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Iraqi Army returning Russian helicopters to service

Iraqi Minister of Defence Juma Anad Sadoun inspects a Mi-28NE at Taji Air Base. (Iraqi Ministry of Defence)

Iraq's defence minister visited Taji Air Base on 1 March to inspect Russian helicopters that have been returned to service, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.

The defence ministry released a video showing Minister of Defence Juma Anad Sadoun inspecting Mi-28NE and Mi-35M attack helicopters, as well as Mi-17 utility helicopters. At least 10 helicopters took off during the event.

“We just demonstrated the repair campaign for a number of military helicopters. A short while ago, we flew them at the same time,” the minister said after noting that their serviceability had been very poor. “We are continuing with this campaign and in the near future we are planning to repair a second batch of helicopters, and so forth, until we complete the repair of all broken-down helicopters, and thus increase the overall readiness level to more than 80%.”

Russian sources have reported that Iraq ordered 15 Mi-28NE and 28 Mi-35M helicopters, which began arriving in late 2013 and mid-2014 respectively.

While these helicopters should be the Iraqi Army Aviation Command's (IAAC's) primary ground-attack aircraft, they barely featured on a list of Iraqi airstrikes released as part of a US Department of Defense report in February. The list attributed no strikes to the Mi-28NE in the fourth quarter of 2021 and just two to the Mi-35M. The IAAC's Bell 407s and Airbus EC635/H135Ms were far more active, participating in 11 strikes.

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