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— The Iraqi Air Force celebrated the arrival of four training aircraft, the groundbreaking of a new air traffic control tower and the receipt of facilities from U.S. forces for use as an air college here, Dec. 16.
The Iraqi Minister of Defense, Abd Al-Qadir Al-Mufriji, was joined by Iraqi Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed, IqAF commander, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq commander, and a host of other senior Iraqi and U.S. military officials to commemorate all three events.
"Today marks a major milestone in rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force and the security of Iraq," Barbero said. "Much work remains, but the Iraqi Air Force continues to make significant progress, and today is another step forward."
The four aircraft are the first of (15) T-6A models that will be used as a stepping-stone for pilots before flying advanced multi-role fighters that the IqAF will use in the future to protect its airspace. This $210 million joint US-Iraq venture provides the aircraft to the IqAF, along with flight simulators and associated training. The first eight aircraft, purchased by the Government of Iraq, will all be at Tikrit by the end of January 2010. The last seven, purchased by the United States, are expected by the end of December 2010.
The construction of the new air traffic control tower here, slated for completion in the latter-half of 2010, will provide the base with critical airspace control for its pilot training environment. The tower is planned at nine floors high and will incorporate an air traffic controller simulator in the base of the tower itself for on-site controller training.
In support of the new Iraqi Air College that will offer its first courses in January 2010, U.S. forces handed over nine buildings to the Iraqis, which will be used as dormitories by the student pilots. Eventually, the entire college facility will be Iraqi operated and will have a capacity of up to 1,500 students learning in various levels of academic and flight training at any given time.