MILITARY | ATTACK
Mindful that the U.S. withdrawal will seriously deplete its access to helicopters, the government of Iraq is in a serious buying mood.
Iraq has already ordered 24 Bell 407 ARHs (armed reconnaissance helicopters), said Colonel Lawrence Avery Jr., deputy director of the U.S. Air Force’s Security Assistance Office, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, during a media teleconference from Baghdad on March 16. In addition, the Iraqi government "has a request in... for potentially buying 26 more, for a total of 590," he said. Once in service, the Bell 407 ARHs will serve alongside Iraq’s Russian Mi-17 medium helicopters, and a small number of Bell Huey-IIs.
The Iraqi government is spending half a billion dollars to buy 24 Eurocopter EC-635 helicopters from France. The EC-635 is the military version of the EC-135 twin-turbine, light helicopter. Eurocopter will also be providing pilot training and maintenance for Iraq’s EC-635s. This is the first such deal between France and Iraq since 1990.
Iraq is also helicopter shopping in Russia. Specifically, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, "Russia is to supply Iraq with 22 Mi-171 Hip transport helicopters, a spokesman for the Helicopters of Russia holding said." The Mi-171s will reportedly be built in East Siberia’s Ulan Ude helicopter plant.
"The Iraqi government is preparing to take responsibility for much, but not all, of its security needs," noted Richard L. Aboulafia, VP of analysis with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va. "Airspace defense, for example, or much of the heavy ground attack mission, will likely stay U.S. responsibilities for some time after the pullout. But most of the domestic security mission, along with police and training, looks set to transition to the Iraqi government. That means a significant new market for helicopters." At present, the Iraqi government only has a few dozen helicopters of its own, specifically the popular Mi-17s and Huey-IIs.