October 19, 2012 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Iraq has signed a contract to buy its second batch of 18 F-16 fighters from the United States, part of a deal to purchase 36 of the jets to rebuild its air force, Iraq's acting defense minister said on Thursday.
Col. Andrew MacDonald takes off with Iraqi air force Brig. Gen. Abdulhussein Lafta Ali Ali in USAF F-16D block 42 #89-2163 for an orientation flight at Tucson IAP on August 30th, 2012. MacDonald is the 162nd Operations Group commander. Abdulhussein, with a delegation of senior Iraqi officers, visited the international F-16 training wing where Iraqi pilots are learning to fly the multirole fighter. [USAF photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson]
"The United States is still arms supplier number one to Iraq
and the Ministry of Defense. We also agreed to buy another 18 F-16 fighter jets and they (the Americans) will speed up the delivery of the first 18 (F-16) fighters as soon as possible. There will also be a demand for the purchase of air defense systems and Apache helicopters," Sadun Farhan al-Dulaymi told reports
He also stated that the contract is "no different from the first contract in terms of the technical and financial details. This handover will be finished in 2018."
Baghdad signed an initial deal for the first set of 18 jets in September last year valued at roughly $3 billion and those aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by September 2014.
Iraq has had no real air force since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Baghdad, which has also signed military contracts with Russia and the Czech Republic this month, looks to build up its military. It is currently unable to adequately protect its borders, airspace or maritime territory after US forces withdrew from the country last year.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pushed for faster deliveries from Washington.
The latest announcements came after Russia unveiled $4.2 billion in arms deals with Iraq on October 9.
Russian media said the deliveries – expected to have been signed in a single package this week – covered 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems.
Discussions were also said to be underway for Iraq's eventual acquisition of a large batch of Russian MiG-29 fighters and helicopters along with heavy weaponry.