The Iraqi government, fed up with U.S. delays on their order of 34 F-16s, made a call to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, placed an order for Russian fighter jets, and took delivery on them Saturday.
The fighter-jets are Sukhoi-25’s and are all “pre-owned” models formerly used by the Russians. Al Jazeera reportedly took pictures of the Russian jets taxiing down the runway towards a hangar in Baghdad.
The initial order for fighter-jets from the United States military was placed in September 2011, two months prior to the last U.S. combat troops leaving Iraq. Iraq also ordered 30 Boeing AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters from the U.S. and, although our government agreed to “expedite the process” back in January, those aircraft have yet to be delivered.
Rumors were flying yesterday that the Russians were now involved in the civil conflict in Iraq, but the facts are these; the Iraqi’s needed air power to hold back ISIS militants, the U.S. wouldn’t provide it. Russia could and did. Al Malaki’s government made a simple supply-and-demand decision.
According to the Iraqi Air Force, the Sukhoi-25s, can be in the air within three to four days. Getting the Iraqi pilots and armaments up to speed in the newly acquired jets could take a little longer. Al Jazeera also reported that although the Iraqi Air Force has Hellfire missiles (presumably U.S. issue) they are not compatible with the Russian fighter-jets.
The United States has been reluctant to directly engage in this latest crisis in Iraq, even as the terrorist militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) march closer to the capital city and the U.S. Embassy.
Marines guarding the embassy have been increased from 100 to approximately 400 and private security contractors have stayed on as other embassy personnel were removed for their own safety. Last week, the United States sent 300 military advisers to assist Iraqi generals with strategy.
The U.S. Navy continues their heavy presence in the Persian Gulf with the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, several support warships, and the U.S.S Mesa Verde equipped with as many as 800 Marines.