February 2, 2012 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The first of the Iraqi pilots that will learn how to fly F-16s recently arrived in Tucson, Arizona with the 162nd Fighter Wing. The ANG unit is considered the International Training Center for F-16 flying training.
A UAEAF F-16E block 60 touching down after a Red Flag mission at Nellis AFB
The Iraqi pilot was slated to start the academic part of his training on Jan. 23 followed by hands-on flying from February through September.
The fact that President Barack Obama said the United States would continue to work with Iraq
to stand up that country's air force may complicate matters for Israel
if it decides to raid Iranian nuclear sites. Iraq is closely aligned with Iran and the F-16s could allow Iraqi pilots to intercept an Israeli airstrike on Iran.
Iraq signed the estimated $3 billion deal to buy 18 fighter jets from the United States in September 2011.
It's F-16IQ Block 52s are slight downgrades from the more advanced F-16C/D block 52
base systems. They are meant tp provide Iraq with an air defense force that can handle aging threats from Syria or Iran relatively well and perform strike missions within Iraq, without being a serious threat to more advanced air forces in the region.
Upgrades could of course always take place later as the F-16IQs have at least some of the equipment required to handle more advanced weapons.
In June 2011 four Royal Moroccan Air Force officers concluded 15 months of instruction at the 162nd Fighter Wing.