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The potential sale of 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to Iraq looks “very promising,” according to the senior Air Force general in the country.
“We are hearing very encouraging words and we certainly hope that that will be soon,” Maj. Gen. Russell Handy, commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq and Director of the Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq, said Wednesday during a briefing at the Pentagon.
A letter of offer and acceptance — a commitment that lays out the terms of the sale for the jets — has not been signed yet. Baghdad is seeking as many as 36 F-16s, however, the current letter of offer and acceptance is for 18 jets.
“Everyone that I talk to at every level of government in Iraq is convinced that that’s the right approach for them,” Handy said. “We’ve very encouraged by those words and we feel that we’re very close to them signing that letter of offer and acceptance.”
Ten Iraqi pilots are already going through F-16 flight school in the United States. It takes about two years to train an F-16 fighter pilot, Handy said.
“Some of those pilots may actually finish F-16 training before F-16s arrive in Iraq,” he said. “The Iraqis are looking at ways of mitigating that.”
The “best case” for the first aircraft delivery is probably “late 2013,” Handy said.
The F-16 is a multirole fighter, meaning it can engage targets in the air and on the ground.
In addition to the fighter jets, Iraq is in the process of installing two long-range radars, which are expected to be operational by the end of the year. A sector operations center will tie those radars together and plug into a modern, senior-level air operations center in Baghdad.
“Those are bought, paid for and being installed right now and will be operational some time, likely at the end of this year, at least portions of it,” Handy said, noting full operational capability is expected in 2012.
Source: http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/ ... g-091411w/
Now I am wondering which block gen they're looking to buy. Block 52 to be sure. I wonder if they would be allowed to buy Block 60 if they wanted to. I assume the UAE has rights to block sales of those if they feel like it, and I'm not sure if they'd be comfortable with Block 60s so close to home from a nation that could possibly destabilize in the near future.
What do you guys think?