An Iraqi Air Force AC-208 Cessna Caravan aircrew launches a Hellfire missile Nov. 8, 2010, at a target on the Aziziyah Training Range, south of Baghdad. The State Department has cleared the sale of 5,000 more Hellfire weapons to Iraq. (Sgt. Brandon Bolick / US Army)
WASHINGTON — The US State Department has approved two new lots of weapon sales to Iraq at a time when that government is desperately trying to fight off the encroachment of the militant Sunni Islamic State.
The larger agreement would procure 5,000 AGM-114K/N/R Hellfire missiles for the Iraqi military for $700 million. Lockheed Martin is the principal contractor on the agreement.
In January, Iraq sought to procure 500 of the weapons, which can be equipped on a number of platforms, including the Iraqi Air Force’s AC-208 Cessna Caravan.
“Iraq will use the Hellfire missiles to help improve the Iraq Security Forces’ capability to support current on-going ground operations,” a notice posted on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s website read. “Iraq will also use this capability in future contingency operations. Iraq, which already has Hellfire missiles, will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles into its armed forces.”
Although less splashy than an arsenal of Hellfire missiles, the second contract is also important for maintaining Iraq’s security. The $500 million agreement would cover five years of logistics support for Iraq’s fleet of Bell 407, OH-58 and Huey II rotorcraft. The primary contractor would be Bell Helicopter Textron.
“The Government of Iraq needs this logistics support, contractor maintenance, training, and technical services to maintain the operational capabilities of its aircraft,” reads that notice.
Being cleared by the State Department does not guarantee these agreements will go through, but it is no surprise to see Iraq requesting military support given the growing civil war within its borders.
The Islamic State began as a militant insurrection under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant moniker. But in the weeks after it began devouring chunks of Iraq, it has become what one Obama administration official termed “a full blown army.”
In recent weeks, Iraqi government forces have begun procuring Russian helicopters and fighters to bolster its military. Meanwhile, Iran has also stepped in to support the current government, creating a messy situation where both the US and Iran are operating intelligence and surveillance assets over the country. ■