Iraq Joins F-16 Club

Iraq’s government signed an agreement with the United States to acquire 18 Lockheed Martin-built F-16 Block 52 fighters to re-equip its air force, reported Reuters. A Lockheed representative told the Daily Report Tuesday that the company “is pleased by the announcement” and welcomes Iraq “as the 26th nation to operate the F-16.” Iraq renewed its bid to acquire as many as 36 Viper Block 52s last month, after tabling a deal back in February due to budgetary constraints. Maj. Gen. Russell Handy, senior USAF representative in Iraq, told reporters earlier this month that the Iraqis planned to purchase a “complete package,” which “includes training.” The initial cadre of Iraqi pilots already is undergoing training in the United States, but the first F-16 is not expected to arrive in Iraq until late 2013 at the earliest, he said. The Pentagon notified Congress of the possible foreign military sale of the F-16s and associated hardware one year ago. The FMS deal could be worth as much as $4.2 billion. (Handy transcript)