Iraq Wants to Double its F-16 Buy (or Does It?)

Iraq has not only reopened talks to buy F-16 fighters but it apparently wants to expand its first buy of frontline jet fighters in decades to 36 jets.

The country has been rebuilding its air force with significant U.S. help had hoped to buy 18 F-16s for $4.2 billion but froze talks on that deal earlier this year. Now, awash in higher than expected oil revenues, the company wants to double that purchase. Additionally, Iraq is requesting air defense missiles and guns to complement the modern network of air defense radars the U.S. has been helping it build.

The Iraqi air force has been steadily rebuilding starting with small propellor planes like the Cessna Caravan and Beechcraft Kingairs which are used for ISR and light transport to standing up units that fly C-130 cargo planes and UH-1N Huey II helicopters. The IqAF is in the midst of acquiring T-6 Texan II trainers, a step toward building an indigenous capability to qualify pilots to fly high performance aircraft. Still, you can bet that future Iraqi fighter jocks will likely learn to fly T-38 jetss here in the states and then Falcons at the USAF's F-16 schoolhouse at Luke AFB, Arizona.

In addition to the F-16s, Iraq is hoping to buy a modern fleet of helicopters and get back a bunch of old Soviet fighters it sent to Yugoslavia in the late 1980s to be refurbished.

At the end of the day, one has to ask if this investment in fighters is worthwhile considering the threat of a renewed civil war (for which F-16s wouldn't be very cost-effective) still looms over the country and that basic government services are still scant.

Here's more on the potential fighter deal.

Bloomberg, however, is reporting that Iraq wants to abandon its fighter deal:

Iraq isn’t currently seeking to buy U.S. F-16 fighter jets made byLockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) because it lacks the funds to rebuild itsair force, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“Iraq is determined to rebuild its air power capabilities, but the plan is postponed,” al-Dabbagh said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. “There are no new negotiations by the Iraqi government or the defense ministry,” he said. The defense portfolio is held by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that Iraq has started negotiations to buy U.S. fighter jets

The Iraqi government was close to signing an agreement on the purchase last year before plans were delayed when funds were diverted for food rations and other urgent items, al-Dabbagh said.

“The plan was postponed, but not canceled as we will rebuild our armed forces in the next few years when there will be more liquidity,” the spokesman said.


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