly. Perhaps this is the main reason for the withdrawal of Americans from the base in the last three months. In this way, the Iraqi F-16s are deprived of vital support to ensure their takeoff into the air.

In 2020, Iraq again failed to complete its air combat missions in April-September. But then the reason was different – the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Currently, the “technicians” are back at the base in Ballad, but the question is: how long will they stay there? There is no intelligence to say that the attacks will be stopped or reduced; on the contrary – even greater military activity expects from the Islamic State.

The situation is almost similar to the Iraqi Su-25. Years ago, they were donated by Russia, Belarus, and Iran. Baghdad is unclear when the Su-25s will be lifted into the air. Russia is delaying or not delivering spare parts, which actually “parks” the fighters in military airports and silos.

And if the Iraqi government’s hope is in unmanned aerial vehicles, the situation there is not rosy either. Iraq uses its drones primarily to monitor the movements and maneuvers of Islamic State troops. Again, this is impossible today.

Chinese CH drones have the same problem as Russian Su-25s – Beijing does not supply spare parts. According to documents from the Pentagon and the Iraqi government, the last such drone was the air in 2019. China has sold 20 drones to Iraq, eight of which have already crashed.

And to complete the “trouble” of the Iraqi military, US reconnaissance drones ScanEagle are not currently flying because of “electromagnetic interference,” as the Pentagon report said.

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