Bash: Right now, the Iraqi air force does not have any plans for that within their 2020 service plan. I believe the Iraqi army may be looking at some UAVs along the lines of what our Army has with the Hunters and all that, but I don’t have the details. But the air force is not. One of the challenges is you have to have a very mature command-and-control system, and they truly don’t have that right now. Their command-and-control system is just cell phones and a few radios, but that’s what we’re helping them build over the next couple years.
A&S: What’s the 2020 plan?
Bash: The idea is that in 2020 they would have an air force of 579 aircraft with different capabilities that would provide for the air sovereignty of Iraq. They really haven’t decided what types of aircraft those would be. But you’d have trainers, some aircraft for battlefield mobility, some special operations rotary-wing, armed reconnaissance rotary-wing, light and medium transports, ground-attack aircraft, some with ISR, some advanced jet trainers. And then eventually they’d move into the intercept, kind of air-to-air [combat] jet. But that would be way out in the out years.
A&S: How much danger is there that a future Iraqi government with a reconstituted air force could someday turn hostile and threaten U.S. allies in the region?
Bash: Well, the view is that they currently do not have that capability and will not have that capability in the near future. It’s too early to say at this point, it’s kind of like predicting the future. Right now, working with them on a daily basis, I know that they truly want to be allied partners, but that can change with a governmental change.
A&S: With all your duties, do you still find time to fly?
Bash: In fact, I flew an Mi-17 last week. Most of my time is in heavy airlift. But I’ve done orientations in the 172, the 208, the King Air and Mi-17. But I’m not qualified in any of them; I have to be with an instructor. Mi-17 is a challenge because you’ve got Russian instruments. It’s a very robust and reliable aircraft, by the way. They picked Mi-17 because they used to fly it and their older maintainers and pilots already knew how to work on it.