The Iraqi training has taken place at the Kirkuk air base in the north.
The training, including airmanship and basic flying skills, was said
to resemble initial flight school for U.S. military pilots.
"The Iraqis get a very similar feel to what training is like in the
states," U.S. commander Lt. Col. Ned Sandlin said. "It's so similar that any
U.S. instructor pilot can come over here and quickly recognize and adapt to
the way the squadron operates."
Officials said Iraqi cadets attended initial flight screening for two
months. Another 10 months were devoted to flight training on the Cessna 172
and Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft. The pilots were expected to be assigned to
transport, reconnaissance or Iraqi fighter aircraft, including the F-16,
ordered by Baghdad in September.
"We are trying to build up their capabilities for the future," Sandlin
said. "It's important for a country to have a strong air force in order to
defend their air space and the borders."
Officials said the U.S. Air Force has been increasing operations and
training in Iraq throughout 2011. U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Russell Handy,
commander of the training program, said the Iraq Air Force has already
demonstrated success with transport and surveillance operations.
"We partner with them [Iraq] at the squadron and on the ground, and in
operations center to integrate that ISR," Handy said.