BULLDOG75: IRAQ HAS ORDERED A SECOND BATCH OF LOCKHEED MARTIN F-161 Q FIGHTER JETS WORTH $830 MILLION (with links)
New post Bulldog75 Yesterday at 12:48 pm
BAGHDAD (UPI) -- Amid growing concerns the Middle East faces major security threats, Iraq has ordered a second batch of Lockheed Martin F-16IQ fighters worth $830 million.
The contract underlines Iraq's drive to give its postwar air force a combat capability in the next few years following the U.S. military withdrawal.
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The U.S.-trained air force is expected to start taking delivery of 18 F-16 Block 52 jets ordered under a $4.3 billion deal (ordered in December 2011) sometime this year and pilots are already being trained to fly the supersonic aircraft by the U.S. Air Force in Nevada.
But it's unlikely the Iraqi air force, which reportedly seeks a final inventory at least 96 F-16s, will have an operational combat capability of any kind until 2015.
The new purchase underlines that the United States remains Iraq's main supplier of advanced weapons, despite ongoing negotiations for a $5.2 billion arms package from Russia and the Czech Republic.
There have been conflicting reports about the scale of the deal Iraq's seeking with Moscow, first announced when Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the Russian capital in October 2012.
But it apparently involves an unspecified number of MiG-29M/M2 interceptors, 30 Mil Mi-28N all-weather, anti-armor attack helicopters and 31 Pantsir S-1 air-defense missile systems.
Maliki is also reported to have signed to buy 28 L-159 Alca advanced trainer/light attack aircraft built by Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic when he visited Prague in October.
As far as is known, neither of the deals involved Russia, Saddam Hussein's main arms supplier, and the Czech Republic have been finalized or signed, underlining speculation that Baghdad is using the prospect of the deals to pressure the United States to accelerate delivery of the first batch of F-16s and other U.S. military equipment ordered by Iraq.
Arab media reports say Maliki has been complaining to Washington about delays in deliveries of U.S. systems, the first-batch F-16s in particular. They were supposed to be delivered in 2012, then 2013 and are expected in 2014. LINK