Bloomberg reports that Iraq has made its first payment on a $3 billion program to buy 18 Lockheed Martin (LMT) F-16 fighter jets.
Pentagon spokesman George Little commented: “A long-term strategic relationship with Iraq is important. We seek to find ways to enable the Iraqis to provide for their own security and to add to greater stability in the region.”
He told reporters that the base value of Iraq’s jet order is about $3 billion, but that with all options for equipment and services the total value of the agreement may reach $4.2 billion.
"These aircraft are going to help provide air sovereignty for Iraq and to protect its territory," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, according to Reuters.
"They also, as a significant military sale between us, are a symbol of the commitment that we've made to the Iraqi government to have a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq"
The program, outlined in a September 2010 Defense Department notice to Congress, includes 18 F-16 Block 52 variant jets. Iraq’s air force was largely destroyed in the wars in 1991 and 2003 and during the years between when the U.S. enforced a no-fly zone.
“The first batch will arrive in the country and fit into place in early 2014,” Iraqi Staff Lieutenant General Anwar Ahmed said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
‘We expect foreign military sales, including items such as F-16 aircraft, to serve as a cornerstone of our future cooperation,” Little said.
Major General Russ Handy, the senior U.S. Air Force officer in Iraq, said on Sept. 14 that Iraq ultimately may buy a total of 36 F-16s.
(Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters)