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Iraq's L-159s return to operational service

Iraq's first L-159s were delivered in November 2015. (Getty Images)

The Iraqi Air Force's L-159 jets are operational again, but can only conduct airstrikes with unguided bombs, according to a report by the US Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Released on 8 February, the quarterly report on Operation ‘Inherent Resolve' in Iraq and Syria said the return of the Aero L-159s was particularly notable as they have not been used for operations for five years.

Iraq received 10 second-hand L-159A light combat aircraft and two twin-seat L-159B trainers from the Czech Republic from 2015.

The report included a table of 30 airstrikes that were conducted in the last quarter of 2021 showing that L-159s were used in six of them, compared with 10 conducted by Iraq's F-16 multirole fighters. All the L-159 strikes used 500 lb Mk-82 unguided bombs because laser designator pods have not been delivered to the squadron, the report cited the US-led coalition as saying.

In comparison, Iraq's F-16 multirole fighters conducted 10 airstrikes, according to the table, most with GBU-10 or GBU-12 guided bombs, although two with Mk-82 and one with heavier Mk-84 bombs.

The report cited the coalition giving figures that conflicted with those in the table, saying the F-16s conducted eight strikes in the quarter and the AC-208s another five. The table credited the latter with only two, both in October.

Most of the other strikes were conducted by helicopters from the Iraqi Army Aviation Command (IAAC), but the table said three involved Su-25s, which were also recently returned to operational service.

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