By John Lee.
The first of 36 Iraqi F-16's will shortly be shipped from Texas to the Iraqi air force, Lockheed Martin have announced.
An official ceremony to mark the transfer of the jets will take place at Lockheed Martin's plant at Fort Worth, attended by Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily.
Iraq Business News has noted that US contractors will be heading out to Balad air base in Iraq to make alterations for the aircraft's arrival. A small number of US support personnel will also be based in Iraq to help oversee the transfer of technology.
Ambassador Faily hailed the first shipment of the aircraft as a blow against terrorism in Iraq, noting how some pilots were already trained to fly the jets. The F-16's will form the backbone of Iraq's fledgling air force. Amb. Faily remarked how the US understood the severity of the terrorism challenge in Iraq:
"They know that the sooner and the wider capabilities they provide us, the more ability we will have to reduce the vicious cycle of killing where the terrorists are attacking our people."