The first F-16 fighter jets built for Iraq by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth will finally be headed for action in the wartorn nation this summer.
According to an Associated Press report, the country’s first batch of F-16 fighter jets should arrive on July 12 along with the U.S.-trained Iraqi pilots and spare parts, to join the fight against the extremist Islamic State, according to Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin.
Here’s more from the AP report:
“The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not confirm the date, and only said the planes were expected by the summer.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Iraq first ordered the 18 jets for $3 billion in 2011 to supplement its almost nonexistent air force. A year later, then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki complained over the delays in delivering the planes.
The pilots have been training with three of the planes in Arizona and plans to send them last year to Balad air force base in Iraq were scrapped after Islamic State militants threatened the area, according to an article on the Pentagon website.
U.S. personnel and contractors were evacuated from the base last summer after an IS blitz overran large swaths of the country, along with significant stretch of territory in neighboring Syria.
Iraq’s air force has been at its lowest point and currently relies on U.S. planes to carry out airstrikes in the battle to dislodge IS militants from the north and west of the country.”
Iraqi dignitaries were in Fort Worth last June when Lockheed held a rollout ceremony to deliver the first F-16 to Iraq. Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, was there, along with National Security adviser, Falih Al-Fayyadh, who said the fighter would be “a weapon in the hands of all the people” to defend the new republic and its constitution.”
Some young Iraqi pilots were there as well, preparing to be trained to fly in Arizona. Check out Joyce Marshall’s video from the event.