Air Force must get permission to fly through Iraqi airspace


Passengers exit a C-17 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in November 2010.//Air Force

If you’re flying home via Iraq, you may run into some delays as the Air Force works to refine the process of asking Iraq for clearance to fly through its airspace.

Respected military blogger C.J. Grisham told Flightlines that some troops are stuck in Kuwait because Iraq refused to allow their flight to pass through its airspace.

Some quick checking revealed that Iraq has not closed its airspace to U.S. military aircraft, but it is making the Air Force jump through a few new hoops now that all U.S. troops have left the country.

With the end of Operation New Dawn, U.S. military aircraft now have to request permission to fly through Iraqi airspace, an official from U.S. Transportation Command told Flightlines.

Since this is a new requirement, Air Force officials are still trying to reduce the time it takes to ask for and receive clearance for a “pretty tight window” to fly through Iraqi airspace, the official said. To make things more complicated, flights going through Iraq also pass over Turkey, and that is a separate clearance process.

In one case, a MEDEVAC flight’s return trip was delayed because by the time it received clearance to fly through Iraq, the allotted time had already passed, the official said.

So far, the Iraqi government has not refused any Air Force requests to fly through its airspace, said Iraqi government spokesman Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh.

“It is normal that the United States needs to ask permission as they ask any other country that they are crossing through, keeping in mind that we have agreed that Iraqi airspace – as with the land or water – should not be used for any attack against any other neighbors,” Dabbagh said. “We are maintaining very good relations, which entitles us to give permission as long as it complies with Iraqi and all regulations.”


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  1. can not believe that the end of Operation New Dawn, with all the significant changes of bilateral relationship in consequence, had not as a priority an exact agreement of both countries how to use flight-corridors, as well as a concrete permission for non-stop-flights. Now changed from a position of power to a not directly vinculated country, United States has to say “please”. Irak demonstrates it´s new power and says “wait”.

  2. Of course, al Maliki did not say permission would not be granted, especially if we go back to fight Iranian warplanes flying over Iraqi airspace. Iraq still does not have sufficient military power to repel an Iranian invasion, and you can bet your a $$ that no other Arab country will pitch in to help Iraq fight off Iran. Let’s let the Iraqis control their own country for a while.

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