Iraqi Air Force provides vital air to Italian pilots

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ben Hughes
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Editor's note: Senior Master Sgt. Tim Smith is a member of the 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell AFB, Ala., a unit of 22nd Air Force.


The Iraqi Air Force provided an Italian Air Force aircraft with vital liquid oxygen for their pilots at Al Muthana Air Base on May 13.


After relocating the aircraft to northern Iraq last month, the Italian pilots were flying out of country to receive LOX, which is a pilot’s main source of breathable air above 10,000 feet and would be used in case of emergency when there is a loss in cabin pressure.


Through a pre-existing relationship with U.S. personnel, the Italians learned there was liquid oxygen in Baghdad because Iraqis have their C-130J Super Hercules aircraft there. The Italian pilots quickly understood that the Iraqi maintainers were committed to ensuring they could deliver the critical supply.


“Working with the Iraqi guys was really good because they were really helpful,” said Italian Air Force Lt. Col. Mirko Codato, Task Force Air Kuwait group commander. “They immediately tried to figure out a solution to get us the liquid oxygen.”


Air advisers assigned to the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron partnered with their Iraqi counterparts to get authorization from Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amin, commander of the Iraqi Air Force, to support to the Italians. The Iraqi airmen also provide the Italian pilots certificates that confirm the purity of the liquid oxygen.


On the aircraft, the LOX is converted to breathable oxygen and allows the aircrew to safely operate at high altitudes and it prevents hypoxia.


The Italian pilots are now able to receive LOX about once a week and it only takes approximately half an hour to get refilled, said Codato. The Italian aircrew is able to spend more time on their mission supporting the coalition and less time dealing with additional authorizations and clearances to cross borders.


“To watch (Iraqi airmen) building relationships with coalition partners like that, is pretty gratifying,” said Senior Master Sgt. Tim Smith, lead advisor, 770th AEAS. “Hopefully it will let them build those additional relationships outside their country, so that they can project their air power outside of Iraq.”


The Iraqi Super Hercules maintainers understand the importance of supporting their allies and that they are all working towards the same goals, said Iraqi Air Force 1st Lt. Alaa Aziz, an oxygen officer.


“We have a big heart. Our hands are open, our arms are open,” said Aziz. “Anything we can supply the coalition forces to help them, we are ready.”