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)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.