Baghdad — The first batch of F-16 fighter jets bought by Iraq are due to be delivered in two years, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the top American military officer was on a visit to Baghdad.
Washington agreed last year to sell 36 F-16 jets to Baghdad in a multi-billion-dollar deal aimed at increasing the capabilities of Iraq’s fledgling air force, a weak point in its national defenses.
The first batch of those F-16s is due to be handed over to Iraq in September 2014, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They said that thus far, the U.S. had agreed to deals worth $12 billion with Iraq, covering arms sales and training. Iraq had also expressed interest in buying radar and air defense systems, they said.
While Iraq’s security forces are regarded as able to maintain internal security, Iraqi and American officials acknowledge they cannot protect Iraq’s airspace, borders or territorial waters.
Until last year, when U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, American troops had helped Baghdad carry out those tasks.
News of the timeline came as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari in Baghdad.