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Iraqi Air Force Completes First Phase of Key Training

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Mullett
Special to American Forces Press Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2009 – Members of Iraq’s 70th Air Reconnaissance Squadron completed the first phase of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance training with Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Red Bull Infantry Division’s intelligence section here.

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Iraqi air force pilots in southern Iraq conduct pre-flight checks before training at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq, Sept. 5, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Ebner

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Iraqi fighter pilots who have combat experience from the Iran-Iraq War -- some with as many as 800 hours of combat flight time -- worked with soldiers from the 34th Infantry Division’s intelligence section to become familiar with remote-control surveillance cameras attached to their Sama CH200 and SBL-360 Seeker aircraft. The aircraft are fitted with a FLIR Systems 8500 electro-optics/infrared camera system.

“These guys are used to the old fixed cameras,” said Army Staff Sgt. Eric Ebner, operations analyst with 34th Infantry Division. “You just turn them on and fly over. The biggest problem they had [with the modern remote-control cameras] was coordinating the camera with the movement of the plane.”

The Iraqi pilots -- who flew the Russian MiG 21, 23 and 25; the Sukov 24; and French Mirage fighters -- became familiar with the camera systems operation and capabilities during ground training. The instructors ran them through the systems in a hands-on course before they took to the sky to work with the systems in targeting items on the ground.

“They have to learn to talk to the ground commander to provide a play-by-play from the air,” Ebner said.

The next phase of instruction will continue focusing on the system’s technical capabilities and allow the pilots to coordinate their efforts with the Iraqi army. The pilots will assist the army with more efficient placement and use of Iraqi resources throughout their areas of operation.

The training’s goal is to allow the Iraqis to use their own pilots and resources to support the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission across Multinational Division South’s area of operations, and to minimize the need for reliance on U.S. resources to accomplish their mission.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Mullett serves in Multinational Division South.)

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Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCol. Sami, commander of the Iraqi air force’s 70th Air Reconnaissance Squadron, explains the remote control for the FLIR Systems camera to Army Brig. Gen. Gerald Lang, deputy commanding general for support of Multinational Division South, during a training session Sept. 16, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Ebner  
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