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Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said on Sept 27th that the Iraqi government has transferred its first payment for 18 F-16C Fighting Falcons. This brings Iraq closer to independently securing its airspace.
“These aircraft will help provide air sovereignty for Iraq to protect its own territory and deter or counter regional threats,” Little said.
The F-16 fighter aircraft, he said, “are also a symbol of the commitment to a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.”
According to Little, the F-16s are the block 50/52 variant of the aircraft – the current production version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The sale is valued at about $3 billion. Such foreign military sales will be a cornerstone of future cooperation and support the development of a long-term cooperative security relationship with Iraq.
“Foreign military sales around the world, such as this purchase of F-16 aircraft,” the press secretary said, “strengthen our diplomatic and military relationships with our allies and supports American industry and jobs at home.”
The United States conducts foreign military sales with Iraq and fully supports Iraq’s efforts to purchase military equipment in line with its domestic spending priorities and in accordance with its budget laws and procedures, Little added.
Source: U.S. Air Force
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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.
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Iraq’s potential purchase of 18 U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft is an encouraging development that benefits both nations, the senior U.S. Air Force component commander in Iraq told Pentagon reporters today.
“I do not have any word yet that a letter of offer and acceptance is signed, but as you probably know, we did have a senior member of the Iraqi government visit Washington,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Russell J. Handy, commander, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, and director, Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq.
Handy said the Iraqis could potentially buy more F-16 aircraft if, and when, they sign a letter of offer and acceptance.
“They are seeking to buy a larger number of F-16s than they had originally — up to 36,” he said.
Handy lauded U.S. military efforts in Iraq as troops conduct stability and transitioning operations.
“The airmen I have the privilege of leading in Iraq through this challenge have a very important role in the transition,” he said. “We continue to perform all the roles and missions we’ve done for a number of years.”
Handy said these missions include over watch of American forces with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance assets; close air support; air mobility; aerial port operations; personnel recovery; and air base management — all while re-posturing U.S. forces.
The senior U.S. Air Force commander in Iraq also praised airmen for their performance as advisors to Iraqi air force personnel.
“Our Air Force personnel have helped the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi Army Aviation Command progress to where they are now and have much to be proud of,” Handy said. “These advisors have been very successful — extraordinarily so if you think about it in the last five years.”
Iraqi air force and Iraqi Army Aviation Command ranks “have grown tenfold,” Handy said, noting American airmen have had an advisory role in those Iraqi units.
“As the Iraqis are moving forward and we’re transitioning, we are handing more and more of those functions completely over to the Iraqis,” Handy said. “Those proud, young Iraqi airmen I spoke of give us great hope.”