BAGHDAD — Four US F-16 warplanes landed in Iraq on Monday, the first batch of a much-delayed delivery aimed at boosting the ailing Iraqi military's capacity, the defense ministry said.
"Arrival of four F-16s at Balad Air Base," read a flash on the ministry's website, in an announcement also confirmed to AFP by the prime minister's office.
"After years of preparation & training in the U.S., Iraqi pilots today landed the 1st squadron of Iraqi F16s in #Iraq," he said on social media.
IS fighters were still battling government forces not far from Balad earlier this year, which was deemed to make it unsafe for the US contractors hired to maintain the jets.
An Iraqi pilot was killed when he crashed his F-16 during training in Arizona last month.
The more sophisticated F-16 planes received on Monday are expected to enhance the Iraqi air force's capacity but, with foreign aircraft also taking on IS since last year, the delivery is not seen as a game-changer in the war against IS.
Strikes are carried out on a daily basis by members of the international coalition against IS, most of them by US planes.
France and its Rafale fighters are also contributing to the air campaign, which has seen more than 5,200 strikes since early August 2014.