Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Four Years After an ISIS Massacre, the Iraqi Air Force Opens a New Academy

Cessna 172 Skyhawks and 208 Caravans used by U.S. Air Force and Iraqi air force instructor pilots to train Iraqi students seen at Kirkuk in July 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On Feb. 21, 2018, the Iraqi government announced that the Iraqi air force had reopened its academy at Balad air base. U.S. Central Command announced that the Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training Team will help establish standardized training programs. Forty cadets will start their coursework in March 2018.

Before June 2014, the academy was located at Combat Outpost Speicher in Tikrit. Between June 11 and 14, Islamic State insurgents captured the outpost — and the academy — and killed no fewer than 1,500 Shia air force cadets. Cadet training transferred to Al Kut air base in 2015.

The recent history of Iraqi air force training is a complicated one. Iraqi pilot cadets have undergone instruction in Iraq with U.S. trainers, in Jordan and in Pakistan. The current reforms could bring student pilots home to Iraq.

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