Monday, February 05, 2007

Perspective: Hindered by Delays and Corruption, the Iraqi Air Force Is Flying Again, but Barely

A Russian-made MI-17 in St. Petersberg stands ready for delivery to the new Iraqi Air Force. 28 are to be delivered following a $400 million corruption scandal which 'bought' decrepit, unusable copters from Poland.

TAJI MILITARY BASE, Iraq — The five droopy blades of a new Russian-made helicopter painted with the Iraqi flag began spinning and the aircraft hovered off the ground, purring like an oversize Cadillac.

“Sir, you have the controls,” an American in the co-pilot’s seat said late last month.

“I have the controls,” replied the Iraqi pilot.

The helicopter lifted, banked hard to the right over a junkyard, a palm grove and a series of warehouses, then soared toward the greenish waters of the Tigris River at the perimeter of this base.

It would be an unremarkable sequence in almost any country, but here it is significant: it means that the Iraqi Air Force is flying again.

Read the rest at the NY Times