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Iraqi Air Defence Command

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Iraqi Air Defence Command
قيادة الدفاع الجوي العراقي
Iraqi Air Defence Command Insigna
11 February 1993 (As Air Defence Forces)
2011 (Reshaping After 2003 invasion of Iraq)
Country Iraq
TypeAir Defence
RoleArea air defence
Anti-aircraft warfare
Size≈ 4000
Part ofIraqi Armed Forces
Command HeadquartersBaghdad, Iraq
Beret colour     Blue-gray (Before 2003 invasion of Iraq)
Anniversaries11 February 1993
Equipmentsee below
EngagementsIran–Iraq War
Invasion of Kuwait
Gulf War
2003 invasion of Iraq
Commander of the Iraqi Air Defence CommandLieutenant General Maan Zaid Ibrahim Al Saadi
Flag of the Iraqi Air Defence Command

The Iraqi Air Defence Command (Arabic: قيادة الدفاع الجوي العراقي‎, romanized: Qiyad al-Difaa' al-Jawiya al-Iraqi) is one of the Iraqi Armed Forces service branches. It was established on February 1, 1993. It is responsible for the protection of Iraqi airspace from any external aggression. It had an effective role in protecting the Iraqi airspace even before it was officially formed in 1993. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq it was reshaped in 2011. The current commanding officer is Lieutenant General Maan al-Saadi.[1]


At the beginning of the establishment of the Iraqi army, the anti-aircraft weapons had little importance, as there was no air threat. The rifles and machine guns of the infantry regiments and other units could fire on enemy aircraft. After the establishment of the Iraqi army, a reflection on the potential purchase of anti-aircraft weapons began.

The Iraqi air defences were redesigned after the Israeli raid on the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center in 1981. A network of radars, surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery was installed, centered around the strategic and industrial facilities in the city of Baghdad. The National Air Defence Operations Center (ADOC) is located in central Baghdad. It is its responsibility to preserve the skies of Iraq from any external aggression.[2][3]

Even after losses during the first Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqi army still possessed a wide range of advanced weapons. These weapons included Soviet-made equipment, French-made combat aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles, and Soviet surface-to-air missile systems. Partially built integrated air defence system and early warning radars.[4]

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the dissolution of the Iraqi army, the Iraqi Air Defence Command became more dependent on western sources than eastern. It received American systems such as the Hawk and Avenger, and advanced radars from the United States.[5] Soviet doctrine was discarded in favour of Western radars, communications and technologies.[6]


Anti-Aircraft Battalion formations[edit]

After the fall of the monarchy and the proclamation of the Iraqi Republic, Iraq's policy changed. The country started to import weapons from eastern bloc countries, especially from the Soviet Union. The share of anti-aircraft weapons in Iraq's imports was limited, but a limited number of units were formed, and the armament of the previously formed battalions was replaced with eastern weapons. The standard weapon became the M1939 (61-K).

On July 17, 1958, the 29th Anti-Aircraft Battalion was formed in the Saad camp, in Baqubah, consisting of a battalion headquarters and three battalions armed with 37 mm single-barrel cannons.

After the declaration of the Iraqi Republic, Iraq received radar-guided KS-19 anti-aircraft guns. Iraqi soldiers started to train on the new guns on November 1, 1958, under the supervision of Soviet experts. After the training was completed, the battalion was reorganized on January 12, 1960, and its name was changed to the Medium anti-Aircraft Battalion 31. Its first commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Dawud Salman al-Ghalay. This battalion was the first to use radar-guided anti-aircraft guns in the Iraqi army.[7]

Since their formation, anti-aircraft artillery units have been associated with divisional field artillery and general headquarters field artillery commands, originally linked to the Field Artillery Directorate. After the formation of the anti-aircraft Artillery Directorate and its separation from the Field Artillery Directorate, anti-aircraft units passed under the control of the newly created directorate.[8]

On August 16, 1959, the Light anti-Aircraft Battalion was formed from a battalion headquarters, three companies, and armed with 37 mm M1939 cannons. In October 1959, the 24th Light anti-Aircraft Battalion was formed in the Jisr al-Khar barracks of the battalion headquarters and three batteries were armed with M1939 cannons. On March 1, 1961, the 17th anti-Aircraft Battalion was formed from battalion headquarters and three companies armed with M1939s, and the battalion was reorganized on January 2, 1963, as the Medium anti-Aircraft Battalion 17, which consisted of battalion headquarters and six gun companies, equipped with radar-guided KS-19 guns. In 1963, Iraq purchased a battalion of S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missiles. Upon their arrival, the 34th Missile Battalion (the Dulab Battalion) was formed on March 2, 1963. Its first commander was Colonel Daoud Salman al-Ghalay, and it was based in Abu Ghraib camp. Training courses on the new equipment were organized, but these were canceled on July 13, 1963, due to the lack of completion of the equipment supply from the Soviet Union. The equipment was handed over to Egypt as a gift. Iraq thus missed the opportunity of becoming the first Arab country to operate surface-to-air missiles.[9]

On August 16, 1965, the anti-aircraft artillery was established, and it included the headquarters and the light anti-Aircraft artillery ward, the medium anti-Aircraft artillery ward, and the administrative ward. The first commander of the light anti-Aircraft artillery ward was Colonel Namik Abdullah, and the first commander of the medium anti-artillery ward Colonel Jalal Saaed. The responsibility of preparing the officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks was assigned to the anti-Aircraft school, (before it was the responsibility of the Field Artillery School).

On June 6, 1967, the 21st Light anti-Aircraft Battalion was formed from a battalion headquarters, and three gun companies armed with M1939 cannons.


After the Baath Party seized power in 1968, its leadership paid great attention to modernizing the Iraqi armed forces' equipment, and the anti-Aircraft weapons were one of the main focuses. In 1970, a committee was formed, headed by Major General Dawud Salman al-Ghalai, and a number of officers concerned with anti-Aircraft weapons and air defence, under the supervision of Saddam Hussein, then deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. This committee developed proposals that served as a basis for developing anti-Aircraft weapons and air defence, especially in the organizational aspect of air defence and the development of training institutions, methods of development, armament and details. This resulted in the formation of large numbers of anti-Aircraft units and formation headquarters for command and control purposes, and the introduction of modern weapons, which resulted in the establishment of an advanced air defence system.

On September 8, 1968, the anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missile Command was formed, and its first commander was Major General Dawud Salman al-Ghalai. Its responsibility was to command and control all anti-Aircraft weapons to protect vital sites. The commander presented the command with the commander of the Air Force and Air Defence. The command was attached to the Army Chief of Staff, and reorganized in October 1974 as the anti-Aircraft Artillery Department. In November 1976, it was reorganized as the anti-Aircraft Artillery Command. At the same time, the Missile Command formed, and the two commands were linked to the Air Force and Air Defence Command. In July 1979, the Air Force and Air Defence Artillery Command was merged with the Missile Command to form the Air Force and Air Defence Force.

After the delivery of surface-to-air missiles, the 125th missile battalion was formed on January 31, 1972. It was the first missile battalion, and it consisted of four missile companies (the 31st, 33rd, 35th and 37th), a technical company (the 93rd), and a maintenance company (the 80th). On April 7, 1972, this battalion was commissioned to protect the Baghdad area, and on June 11, 1974, the battalion’s cadre was reorganized into the 145th Missile Brigade. This resulted in the addition of four missile companies operating S-75-2 Volga-2s (the 50th, 52nd, 54th, and 56th companies), a technical company (the 76th) and the battalion staff.[10]

A directorate was formed to assume technical responsibility, after the Iraqi government decided to expand the formation of anti-Aircraft units, missiles and artillery. A number of anti-Aircraft artillery units were formed, as they formed 13 guided anti-Aircraft battalions 57 mm and 10 unguided anti-Aircraft battalions (37 mm)-(30 mm)-(23 mm), due to the lack of the previous number to secure the protection of headquarters and vital projects. Three hybrid missiles brigades formed from the S-75 ("Volga") and S-125 Neva/Pechora batteries, and were intended to protect headquarters and vital projects:[10][11]

Missile Directorate Brigades
Formation Date of formation
148th Missile Brigade February 3, 1975
195th Missile Brigade July 30, 1975
24th Missile Brigade July 24, 1976

Kavadrat Missile Battalions were formed to work within the field Air Defence (armored and mechanized divisions) and entered this type of missiles in 1974, as follows:

Kavadrat Missile Battalions
Missile Battalion Formation date Linked
155th Kavadrat Missile Battalion September 26, 1974 1st Corps
162nd Kavadrat Missile Battalion November 7, 1974 5th Corps
175th Kavadrat Missile Battalion March 23, 1975 4th Corps
185th Kavadrat Missile Battalion August 9, 1979 3rd Corps
186th Kavadrat Missile Battalion March 12, 1980 RGFC
183rd Kavadrat Missile Battalion August 9, 1979 8th Corps
Insignia of the Air Defence Corps Command of the Iraqi Republican Guard (577th Light Infantry Battalion, Republican Guard) (1976—2003)

A number of air defence commands for the corps, armored divisions, mechanized and infantry were formed to secure command and control of the field air defence units operating within the corps and divisions, as follows:[10][12]

Air Defence Commands for The Corps
Commands Formation date
A.D.C.C. 3rd Armored Division Jan. 20, 1976
A.D.C.C. 9th Armored Division Jan. 20, 1976
A.D.C.C. (RGFC) Aug. 22, 1976
A.D.C.C. 1st Infantry Corps Mar. 7, 1977
A.D.C.C. 2nd Infantry Corps Mar. 7, 1977
A.D.C.C. 3rd Infantry Corps Mar. 7,1977
A.D.C.C. 5th Mechanized Infantry Division Sep. 21, 1977
A.D.C.C. 4th Infantry Division Feb. 18, 1979
A.D.C.C. 1st Infantry Division Aug. 18, 1979

Leadership Structure[edit]

The former integrated air defence consisted of the National Air Defence Operations Center in Baghdad and the following four air defence sectors:[13]

  • The 1st Air Defence Operations Command, also called the Central Region Air Defence Sector, has an operations center sector in Taji and operations centers in Taji, Taqaddam, Salman Pak, Kut, Najaf and Nukhib.
  • The 2nd Air Defence Operations Command, also known as the Western Air Defence Command, has bases located at the South Oil Company, H-3 airfield with H-1 airfield, and Rutba.
  • The 3rd Air Defence Operations Command, also known as the Southern Air Defence Operations Command, has bases located in the South Oil Company, Tallil Airport, and the international oil companies in Tallil, Al-Amarah, Salman, and Zubair.
  • The 4th Air Defence Operations Command, also known as the Northern Air Defence Operations Command, is headquartered at the North Oil Company in Kirkuk, with the international oil companies in Kirkuk and Mosul.

Each Air Defence Operations Command was assigned early warning battalions, which were responsible for operating optical observation points and air surveillance radars.[14]

Air Defence coverage is concentrated throughout Baghdad and the main military and strategic objectives. Many of the Iraqi Air Defence weapons were destroyed in the Gulf War and during the American strikes, which resulted in the imposition of a spokesperson over the north and south of Iraq. Iraq still retains a good number of systems Weapons for Air Defence Despite these losses, Iraq possesses SAM 2, SAM 3, SAM 6, SAM 7, SAM 8, SAM 9, SAM 13, SAM 16 Hawk and ROLAND I/II SAMs.[15][16][17][18]

Commanders of the Iraqi Air Defence Command[edit]

Commander of Air and Air Defense Forces Muzahim Saab reviewing Air Defense Staff in 1988.

Republic of Iraq (1968-1979)[edit]

Director of the Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missile Department of the General Staff[edit]
  • 1968–1973, Major General Dawud Salman al-Ghalay
  • 1973–1979, Brigadier General Muhammad Salim Ahmed
Director of the Missile Directorate of the Air Force[edit]
  • 1971–1979, Brigadier General Burhan al-Din Muhammad Tawfiq

Republic of Iraq (1979-1993)[edit]

Republic of Iraq (1993-2003)[edit]

  • 1993–1999, Lieutenant General of Air Defense Shaheen Yassin Muhammad[19]
  • 1999–2003, Lieutentant General of Air Defense Muzahim Sa'ab Hassan

Republic of Iraq (2011-)[edit]

  • 2017–2020, Lieutenant General of Air Defense Jabbar Obaidi Kadhimi[20]
  • 2020–present, Lieutentant General of Air Defense Maan Zaid Al Saadi[21]


Captured Iraqi SA-6 Gainful low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air-missiles (SAM) on their transporter-erector-launcher (TEL)

By 1990, Iraq possessed 16,000 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) with radar and thermal trackers, including the Soviet SA-2, SA-3, SA-6, SA-7, SA-8, SA-9, SA-13, SA-14, SA-16, and French Roland (SHORAD). The Air Force also possessed anti-air defence missiles, including the SA-7/14, SA-8, SA-9/13, SA-16 missile systems, and the ZSU-23/4 AAA self-propelled system. A boost to this, the Iraqi Air Defence had more than 7,500 AAA items all valuable targets, some of which were scattered on the roofs of Baghdad's many buildings. These weapons - 57 mm and 37 mm AAA parts, ZSU-23/4 and ZSU-57/2 AAA self-propelled systems, and hundreds of 14.5 mm and 23 mm anti-Aircraft weapons - formed the backbone and integrated air defence network in major relevant and valuable areas. High (such as Baghdad, airports, residential complexes, chemical production plants, and nuclear facilities) Combined air defence may be a lethal weapon for aircraft operating below 10,000 feet.[22]

After 2003[edit]

As a result of the military operations in 2003 and the subsequent events, the Iraqi Air Defence Command lost most of the radars and interceptors, as well as the planes under its command, The Iraqi army began to pay attention to the Air Defence Command and to arm it again with radars and anti-Aircraft missiles.[23][24]

Current Equipment of the Iraqi Air Defence Command[edit]


Radar Image Origin Type
AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel  United States 3D radar system used to alert and cue

Short Range Air Defence (SHORAD)

An-117  United States Phased array Long-Range Radar System
AN/TPQ-37  United States mobile radar system
MSTAR  United States mobile radar system
Ground Master 400[25]  United States mobile radar system

Air Defence Systems[edit]

System Image Type Origine Quantity
AZP-60 Autocannon  Soviet Union ~250
Bofors 40 mm L/60 gun anti-Aircraft Autocannon

(including British variants)

 United Kingdom
AN/TWQ-1 Avenger short-range air defence  United States ~100
MIM-23 Hawk Medium-range SAM missile  United States ~50
Pantsir S-1[26](with GM-352 chassis) Medium-range SAM missile

Anti-Aircraft artillery systems

 Russia 24
S-400 missile system[21] Mobile SAM missile launcher  Russia ~10


  1. Alinejad, A. Conversation with Masih. "Kadhimi's Rolling Reshuffle (Part 1): Military Command Changes". The Washington Institute. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  2. Iraqi Air defence - Introduction Archived 2017-07-02 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  4. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  5. Iraq – Integrated Air defence System Archived 2017-09-14 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Iraq's New Integrated Air defence System Archived 2018-01-04 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  8. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  9. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Cullen, Tony; Foss, Christopher F., eds. (1992). Jane's Land-based Air Defence 1992-93 (PDF) (5th ed.). Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0710609793. Search this book on
  11. says, Riccardo (2022-10-19). "Looking Back at Iraqi Air Defences during Operation DESERT STORM". From Balloons to Drones. Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  12. "GovInfo". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  13. "GovInfo". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  14. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  15. Small Arms Survey 2004. Oxford University Press. 2018-08-30. ISBN 978-0-19-927334-8. Archived from the original on 2018-08-30. Retrieved 2024-05-08 – via Search this book on
  16. "Iraqi Air Defense - Introduction". Retrieved 2024-05-08.
  17. Debay, Yves (2003). Operation Iraqi Freedom: Victory in Baghdad. Special Obs 27. Concord Publication. p. 39. ISBN 962-361-067-X. Search this book on
  18. "Forecast International: Intelligence Center".
  19. "Iraq dismisses Powell's threats". 2000-12-17. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  20. "Kadhimi follows through on promises to reform Iraq's security sector - Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted coverage of the Middle East". 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Iraq to purchase Russia's S-400 missile systems". TASS. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  22. Iraqi Air defence Equipment Archived 2017-04-08 at the Wayback Machine
  23. Krepinevich, Andrew F. (2003). "Operation Iraqi Freedom: A First-Blush Assessment" (PDF). Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
  24. Radomyski, Adam; Bernat, Pawel (2019). "Assessment of Iraq's Air Defense System in the Iraqi Freedom Operation" (PDF). PhilPapers.
  25. "Iraq inaugurates second Groundmaster air defence radar | Shephard". Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  26. "Iraq to get new air-defence systems". Retrieved 2023-08-25.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pollack, Kenneth M. (2002). Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-91. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-3733-2. OCLC 49225708. Search this book on
  • Al-Marashi, I., Salama, S. (2008). Iraq's Armed Forces: An Analytical History. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781134145645.
  • Eisel, B., Schreiner, J. '. (2009). Magnum! The Wild Weasels in Desert Storm: The Elimination of Iraq's Air Defence. United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9781848846999. ‌
  • Hooton, E.R., Cooper, T. and Farzin Nadimi (2018). The Iran-Iraq War. Volume 3, Iraq’s triumph. Solihull, West Midlands, England: Helion & Company Limited. ISBN 9781913336943. ‌

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