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Iraq returns CH-4 UAV to service

One of the IAAC's CH-4s displayed with AR-1 missiles and FT-9 bombs at Balad Air Base. (Iraqi Ministry of Defence)

The Iraqi Army Aviation Command (IAAC) has returned its first Chinese-made CH-4 armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to service, it was announced on 8 August, when Minister of Defence Juma Enad Saadoun visited the IAAC area of Balad Air Base.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defence (MoD) released a video showing Saadoun being shown a ground control station and watching a CH-4 armed with AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 bombs take-off.

Saadoun said in the video that the UAVs played a large role in the war against the Islamic State extremist group, but were put in storage in 2017 because of their age. A contract was signed with the manufacturer in 2021 to return them to service and the work began about a month ago, he said.

The Iraqi MoD unveiled the CH-4s in October 2015 but did not reveal how many it had acquired.

The US-led coalition reported in 2019 that Iraq has more than 10 CH-4s but that only one was fully mission capable because of maintenance problems. It subsequently reported that they had all been grounded owing to contractual problems.

Saadoun was also shown two of Iraq's US-made ScanEagles: a smaller UAV that is launched from a rail and recovered using a hook system. One appeared to be an early model and the other, a newer one fitted with the EQ950 turret that has an additional zoom imager so that targets can be inspected while the other camera maintains a wider view for situational awareness.

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