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Iraqi Arms Purchases October 2012


Iraqi Air Bases and Projected SAM Sites [click to enlarge]


First reports are always wrong.  The initial reports were of $4.2 billion in Russian arms buys with 42 Pantsir-S1 units and 30 Mi-28NE helicopters.  That led to the following 3 possibilities:

  1. A big rip-off.
  2. More equipment being bought but not reported.
  3. Lower price than reported.

The $4.2 billion reported price tag comes from Russian press and was based on Iraq buying everything that was on the table – they didn’t.  PM Maliki has denied Russian fighter buys:  "we are buying defensive weapons only, air defence equipment and helicopters for anti-terrorist use, not sukhois or migs."  There had been previous reports of negotiations for both fighter types.  Iraq also rejected T90 tanks – apparently the reports of the Russian Army rejecting them, India’s issues with the fire-control system overheating, and a price tag higher than M1A1s convinced them to go elsewhere for tanks. 

[Comment:  There are no defensive or offensive weapons.  Defense and offense are employment options for all weapons.  That being said, the common perceptions are that armor is offensive.]


Iraq is reported to be buying additional long-range radars as part of the package and is rumored to be negotiating for SA20 [S300] SAMs.  The 30 Mi-28s [1 Attack Sq-probably to be based at Taji] are reported to be $1 billion with the price for the Pantsir-S1s and additional air defense items is reported to be $2.3 billion according to Iraqi sources.  There is also a surcharge for rapid delivery involved in those prices.


At first glance the Pantsir-S1 is a rip-off.  The Pantsir-S1 is a cheaper wheeled version of the SA19 which is a failure in its originally planned role as a regimental air defense system because of susceptibility to jamming.  However, it is still used for cruise-missile defense of SA20 sites because its communications/radars are compatible and cruise-missiles do not normally carry jammers.  This indicates that the Pantsir-S1s and additional electronics/radar systems are the first portion of an air defense system that includes SA20.


42 Pantsir-S1s is 7 batteries of 6 firing units each in Russian structure indicating 7 initial planned Air Defense Battalions composed of 1 Battery of Pantsir-S1, 1 battery of SA20, and 1-2 batteries of anti-aircraft guns.  Based on the locations of the 4 known Iraqi Sector Operations Commands, existing air bases, and the gaps between those SOC locations – a projection of where these systems probably will be located can be made.  It should be noted that only the 4 identified SOCs [Kirkuk, Taji, Al Asad, and Tallil] are high probability while the other 3 locations are estimates.  [See map]  Eventually, these battalions will probably expand into Air Defense Brigades.  The IA Air Defense Command could be the fifteenth IA division repeatedly mentioned in Iraqi press given this rapid expansion and the 4 brigade initial structure.

[Note:  Some countries use 4 firing units per battery vice 6.  If that is the case, the other 3 batteries not illustrated on the map would probably be Basrah, Rutbah, and NAMAB.] 


Likewise, at first glance, the $1 billion dollar price for the 28 Czech L159s appears excessive – especially since previous reports were that they were negotiating for used aircraft.  However, only 4 of the L159s are used and to be delivered in 7 months as trainers.  The additional 24 L159s are new-building two-seat L159BQ trainer/attack aircraft modified to Iraqi specifications to deliver 2014-2016.  This Training/Lt Attack Squadron will probably be based at Tikrit.


Also, overlooked by most reporting but mentioned on Iraqi TV, the Czech deal includes establishing an Iraqi Armor rework/upgrade facility for T72 tanks.  [At Taji?]  This is more important than the aircraft deal and accounts for much of the price.  An upgrade facility in Iraq for T72s means that the Iraqis are probably planning on buying large numbers of used T72s and [like the Russian Army] are going to use upgraded T72s as a large part of their tank force vice buying new T90s.  The most likely sources for used T72s include the Ukraine and Poland - Russia is retaining its T72s and upgrading them thus is unlikely to have spares available to sell.


Iraq has ordered an additional 8 M88 armored recovery vehicles for the Iraqi Army through US FMS.  This is the prime recovery vehicle for M1A1 [and similar western] tanks and is usually fielded at 2 per IA Tank Regiment [35 tanks].  While the IA has not reported to have exercised its option to buy 140 more M1A1s and has not been reported to buy any similar tanks [Korean K1?], this indicates a new tank buy is in the works.


Also mentioned in Al Sumeria news is a delivery of “artillery” from Serbia in the next 2 months.  This is likely to be 120mm mortars but, could include Plamen Multiple Rocket Launchers that have been rumored to have been bought by Iraq for the last 2 years.


When reading press reports of arms buys, you should:  always remember that the first reports are always inaccurate, the reporter is likely to leave out or not know key details, and that exaggeration of the price is the norm [especially in Russian press].


Related:  Iraqi Security Force Order of Battle [Updated monthly]



The more I think about it, the more I suspect 10x 4-unit batteries [ADA Bns]. But I didn't want to delay publication by re-doing the map - I did say monday...

DJ Elliott (10/15/2012 11:39:10)


great update DJ. It remains to be seen what the full details of the deal are... but your projection should be pretty close to reality.

sheytanelkebir (10/16/2012 02:54:28)


one small correction. the number of PANTSIRs is 50 units. split into batteries of 4 firing units (and 2 for training) would give about 12 batteries or so.

sheytanelkebir (10/16/2012 04:27:43)


and your source on that? Only source I saw to that number was unreliable. Almost all are saying 42.

DJ Elliott (10/16/2012 06:11:34)


russian news agencies... but of course numbers are not 100% reliable... anyway we still don't know the full extent and details of the deal (and may not know until the russians make their next update to the UN conventional arms register.

sheytanelkebir (10/16/2012 08:00:31)


Yup. Both parties are being closed mouth on details. And the devil is in the details...

DJ Elliott (10/16/2012 09:21:34)


Hi DJ Great update as always , Iraq requested 6M1A1 tanks October 5/see DID/ why 6???????

JW (10/16/2012 11:59:49)


Training/maint float. They were using 22 leased from the US Army. Remember that these buys are not from yearly budget - it is from the excess authorized this summer after they knew how much of a surplus from higher oil prices they had.

DJ Elliott (10/17/2012 04:11:06)


One thing those 6 tanks do indicate - More M1A1s are being bought by Iraq. I estimate the target is 735-980 total M1A1s based on 3-4 Armored Divs being equipped. 1225-1400 total upgraded T72s for 7-8 Mech Divs. They have 140 M1A1 and 125 [not upgraded] T72s. Note: This is the 2nd time that used M1s from US stocks have been exported - the 1st was 200 for Morocco in FY2011 EDA. Price indicates we are donating older M1s and letting the receivers pay for upgrade/rebuild to M1A1s - cheaper...

DJ Elliott (10/17/2012 08:17:38)


Hmmm, smart. DJ based on those numbers, are we to assume that the M1 will only be used by the heavy armor or "premier" if you will divisions and the standard mechanized and reserve armor units (if any) will recieve or at least continue to use the T-72? Excellent post btw.

Trophy_Wench (10/17/2012 07:45:00)


The IA has always tended, like most countries, to put the better tanks in the Armor Divs. Exceptions being that the RG always got the best but, even then RG Armor Divs had better than RG Mech and Reg Armor Divs had better than Reg Mech. Makes sense as the Armor Divs are ment for Attack/Counter-attack roles where as Mech Divs are more defensive capable. It's a SWAG but, it has precident...

DJ Elliott (10/17/2012 09:15:23)


Always a pleasure to read your updates, DJ. I'm wondering though, why wouldn't they place SAM sites in or near Basra? Wouldn't that allow them to detect and eliminate threats before they actually reach their target, such as an oil terminal or port?

Maz (10/18/2012 04:52:43)


Read the note on the map about Basrah/Balad and the article mention of alternate sites if they have more than 7 batteries. [NTM my first comment.] If only 7 sites, then it is likely Basrah vice Balad could get one. If they are using smaller firing batteries and more of them, then: Basrah, followed by Rutbah, and NAMAB are the next likely sites. As I said up top, I considered re-editing the map but, that would have delayed publishing and I had already publically said Monday. So I only added a note on the map. ////// Note: The choise used on the map was a site at each SOC [4], each Fighter Base without a SOC [2], then 1 in the gap between Tallil/Taji.

DJ Elliott (10/18/2012 05:33:45)


Hi DJ Iraq has signed a deal with US for the second group of F-16 in Baghdad , the Iraqi defense minister while talking the amercain DOD delegation also talked about buying apachi helos and air defense for Iraq. Check the link .... I think the guys at the US DOD started to panic this the second visit in a week , What do you think ???

JW (10/19/2012 03:16:57)


No panic. This has been in US staffing for almost a year. The negotiations with the Czechs started over 2 years ago. Likewise, rumors of potential Russian buys have been around since 2005. What has happened is that GoI had a surplus budget this year and authorized additional military spending in July. This is some of the long negotiated contracts finally being signed because Iraq has the money for them. Others were rejected. The US has bought Russian aircraft for Iraq via FMS before. At US recommendation...

DJ Elliott (10/19/2012 05:08:35)


The panic is on the Iraqi side. It has finally occured to them that talking about buying for 4-5 years does not do anything but delay the delivery for 4-5 years and raise the price [inflation]. Iraq is small fry in the arms market - all of the arms market can wait on them to finally cough up the money. Then there is the dumb way the Iraqis are upgrading - bottom up. E.G. Artillery was first 60mm, then 81mm, finally 120mm, now as they finish the mortars they are getting serious about howitzers. SAM buy - first the missile to provide cruise-missile defense then the missile to give real air defense after the system to protect it from cruise missiles... //// Amatures.

DJ Elliott (10/19/2012 07:36:22)


There is another reason why Iraq is suddenly in a rush for arms. GoI has finally realized that any deals with neighbors mean nothing when you can't be sure who will be in charge tommarow...

DJ Elliott (10/20/2012 04:46:14)


No comment on which map is preferred. I guess no map is needed. So be it...

DJ Elliott (10/23/2012 03:59:43)


Well, I may be speaking for myself here DJ, but as a person with relatively little military knowledge I can read the maps and figure out what goes where and most of the acronyms, but I honestly don't know what it all means... like being able to read individual musical notes, but unable to put it all together. So, for what it's worth, I don't really have a preference either way...

Maz (10/26/2012 09:02:58)

DJ Elliott