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Allardice: Rebuilding Iraq's Air Force

Interviewee: Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, Commander, Coalition Air Force Transition Team
Interviewer: Greg Bruno, Staff Writer
February 5, 2008

Among the U.S. strategies for stabilizing Iraq is the bolstering of Iraqi security forces, including its hobbled air defenses. The Iraqi air force, once the sixth-largest air power in the world, was decimated by U.S. bombing in 1991 and 2003. Now, the Pentagon is working to put the pieces back together.

Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team (CAFTT), which is heading the training effort, says the Iraqi air force is conducting a growing number of transport and surveillance missions without U.S. support. In the last year alone Iraqi pilots increased the number of missions they flew by nearly one thousand percent, to roughly three hundred sorties per week. Over two hundred Iraqi airmen recently graduated from U.S.-supported flight training schools.

But Allardice warns the gains are tenuous, and says a rapid withdrawal of U.S. support would be detrimental. He says it will take until 2011 or 2012 for the Iraqis to patrol their air space without U.S. assistance. “The (training) effort just got going really one year ago,” the general says. “It will take a good two to three years in order to reach a point where they, where I would be pleased with things.”

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