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Will F-16 delivery to Iraq boost ISIS fight?

April 23, 2015 (by Lieven Dewitte) - It seems that Iraq will at last be getting the first batch of F-16 fighter jets it ordered four years ago, its air force commander said Thursday. The jets should arrive in July and could immediately boost Iraq’s capabilities fight the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

IqAF F-16D #1606 is coming in to land with brakes opened at NAS Fort Worth on February 13th, 2015. [Photo by Keith Snyder]

A statement by the Iraqi Defense Ministry quoted the Commander of the Air Force General Anwar Hamad Amin as saying that the first batch of F-16 aircraft will arrive in Iraq with a number of trainee pilots who have completed their training in the United States.

In the past, Iraq purchased 36 F-16IQ aircraft which have not yet been delivered, an issue that came up during the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadts discussions with US President Barack Obama during his recent Visit to Washington. Iraq ordered its first batch of 18 F-16s in 2011 to supplement its almost nonexistent air force and made a request for another batch of 18 F-16s right after. That deal was finally concluded in October of 2012 with another batch of 12 F-16Cs and 6 F-16Ds to be acquired.

Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the fighters would arrive on July 12 along with the U.S.-trained Iraqi pilots and spare parts and would immediately begin carrying out operations, according to a statement posted late Wednesday on the Defense Ministry’s web site. The ministry did not disclose the exact number of aircraft that will be arriving.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not confirm the date, and only said the planes were expected by the summer.

The pilots have been training with three of the planes in Arizona and plans to send them last year to Balad air force base in Iraq were scrapped after ISIS militants threatened the area, according to an article on the Pentagon website. U.S. personnel and contractors were evacuated from the base last summer after an ISIS blitz overran large swaths of the country, along with significant stretch of territory in neighboring Syria.

Iraq’s air force has been at its lowest point and currently relies on U.S. planes to carry out airstrikes in the battle to dislodge ISIS militants from the north and west of the country.

Note that in July 2014, Iraq received a total of 13 second hand Russian Su-25 jets.

Earlier this month Barack Obama has also given a go-ahead for the delivery of a F-16 aircraft to Egypt. In June 2013 Obama had halted the delivery of four block 52 F-16s to Egypt as the U.S. grew impatient with Egypt's armed forces after its toppling of President Mohamed Mursi.

Additional images:

IqAF F-16C block 52 #1608 is taxiing past the lens at NAS Fort Worth after a test flight on April 14th, 2015. [Photo by Dave C.]

IqAF F-16C #1607 is coming in to land with brakes opened at Tucson IAP on January 23rd, 2015. [Check Six Photography photo by Roy G.]