Air Platforms

Iraq requests military equipment to bolster counter-terrorism capabilities

12 May 2014
Iraq is looking to buy 24 AT-6C light strike and ISR aircraft (pictured) as part of a wider counter-terrorism package being requested from the United States. Source: US Air Force

The Iraqi government has requested the sale of military equipment from the United States valued at USD981 million, the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 13 May.

Under three separate requests, valued at USD790 million, USD101 million, and USD90 million respectively, Iraq has asked for the sale of 24 Beechcraft AT-6C Texan II light attack aircraft, 200 armoured Humvee ground vehicles, and 14 Aerostat tower systems (including seven Aerostats). These are being made to enhance Iraq's counter-terrorism capabilities and to protect key infrastructure.

The proposed sale of 24 AT-6C twin-seat turboprop light-attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, also covers spare engines, navigation equipment, AN/AAR-47 missile launch detectionm, and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing systems, as well as parts, training, contractor support, and other ancillary services.

The second proposed sale of 200 M1151A1 Up-Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) also comprises M2 12.7 mm (.50 calibre) machine gun mounts, commercial radios, communication equipment, repair and spare parts, and other support and items.

The third and final proposed sale comprises seven Aerostats (17 meter) and 14 Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) Tower Systems, installation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, as well as site surveys.

The requests must first be approved by Congress before contracts can be finalised. No timelines were disclosed.

COMMENT

Of the three requests, the proposed sale of 24 AT-6C light strike and ISR aircraft is arguably the most significant.

Based on the T-6 trainer aircraft, 15 of which have been operated by the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) since 2009, the AT-6C comes with a more powerful engine and is equipped with a variety of air-to-surface munitions and missiles for the light-strike role. It is also equipped with an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret for ISR duties.

While the DSCA notification makes no mention of possible weapons fit, the AT-6C is configured to carry precision munitions, such as laser-guided bombs and laser-guided rockets. It can also carry unguided bombs, rockets, and podded machine gun/cannon systems on its six underwing hardpoints (three per wing), as well as short-range air-to-air missiles for self-defence.

Given Iraq's particular security situation with regard to ongoing terrorist activities, the AT-6C would make a perfect addition to the IqAF's fixed-wing light-strike and ISR inventory, alongside the armed Cessna C208 Grand Caravans.

The AT-6C would fulfil a niche role within the Iraqi armed forces between the low-end armed Bell 407 helicopters of the army, and T-6A and Utva Lasta 95 trainers of the air force; and the IqAF's high-end KAI FA-50 Golden Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 multirole fighters. Armed helicopters do not have the payload or endurance of fixed-wing types such as the AT-6B and can be more vulnerable to ground fire, and while trainers can carry bombs, they do not have the systems to deliver precision-guided munitions.

Further to the limitations of low-end helicopters and trainers, high-performance fighters such as the F-16, and FA-50 are very costly to procure and operate and do not necessarily have the flexibility of the lower and slower turboprop in terms of persistence, sustainability, and responsiveness.

Iraq has previously requested 36 AT-6B light strike platforms, but no contract was signed. It is not clear what the difference is between the AT-6B and AT-6C, and it could just be that AT-6B is the Beechcraft designation while AT-6C is the US Department of Defense designation for the same AT-6 platform.

If this sale is realised, Iraq will become the first customer for the light-attack variant of the Texan II trainer aircraft.



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