Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Arms Dealing

There is money to be made in war or at least in sale of arms.  The US has pledged not to put boots on the ground in Iraq, however there are already 650 of the 770 troop authorization already in-country forcing the Pentagon to deny charges of mission-creep.  Those troops are going to need weapons and ammunition, plus food and other supplies.  The price of those troops pales in comparison to big ticket items like missiles and aircraft.

Those troops in Iraq are there to protect US personnel and act as advisors.  Hardly enough to begging to turn back ISIS.  What the Iraqis need though is better air support and the US had promised to sell them more F-16s and drones.  The aircraft are tied up in bureaucratic nonsense which allowed Russia to once again beat the US to the punch.

On Monday, Russian television trumpeted the arrival of the first five of 12 promised Sukhoi Su-25 combat fighter jets to the Iraqi government, saying it had also sent “trainers” to help the Iraqis use them. Gen. Anwar Hama Ameen,the commander of the Iraqi Air Force, told The New York Times the fighter jets would enter the battle against ISIS within a few days, after which the Russian trainers would leave Iraq. He said Iraq had plenty of pilots with “long experience” flying the Su-25. The Russian ambassador to Iraq also said Russian pilots would not fly missions inside Iraq.--The Daily Beast

Given that Iraqi pilots don't know how to fly the Su-25 yet, I doubt that Russian pilots won't end up flying at least some initial sorties.  The last time Su-25s were flown by Iraq was back in 2002.  The Su-25 was the Soviet Unions answer to the A-10 Warthog.  It is a subsonic jet designed especially for close-air support (CAS) missions exactly what is needed in dealing with ISIS (now the Islamic State).  

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the sale of the Su-25s were in the works prior to the breakout of the crisis but Russia may now have accelerated the delivery of the aircraft in part to trump the United States.  Russia has successfully draw a distinction between itself and the United States which in comparison has been slow to provide minimal support.

Perhaps in an attempt to save face, the State Department announced the sale of 4,000 Hellfire missiles to Iraq;

The State Department has told lawmakers informally that the Obama administration wants to sell Iraq more than 4,000 additional Hellfire missiles for the government’s fight against Islamic insurgents, according to people familiar with the plan.--Bloomberg

Each Hellfire missile costs around $70K, so the sale is worth $280 million.  The Lockheed plant in Bethesda where the Hellfire is made has put on two shifts of workers putting the plant at full capacity.  Nothing like "Gears of War" to stimulate the economy.  

There is a small problem though for Iraq.  Hellfire missiles can't be carried on Su-25s.  Hellfire missiles are typically carried by Predators (MQ-1B) or Reapers (MQ-9) which I cannot find any mention of being sold to Iraq.  The only drones sales I can find mentioned in open-source materials are the 48 Ravens identified in the Marine Times back in December.  The RQ-11 are small hand-held drones which are obviously not capable of carrying Hellfire missiles.  

So what does Iraq have or has purchased to carry all those Hellfire missiles?  Back in January, the US agreed to the sale of six Apache helicopters with an option to buy another 24 (source:  Foreign Policy), the total price including training is $6.2 billion.  That is addition to the $1.9 billion for 36 F-16 fighters that was initiated in 2011 (source: CS Monitor).

With dollar signs like this, Russia is interested in getting their share of Iraqi oil money even more than embarrassing an already weak White House.

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