Iraqi official: Baghdad buys 18 F-16s

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Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes to bolster its air force, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday.

The value of the F-16 deal was not immediately known, but a senior U.S. military official said recently the offer on the table for the Iraqi government was valued at “roughly $3 billion.”Lockheed said in a statement it looked forward to a partnership with Baghdad and was “pleased with the confidence Iraq places in our products.” It declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, referring questions to the Iraqi and U.S. governments.

“The F-16 contract was signed … and a part of the contract cost was sent to the bank account of the company,” said Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi.

Iraq has long sought F-16 combat jet for its rebuilt air force. The government delayed a planned purchase of F-16s in February to divert a $900 million down payment to its national food ration program to help quell street protests.

Maliki said on July 30 Iraq would buy 36 F-16s, double the number it had originally planned, to shore up its weak air defenses. The OPEC producer has found itself flush with cash this year, reaping windfall profits as world oil prices have remained above budget projections.

Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency. Washington and Baghdad are discussing whether to keep some U.S. troops or military trainers in Iraq beyond the year-end deadline for U.S. departure.

Source: Reuters