The way is cleared to sell 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopter to Iraq. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — A key congressional panel has finally removed obstacles to the White House’s plan to sell 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, along with spare parts and maintenance, in a massive $6.2 billion deal.
A group of senators led by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had raised concerns over the human rights record of the Shia-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki toward the country’s Sunni minority.
The deal will come in two parts. First is the sale of the helicopters themselves, announced today in a public filing by the Pentagon to Congress, which would be worth $4.8 billion.
The two deals would require hundreds of Americans to ship out to Iraq to oversee the training and fielding of the equipment.
The training part of the deal, which involves the lease of six Apaches and assorted equipment to train Iraqi pilots, is estimated to be worth $1.37 billion. This portion of the sale would require that “1 U.S. Government and 67 contractor representatives” would be based in Iraq “on an as-needed basis to provide support and technical reviews,” today’s release said.
The helicopter sale and eventual shipment would require that “three U.S. Government and two hundred contractor representatives” would be based in Iraq, with another team of 12 personnel — one military and 11 contractors — would deploy to Iraq for three years to oversee training.
The Baghdad government, currently in an increasingly bloody standoff with al-Qaida-affiliated militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and who have asserted some form of control over parts of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, also requested 480 Hellfire missiles along with 30mm automatic chain guns and an unspecified number of Hydra rockets.
On Jan. 23, Iraq also requested 500 Hellfire missiles that would cost an estimated $82 million, and the US government expedited the delivery of 75 Hellfires to Baghdad in December.
Iraq has been mounting the missiles on fixed-wing aircraft.
In the public announcement of the requested sale, the DoD wrote that the deal provides Iraq “with a critical capability to protect itself from terrorist and conventional threats, to enhance the protection of key oil infrastructure and platforms,” while also meeting Iraq’s stated desire to establish “close air support, armed reconnaissance and anti-tank warfare missions.”
The Apache is manufactured by Boeing while the Hellfire missiles are made by Lockheed Martin. ■