U.S. transfers airspace to Iraq

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chuck Broadway
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force - Iraq Public Affairs
Officials at the Airspace Control Authority transferred airspace to Iraq Civil Aviation Authority officials June 1 in what is being called a milestone in Operation New Dawn.

The ICAA took over the Ali sector of airspace from surface area to 24,000 feet, assuming control over all aircraft on final approach.

Airspace has been transferred to the ICAA in increments since January 2009, but this transfer is the first of its kind, said Maj. Adam Fiedler, a United States Forces-Iraq Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq airspace planner.

"The Ali sector is a big milestone because it's the first airspace they will control down to the surface," Major Fiedler said. "The (cumulating) transfers are important because they turn controls of the airspace back to the host nation civilian authorities and help facilitate our withdrawal from the country."

The first transfer occurred Jan. 1, 2009, when the ICAA took responsibility for air traffic control service above 24,000 feet across the entire country. Sept. 1, 2010, saw transfer of airspace from 15,000 to 24,000 feet in the northern third of the country, called the Jabar sector, and on Feb. 15, 2011, the same altitude of airspace transferred in the center third of the country called the Samarra sector.

The work accomplished by coalition forces and the Iraqis was a process of "normalizing" Iraq's airspace system, officials said.

"The airspace transfer shows confidence in the ICAA's capability to continue to 'normalize' the air traffic control service in the country," said Lt. Col. Gregory Kendrick, a USF-I ACCE-I airspace communications planner. "It also shows improvement in the capabilities of the ICAA's air traffic controllers and their maintenance personnel to maintain critical equipment that provides service to civilian aircraft."

Two sectors remain to be transferred later this year. The Kirkuk and Baghdad sectors remain under U.S. control from surface to 15,000 feet. Both are currently scheduled to be transferred by October 2011.