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First Iraqi in Arizona for F-16 pilot training

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.

Additional images:

RMAF Maj. Mouloud Chihani performs a preflight check on an F-16 at Tucson IAP before a training mission on July 7th, 2010. Chihani and three other Moroccan pilots are the first F-16 pilots in their air force and will lead the way to establish a new squadron of block 52s when they return home this July. [USAF photo by MSgt. Jack Braden]

USAF F-16D block 25 #85-1514 from the 195th FS is seen departing Tucson IAP on September 3rd, 2010. [Photo by James O'Rear]

USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1284 from the 195th FS is seen armed with live AIM-120s & AIM-9M deploys the speed brakes in preparation for landing at Davis-Monthan AFB on August 20th, 2010 after a sortie in support of Operation Noble Eagle. [Photo by James O'Rear]