Iraqi Air Force King Air Pilots Get Airborne
By Senior Airman Eric Schloeffel, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
KIRKUK, Iraq, Feb. 27, 2008 The Iraqi air force’s 3rd Squadron here recently took another step on the path to establish a fully functioning airpower capability as Iraqi pilots took the controls of a King Air 350 for the first time.
Iraqi pilots of the Iraqi air force's 3rd Squadron take off from the runway here during the first Iraqi flown sortie in the King Air 350I aircraft. The King Air is currently the most advanced aircraft in Iraq’s arsenal and enhances the abilities of this re-born air force. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman SerMae Lampkin
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The King Air is the most advanced aircraft in Iraq’s arsenal and enhances the abilities of this reborn air force.
“This flight signifies another beginning for the Iraqi air force,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Chris Spangenberg, an instructor pilot with the 870th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. “The King Air gives them a 21st century capability that can be integrated into the overall mission with ground forces. This first flight will open a whole new chapter in this quickly accelerating air force.”
The aircraft initially will support training and distinguished visitor-transport missions. As future aircraft arrive, missions also will include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights over Iraqi skies to spot insurgents and provide overwatch of critical infrastructure.
Iraqi pilots already have achieved some initial successes, as an all-Iraqi crew on a recent mission spotted several terrorists manufacturing improvised explosive devices. The crewmembers alerted Iraqi police, who arrived on scene soon after to impede the terrorists’ efforts.
The King Air expands Iraqi aircrews’ ability to detect insurgent activity, such as attempts to damage power lines and oil pipelines, Spangenberg said.
The Iraqi air force previously was flying primarily Cessna 208 and CH-2000 aircraft to accomplish reconnaissance missions, but King Air aircraft have several advantages, which make them a better option.
“The King Air is faster than existing assets, allowing it to rapidly arrive on station at any location in the country,” Spangenberg said. “It also has more endurance, allowing for longer on-station times. The King Air also has a 21st century flight-management system that is complex by any standard and requires much more training.”
Iraqi pilots seemed energized to fly their first mission in the new “jewel of the Iraqi Air Force.”
“I feel excited to get up in the air, because we are the first Iraqis to fly this type of aircraft,” an Iraqi pilot said. “We consider this a step up from what we have been flying and thank the Americans for giving us this opportunity. We’ve trained hard to get here and had great cooperation with the U.S. Air Force the whole way.”
According to Spangenberg, the inaugural King Air flight was a complete success as the Iraqis took months of training to the sky in the name of their country.
“The flight went very well,” he said. “The Iraqis are very competent pilots. We are now teaching them to fly and employ a new weapon system, which is always a challenge no matter how good a pilot is. We will fly student sorties with the King Air consistently for the next several months but look forward to the near future when two Iraqi pilots are sent out without an American onboard.”
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Eric Schloeffel is assigned to 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs.)