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Forces: Iraq/Air Force

The Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. sanctions crippled Iraq's air force, once one of the region's largest with an estimated 750 combat aircraft. Immediately after the war, President Saddam Hussein separated the air defense command from the air force and placed a priority on strengthening the country's ground-based air defenses.

Iraq Air Force
(All figures are estimates)
Status: The U.N. embargo on military equipment has limited the Iraqi air force's ability to keep its planes operational, although some spare parts may have been smuggled in from Serbia and North Korea. The combat aircraft are mostly French- and Russian-made fighters and fighter-bombers. Iraq had about 20 Russian- and Chinese-made long-range bombers, but only a few that survived the Persian Gulf War are thought to be operational.
Personnel: 30,000
Bases: Various locations; combat aircraft concentrated around Baghdad
Total planes: 300-350
Percentage operational: 50-60 percent
Operational combat aircraft: 90
Pilot quality: Uneven
History: Coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War shot down 36 combat aircraft and destroyed 68 more on the ground, while losing none in aerial engagements. As many as 137 planes fled to Iran, which refused to return them. Several airfields also were severely damaged by coalition planes during Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
Tactics: Iraqi jets usually avoid direct confrontation with coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones, but they often try to lure the planes to within range of a missile or artillery battery.
Possible secret weapon: According to U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq may have converted several Czech-made L-29 training planes to unmanned drones to carry chemical or biological weapons; such planes would have the range to reach Israel.

Iraqi Air Defense Command
(All figures are estimates)
Status: Heavily damaged in the Gulf War, the system was redeveloped with an agility to confound and shoot down coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones. With Saddam's personal attention, and aided with technology from countries such as Belarus, Russia, Serbia and North Korea, it has become the first line of defense against air attack, according to intelligence reports. The system is so mobile that coalition planes are forced to hit fixed positions, which are quickly repaired; few missile launchers have been destroyed.
History: Air defense units downed 37 coalition aircraft during the Persian Gulf War, including 28 U.S. planes.
Personnel: 17,000
Command center: Underground bunker complex near al-Muthanna Airfield, in the Mansour area of Baghdad.
Weapons systems: Surface-to-air missile (SAM) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries, both mobile and fixed, equipped with tracking radar.
Medium-range SAMs: 300
Short-range SAMs: 300-400
AAA guns: 4,000
Communications: Sophisticated fiber-optic network linking missile batteries to command center.
Deployment: Four sector operations centers, or SOCs, controlled by the command center. An independent SOC is responsible for guarding Saddam's palaces in Baghdad and units of the elite Republican Guard and super-elite Special Republican Guard.

1st SOC
HQ: Al-Taji Military Camp, northern Baghdad.
Defense area: Central Iraq
Firepower: 19-20 medium-range SAM batteries; short-range mobile SAMs; AAA batteries

2nd SOC
HQ: Near al-Waleed Air Base close to the Jordanian border
Defense area: Western Iraq
Firepower: 8-10 medium-range SAM batteries; short-range mobile SAMs; AAA batteries

3rd SOC
HQ: Close to Imam Ali Air Base, near Nasiriya and Basra
Defense area: Southern Iraq
Firepower: 10 medium range SAM batteries; AAA batteries spread around Basra, Nasiriya and the Iranian border near Amarah

4th SOC
HQ: Al-Hurriya Air Base, near Kirkuk
Defense area: Northern Iraq
Firepower: 10-12 medium-range SAM batteries; AAA batteries

Jane's Sentinel, Periscope
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