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Iraqi An-32s pressed into service as bombers

Posted 24 April 2017 · Add Comment

When operations by the so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh) began to ramp up in 2014, the Iraqi Air Force was sorely lacking in close air support and ground attack capabilities.

The Lockheed Martin F-16s that had been ordered from the US remained undelivered and rapid Daesh advances around Baghdad led to concerns about basing security. Consequently, Washington postponed the delivery.
Iraq had purchased three AC-208 Combat Caravans and three C208 Caravans in 2008, and the AC-208, which could then carry a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, made its combat debut in January 2014 when the Iraqi Air Force began using it against insurgents in Anbar province.
But there was a clear and urgent need to augment these lightly armed aircraft, and an interim solution was found in the shape of the six Antonov An-32B tactical transport aircraft delivered from February 2011 to augment the C-130 Hercules operating with the 23rd Transport Squadron at New Al Muthana Air Base.
Subsequently, in May 2013, Iraq formed a new unit, the 33rd Transport Squadron, to operate the An-32s.
Daesh insurgents captured several major cities in Anbar province and, so, in July 2014, the Iraqi Air Force launched an emergency programme to convert two of the six An-32Bs into makeshift bombers, using a stockpile of Chinese-made 500lb bombs delivered to Saddam Hussein’s air force many years before.
This was not the first time that the An-32 had been used as a bomber – Indian Air Force An-32s pioneered the use of a removable roller conveyor on guide rails in the cargo bay, carrying four 500lb/250kg bombs. This system was proved during India’s Iron Fist exercise in February 2013 at the Pokhran Test Range in western India.
Meanwhile, Ukraine had also converted similar An-26s to bomber configuration in May 2014, using fuselage-mounted pylons and BDZ-34 bomb racks to carry a similar weapon load, and installing an NKPB-7 bombsight to allow more accurate delivery.
With the help of Ukrainian technicians, the Iraqi Air Force modified a pair of An-32Bs to serve as bombers. The first aircraft was fitted with external BDZ-34 bomb racks – as used by Ukrainian An-26s – while the second adopted the Indian approach, with an internal roller-conveyor.
The first photo depicting an Iraqi Air Force An-32B Cline transport aircraft carrying a bomb on an external pylon appeared on social media in July 2016, but combat use of the An-32B bombers cannot yet be confirmed.
 

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