Iraqi air force planes found in Serbia
Iraqi officials have discovered that they may have a real air force, after all.The planes they will be getting are not that good, but they may be better than nothing depending on what they intend to do with them. The may be able to hold their own against Iran's antique air force.
The Defense Ministry revealed Sunday that it had recently learned that Iraq owns 19 MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters, which are in storage in Serbia. Ministry officials are negotiating with the Serbs to restore and return the aircraft.
The Serbian government has tentatively promised to make two of the aircraft available “for immediate use,” according to a news release from the ministry. The rest would be restored on a rush basis, the ministry said.
An Iraqi delegation went to Serbia as part of an effort by the government to locate assets stashed abroad by Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions. Serbia had had friendly relations with Mr. Hussein’s government.
During that visit, Serbian defense officials told the Iraqis that Mr. Hussein had sent 19 fighter jets to Serbia for repairs in the late 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, but was unable to bring them back after sanctions were imposed on his country.
Iraq immediately sent a technical delegation, led by the air force chief, Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin.The Web site of the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, the leading Shiite political party, quoted the Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari as saying that the aircraft had been sent in 1989 “for maintenance, and everything was paid for by Iraq’s money.” Mr. Askari said the discovery was important because Iraq had no jet aircraft with defensive or offensive capabilities. “Our air force only has helicopters,” he said.
The American military’s training command has recently arranged for the delivery of Iraq’s first trainer for jet pilots, the propeller-driven T-6, in December. The T-6 is used to train pilots for the F-16 jet, but plans for Iraq to buy F-16s are still in the discussion stage, American officials say.
It is an interesting development that is more evidence of poor record keeping under Saddam. For those who may still have concerns about what he did with his WMD it raises new concerns about what may be out there.