BAGHDAD — Iraq expects to receive the first group of F-16 warplanes next year, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s spokesman said Aug. 23, after U.S. officials said the aircraft would not arrive until 2014.
“Iraq is waiting to receive the first group of the F-16 warplanes in March 2013,” Ali Mussawi told AFP.
“According to the agreement made with the United States of America, the first group, numbering 18 aircraft, arrives in March,” Mussawi said.
U.S. officials said during a visit by the country’s top officer to Iraq that Washington was carrying out $12 billion worth of arms and training contracts in Iraq, with the first batch of the 36 F-16 fighter jets Iraq has ordered set to be delivered in September 2014.
Washington agreed last year to sell the F-16s 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.
Although Iraq’s security forces are regarded as able to maintain internal security, Iraqi and U.S. officials acknowledge they cannot protect Iraq’s airspace, borders or territorial waters.
Until last year, when U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, American troops helped Baghdad carry out those tasks.