By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
A video uploaded by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and a subsequent announcement shed light on Iraq's first success in acquiring a combat capable platform to stop the advance of the Islamic State. The latter has made great progress in capturing large areas of Iraq and is now slowly advancing to Iraq's capital Baghdad.
''The Ministry of Defence announced the arrival of the first out of five Russian combat aircraft Su-25 into Iraqi territory under a contract with the Russian ministry, which will contribute to increasing the combat capability of the Air Force and the other branches of the armed forces to eliminate terrorism.''
The Iraqi Army and Air Force have proved anything but capable to halt the Islamic State's advance and have been desperately looking for other ways to fill the caps currently posed in Iraqi's Armed Forces. With the United States reluctant to provide close air support or speeding up the delivery of Iraq's F-16s, Iraq has been increasingly looking to countries in Eastern Europe to strengthen the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF). It is now clear a batch of five ex-Russian Su-25s are the first to have arrived.
The Iraqi Air Force received around fifty-five Su-25s in the late eighties and were used with devastating effect against Iranian troops near Bashrah during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq's last Su-25s were destroyed after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and it is thus unknown if any of the former Su-25 pilots are still capable or willing to fly one of the five Su-25s.
According to various media outlets, the IQAF has four pilots qualified to fly the Su-25s. Maintenance will be performed by Russian contractors, which are to be replaced by Iraqis once they finished their training in Russia.
If not, the Su-25s are likely to be flown by either Belarusian or Russian contractors or even pilots from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, the air branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps which is also operating Su-25s.
The purchase will also serve as a moral boost and is a sign of what might has yet to come, with
other possible purchases including Mi-24s from the Czech Republic and MiG-29s, Su-24s, Su-30s and Mi-24s from Belarus and Russia.