Sunday, 1 March 2015

Iraqi aviation under fire

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The apparent targeting of an aircraft operated by Flydubai, the short-haul affiliate of Emirates Airline, during a routine landing at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) has rightly rattled nerves in the Gulf aviation sector, coming just six months after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in eastern Ukraine.

Although there are few direct parallels between the incidents – one involved a sophisticated surface-to-air missile; the other rudimentary small-arms fire – threats to airspace security are never taken lightly by governments. This applies doubly so in Iraq, where the Islamic State (IS) boasts in its armoury a variety of anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems), including the Russian-made SA-16 and SA-18, and the Chinese-made FN-6. Shootdowns of government aircraft have been documented on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border.

The burning question for travellers is whether or not such weapons pose a credible threat to civilian aircraft at BIAP. Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly yes...