Forces: Iraqi Navy Sunk By Corruption

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March 20, 2007: The Iraqi navy is trying once more to build up its navy. It hasn't been easy, Corruption and bureaucracy have made life difficult. Not that the old, Saddam era, navy was anything to boast about. Before 2003, the navy had only 2,000 personnel, and few ships in working order. As of early 2006, there were 700 personnel and 32 boats. These include three 93 foot long Al Faw patrol boats, five 84 foot long Predator patrol boats from China, and 24 speed boats (of various makes) equipped with light machine-guns and whatever other weapons the crew is carrying.

Corruption, however, has seen to it that most of the larger boats arrived in poor condition, and attempts to obtain spare parts, and needed maintenance, have not gone well. Money keeps disappearing, as well as shipments of needed materials. Welcome to Iraq. By early 2007, there were over a thousand personnel in the navy, but only a dozen or so boats and ships that could get underway on any given day. Part of the problem is an ongoing feud with the Ministry of the Interior, which has its own 500 man Coast Guard. There are also problems getting, and hanging on to, fuel supplies.

The Iraqis had hoped to get four corvettes, that were ordered and built by Italy in the 1980s. They were held back because of wartime restrictions, and in 1996, the Italian navy took them. The Italians declined to return these Lupo class ships (352 feet long, displace 2,600 tons and have a crew of 195). The Lupos ships were armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes, a five inch and two 40mm guns and a helicopter. Having lost the Lupos, Iraq is now offering Italy a $105 million contract to build four 400 ton (much smaller than the Lupos) offshore patrol boats. The first of these won't arrive until 2008. The Italian patrol boats will be based on the Saettia Mk. 4 missile patrol boat. These ships will carry a crew of 38 (including marines for boarding ships). Top speed will be about 40 kilometers an hour, and endurance is about five days. Armament consists of a 30mm automatic cannon and two machine-guns. But the most important aspect of all this is whether corrupt officials can be kept under control, so that the new patrol boats will get the fuel and spare parts needed to keep them at sea.

 


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