Iraq and the War of Sanctions: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The Threat from Iraqi Air and Air Defense Forces

The Iraqi air force has never been able to match the effectiveness of the Iraqi land forces. It developed some effective elements during the Iran-Iraq War, but it was never able to fully exploit its offensive capabilities in spite of the growing weakness of the Iranian air force. It could not approach the effectiveness of the US and Saudi air forces in air-to-air combat during the Gulf War. It played virtually no offensive role, and it suffered major losses from Coalition attacks on Iraqi air bases and facilities and because Iran confiscated the Iraqi aircraft that flew from Iraq to Iran in an effort to find sanctuary from Coalition attacks.

Iraq has slowly rebuilt its air force since the Gulf War, but it has done little to improve the war-fighting effectiveness of its remaining air units, modernize its forces, or improve its training and organization. The air force is still headquartered at Bab-al Mudham in Baghdad. Its headquarters are organized by branch—operations, personnel, training, logistics, and air defense. The air force has regional commands for air defense, which roughly match the command structure of the land-based air defense forces, and garrisons at Baghdad, Mosul, and Talil. It also has regimental and base commands, although little unclassified data are available on the details of this command structure.

In early 1999, the Iraqi Air Force had a total of roughly 35,000–40,000 men, including some 15,000–17,000 air defense personnel. 1 Iraq had been able to rebuild many of the shelters and facilities it lost during the war, and much of the Air Force C4I/BM system. This C4I/BM system included an extensive network of optical fiber communications, a TFH 647 radio relay system, a TFH tropospheric communications system, and a large mix of radars supplied by the Soviet Union. Iraq has rebuilt most of the air bases damaged during the Gulf War, and its bases received only very limited damage during Desert Fox. This

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