Photo Information

Iraqi Air Force Squadron 3 assaults a target with an AGM-114 Hellfire missile during an exercise on shadow range aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Nov. 4, 2009. The Hellfire gives the IAF precision-guided missile strike capabilities from their AC-208 Cessna Caravan aircraft.

Photo by courtesy photo

Iraqi Air Force rains Hellfire

12 Nov 2009 | Cpl. Joshua Murray

After months of preparation for the event, the stage was finally set for the demonstration, but the well-being of civilian bystanders quickly halted the missile strikes on several occasions.

The first time we tried [to emplace the target], before [U.S. Marines] even left the target area, there were already [civilians] standing around [the target] wondering how they could use it, explained Franko. The next day we had a support infrastructure in place to help clear the target and sweep the area.

Utilizing various air and ground assets, Iraqi soldiers and U.S. forces kept watch over the impact area for anything out of place. The Iraqis continued their attempts to put shots on target, but with each try, something prevented them from firing.

Right when we were about to take the shot, more [civilians] showed up on the target, and the Iraqis aborted their attempt, because obviously they didn't want to hurt anyone. That afternoon we cleared the range and just as the aircraft was about to take its shot, we noticed a motorcycle pull up next to the target and aborted that attempt as well, said Franko.

Iraqi army soldiers with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Company, 7th Iraqi Army Division, worked as one security element for the exercise and took the lead in resolving the issue by safely escorting civilians off the range and explaining the inherent danger of wandering through the impact area.

We had three groups that interacted with the Bedouins, mentioned Capt. Nathan Fleischaker, operations advisor, Military Transition Team 7. Two groups of two teams each were airborne two teams in IAF helicopters, two teams in U.S. forces helicopters, and then a ground element that created a holding area and helped emplace the targets.

These teams were instrumental in completing the exercise successfully and without causing any civilian casualties by escorting the civilians to a safe location.

The IA treated the Bedouins extremely well and very professionally across the board, said Fleischaker. They emphasized that, while they were sorry for the inconvenience, and how [the civilians] were probably very scared to be escorted onto a helicopter, this was done for their safety.

After days of attempts, the IAF finally had their chance to launch the missile strike and witness firsthand the value of such a powerful asset. As U.S. forces have proved many times, precision-strike capabilities can be a tide-turning element in combat, and now, if needed, the IAF can attest to the worth of the Hellfire on their battlefields.