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T-50 Golden Eagles find new roost

Posted 18 June 2019 · Add Comment

The third batch of six Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50IQ lead-in fighter trainers have been delivered to Iraq, writes Jon Lake.

They arrived by sea in late October 201, and were then trucked to Al Basra/al Shaiba Airbase, where they were reassembled and flight-tested.
Here they briefly joined 12 earlier aircraft that had been delivered to No 204 Training Squadron. This unit was re-numbered from 4 Squadron during March 2011, and was initially expected to be based at Tikrit/Al Sahra, but the first 12 T-50IQs were concentrated at Al Basra by late 2017, reporting to the Iraqi Air Force College.
The newer deliveries were soon noted at Martyr Mohamed Alaa Airbase – the military enclave of Baghdad International Airport – where they may have formed a second T-50 squadron, possibly with a limited frontline light attack commitment.
Iraq originally began negotiating the acquisition of T-50 trainers in February 2009, and signed a contract for 24 T-50IQ aircraft plus additional equipment and a 20-year support and pilot training package in December 2013.
The Iraqi T-50IQ was based on the FA-50 light attack version, and was fitted with wingtip missile launch rails and an internal gun – a three-barreled version of the M61A1 20mm Vulcan cannon, as well as underwing hardpoints to carry a range of air-to-ground weapons.
Deliveries were originally scheduled to begin in April 2016, and to be completed within 12 months.
In the event, Iraq received the first of 36 Lockheed Martin F-16IQ fighters in 2014, and a batch of 10 single seat L-159As and two L-159T1 trainers from November 2015. The latter were used as interim light ground attack aircraft.
This meant that the T-50IQ was not so urgently required for operational missions, while the civil war/insurgency made it more difficult to undertake flying training within Iraq. This was, in part, due to the so-called Camp Speicher massacre at Tikrit, (during which Daesh executed 1,566 unarmed Shia Iraqi Air Force cadets as they attempted to flee to safety) and T-50 deliveries were delayed.
The first batch of T-50IQs were delivered in March 2017, and the second batch followed in May 2018.
 

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