Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 two seater and single seater aircraft (Hellenic Air Force)
(photo: Defense Industry Daily)
According to Reuters:
The Baghdad government wants the immediate delivery of U.S. drones and F-16 fighter jets in order to combat al Qaeda insurgents, who are making swift advances in the west of the Iraq, a senior Iraqi security official said.
Washington agreed in August to supply a $2.6 billion integrated air defense system and F-16 fighter jets, with delivery due in autumn 2014.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who will meets U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next week, has also requested drones to carry out surveillance of Iraq's desert border with Syria.
But Deputy National Security Adviser Safa al-Sheikh Hussein said Iraq needs them now.
"The first thing the Prime Minister will ask for is to accelerate the processes for the shipment of drones and F-16s," said Safa al-Sheikh Hussein in an interview with Reuters.
"The initial response from the U.S. was positive, but it depends on the delivery time. We want them immediately."Iraqi pilots have been engaged in training sessions at Laughlin AFB in Texas. Iraqi sources indicate they have pilots capable of flying the F-16, with service technicians receiving training in Jordan.
American sources counter that Iraq will not be able to enforce national air sovereignty before 2016 at the very earliest – and a number of analysts still believe it will be several years later than that. [source: Defense Industry Daily]
IrAF orders consist of thirty F-16IQ (C Block 52) multirole fighter aircraft and six F-16IQ (D Block 52) conversion trainer aircraft. The 1st delivery of 2 planes scheduled for September 2014, with at least 2 arriving every month thereafter. All 36 ordered fighters are expected to arrive by the end of 2015. [source: Defense Industry Daily]
Iraqi Kurds have been politically opposed to Baghdad receiving F-16 combat aircraft while Maliki remains prime minister, fearful of a greater tilt toward Baghdad in the country's sectarian balance of power. [source: Kurd.net]
Since the onset of the neighboring conflict in Syria, Iraq has sustained spillover, in the form of an alarming spike in terrorist attacks, most committed by Al Qaeda or its affiliates.