The United States is set this week to ship the first of 36 F-16 Lockheed Martin Fighting Falcon fighter jets to the Iraqi military, reports said.
Iraq’s ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said the delivery of the fighter jets marks a “new chapter” in Baghdad’s ability to sufficiently defend itself. Faily will travel to the official ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas, in which the first of 36 jets will be delivered to Iraq. Lockheed expects another three or four jets to be sent to Iraq before the end of 2014. Baghdad is also eyeing Lockheed competitor Boeing’s Apache helicopters, among other advanced pieces of machinery from US contractors.
“Iraq is a large country with over 3,600 km (2,237 miles) of borders and we need to protect them. We as a country didn’t have that capability before,” said Faily.
Faily said these new deliveries were necessary to secure a safer future for his county. “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 terrorists are attacking our people,” he said.
The Iraqi air force has been virtually nonexistent since the fall of former Baath Party dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The US is not the only military supplier for Iraq; the country has also signed agreements with Russia and the Czech Republic for air defense initiatives.
Lockheed said of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, “For more than 40 years, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has proven itself as the world’s most capable 4th generation multi-role fighter, serving as the workhorse of the fighter fleet for 28 customers around the world.” The F-16 has a maximum speed of 1,500 mph and a maximum range of 1,740 nautical miles. Almost 5,000 have been delivered since original production in 1973.