The US Air Force (USAF) is sending an assessment team to Iraq to examine whether the Iraqi Defence force will be able to defend its airspace when US combat forces leave by the end of 2011.

Commander of Multinational Force Iraq Army Gen. Raymond T Odierno said that it was unlikely that the Iraqis would be able to field advanced air-to-air manned interceptors by the time US forces leave the country, but the US team will work with Iraqi officials to look for creative solutions to the problem.

The Iraqi Army and Navy are already well established, the air force, however, is a much larger undertaking and will involve the purchase of aircraft, pilot and mechanic training, building infrastructure and also the construction of a reliable radar, communications and command structure.