The Iraqi Ministry of Defence on Wednesday (February 21st) officially reopened the Iraqi Air Force Air Academy at Balad air base, north of Baghdad.
The academy is an integral part of the main Air Force Academy at Imam Ali air base in Dhi Qar province, ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.
Balad academy will specialise in practical training for fighter, reconnaissance and mobility pilots, after they complete their military and theoretical training at the central academy, he said. It also will train maintenance officers.
During training, pilots will gain high-level technical skills in air navigation on the Cessna 172, Cessna 208, T-6 and T-50 aircraft, al-Khafaji said.
Engineers and technicians will receive training on aircraft maintenance, he added.
The reopening of the academy is a qualitative leap for the Iraqi military, al-Khafaji said, noting that it will serve as "an important tributary for boosting our army’s capabilities in terms of pilots and technical personnel".
The academy will help pilots and maintenance personnel develop their capabilities to better defend the country and safeguard its borders, he added.
Advanced training systems
The newly reopened academy will employ advanced training systems and professional trainers to produce graduates with advanced skills, al-Khafaji said.
He noted the international coalition’s role in helping Iraq build its human resources in the field of military aviation.
"We are in dire need of the coalition's experience in this field, and they are helping us to enable our pilots to acquire the required expertise," he said.
"This support drives our potential forward, and gives us a greater chance of advancing our military resources, which is in line with our strategic plan for the post War On Terror phase," he added.
This phase will focus on the training and skill enhancement of military personnel.
The Ministry of Defence is working to develop the capabilities of all military professions, he said, adding that the Balad academy is expected to accept at least 80 pilot trainees each year who have completed their theoretical training.
The Iraqi air force has provided essential support to ground forces during the battles to oust the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), he said, noting that its work continues as it pounds the group's sleeper cells and remaining bases.