Iraq has bought 12 new U.S.-built reconnaissance planes to monitor militants and the borders, the Defense Ministry said Monday, a small step in the country's attempt to reassert itself in air space now controlled by U.S.-led forces.
A ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, said six King Air planes had been delivered and the other six were expected soon. He said they would be used to track "terrorists' movements inside or outside cities, plus detect any infiltration across Iraq's borders."
The King Airs are small aircraft equipped with advanced aerial video technology enabling them to cover wide areas and send live feeds to ground control centers, the Defense Ministry says. The twin-turboprop aircraft are produced by Wichita's Hawker Beechcraft Corp.
Iraq once had a formidable air force, but it has been largely incapacitated since the 1991 Gulf War that followed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government hopes to regain control of the country's skies as it eventually takes over authority from the Americans.
The U.S. military often has used reconnaissance aircraft in Iraq to track down safe houses with militants inside.