"Just Get 'em in the Air"

  • Joshua S. Aronoff College of Arts and Sciences, Vanderbilt University


Once the strongest airpower in the Middle East, the Al Quwwa al Jawwiya al Iraqiya, or the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF), was powerless when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. After realizing the importance of the IQAF for Iraq’s future, the US began to rebuild it from scratch in 2004. Since then, the IQAF has made significant strides with help from the Coalition Air Force Training Team (CAFTT): the IQAF’s functional output has grown exponentially; Iraqi officers are commanding their own units; and Iraqi pilots are being recruited and trained. However, CAFTT struggled to effectively overcome many challenges, including American-perceived cultural barriers as well as an ongoing counterinsurgency (COIN) battle. Circumstances beyond US and Iraqi control caused these challenges. However, a lack of preparation by both players also fueled these struggles. Through a primarily American lens, this paper paints a panoramic picture of the new IQAF by analyzing CAFTT’s strategy, achievements, and failures. Specifically, personal interviews with US military officials offer insight into the less tangible difficulties that the US faced in rebuilding the IQAF. This insight enables a more in-depth critique, leading to the conclusion that the IQAF’s future remains gravely uncertain. Furthermore, it shows that the IQAF is neither independent nor sustainable, and it will rely on the US military for many years.

Author Biography

Joshua S. Aronoff, College of Arts and Sciences, Vanderbilt University
Major: Political Science Minor: Economics
How to Cite
ARONOFF, Joshua S.. "Just Get 'em in the Air". Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, [S.l.], v. 8, july 2012. ISSN 1555-788X. Available at: <http://vurj.vanderbilt.edu/index.php/vurj/article/view/3566>. Date accessed: 20 aug. 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v8i0.3566.
Humanities and Social Sciences


United States Air Force; Iraq; Iraqi Air Force