Since February 2007, the air force, with about 60 aircraft, has
increased its weekly sorties from 30 to 300. Manpower has risen
from 915 in February 2007 to 1,344 in March 2008.
The Basra operation also contained air force reconnaissance missions.
Officials said the CH-2000 reconnaissance aircraft executed 53 missions for
total of 91 hours of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over
"The efforts of these pilots provided valuable intelligence on enemy
concentrations and movements, bomb damage assessment and current status of
Iraqi ground units," the U.S.-led coalition said.
Moreover, Iraqi helicopters conducted 30 operations including logistic
support missions that brought food, water and medical supplies throughout
Officials said the aircraft provided perimeter defense, supported several
leaflet drops, transported Iraqi troops and evacuated the injured.
"This is an historic milestone in the growth of the Iraqi Air Force to
able to effectively support on-going operations in Basra with critical air
mobility and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
capabilities," U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brooks Bash, commander of the
Coalition Air Force Training Team, said.
Officials said the two Iraq Air Force C-130 Hercules moved 175 tons of
cargo, including 127 tons of ammunition, 18 tons of food and eight tons of
medical supplies from New Al Muthana Air Base in Baghdad to Basra. They said
the air transports marked a crucial element in the rapid deployment of more
than 800 military and civilian security personnel as well as the evacuation
of 69 Iraqi soldiers from Basra to Baghdad.
"The Iraqi people can be very proud that their air force is making a
real difference in the fight against those criminal elements who seek to
harm innocent Iraqi citizens and disregard the rule of law," Bash said.