Iraq F-16 Order Finally Confirmed

Iraq wants to make a deal with the United States for another 18 F-16 multi-role fighters to expand its fledgling air force, according to reports from UPI and Aviation Week.

Lockheed Martin won the deal to provide 12 F-16C and six F-16D Block 52 aircraft, plus spares and support. The contract runs through May 2018.

UPI values the contract at around $4.5 billion, while Aviation Week has a figure of $835 million.

The jets will have advanced electronic systems, including the APG-68v9 radars, the most modern available to Block 50 aircraft, and countermeasures systems. They will be armed with Raytheon’s AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, which can be fired beyond visual range.

Iraq’s formerly powerful air force was essentially wiped out by U.S. and coalition forces in the 1991 war over Kuwait, and grounded throughout the U.S. invasion in 2003.

The U.S.-approved plan to rebuild a self-sufficient air force envisions a strength of 350 aircraft and 20,000 personnel by 2020.

According to UPI, 18 F-16s aircraft, or even 36, will be far too few to effectively cover Iraq, an area of 169,234 square miles.

“So looking at Iraq’s position in the region, having those planes is not much,” Ali Musawi, a close aide of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, observed recently. “But it is a beginning.”

Iraqi officials have talked of building a force of 96 F-16s, enough for five squadrons, using windfall profits from oil exports to bankroll the acquisitions. But no final figure has been announced.

Right now, the air force has no firepower at all. The first batch of Iraqi fighter pilots is training at the Iraqi Air Force Academy at Tikrit Air Base, north of Baghdad, which opened in 2010.

The Pentagon has indicated that possible sales to Iraq include a Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 phased array long-range air search radar, worth about $142 million, and at least one King Air 350 ER aircraft for ISR, worth around $900 million.

(Sources: UPI, Aviation Week)

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