Iraqi air force makes milestone strike

Nov. 12, 2009 at 1:39 PM

BAGHDAD, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Iraqi air force pilots struck ground targets from an AC-208 Caravan utility aircraft using a Hellfire missile for the first time since the force was reformed.

The Iraqi air force under Saddam Hussein was largely non-existent during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. U.S. and international forces uncovered several fighter jets in poor condition or buried in the desert sands.

Plans are in place to rebuild the Iraqi air force's capabilities through a series of aircraft purchases and training for personnel.

Reconstruction of the Iraqi military is one of the provisions of U.S. military plans to leave the country by 2011.

The U.S. military in Iraq said Iraqi pilots engaged a target using an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at al-Asad Air Base, the first such occurrence since the military service was reformed after the invasion.

Iraqi military officials lauded the use of the Hellfire as a milestone achievement in the effort to provide national security and control Iraqi airspace.

The U.S. military has deployed the Hellfire strategically in operations targeting al-Qaida and other terrorist suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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