A further six Lockheed Martin F-16C/D (Block 52+) Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters have been delivered to the Iraqi Air Force, bringing the air arm’s total F-16 fleet to 27.

The delivery is part of an contract, worth $1.5-billion (USD), for 36 F-16C/D (Block 52+) fighter jets, which was made in 2009. The first aircraft was delivered to the Iraqi Air Force in June 2014. The F-16s were sought by the Iraqi government to replace aged Russian and Chinese-made equipment which had served during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“This is frankly a clear message that the Iraqi state is serious about building its military capabilities.”

Lieutenant General Hama Ameen

The aircraft were unveiled during a ceremony at Balad Air Base, 40 miles (64 kilometres) north of Baghdad, on 6 April 2019. Lieutenant General Hama Ameen hailed the arrival as an “important moment” for the development of the Iraqi Air Force. “This is frankly a clear message that the Iraqi state is serious about building its military capabilities,” Ameen added.

Iraqi Air Force-operated F-16s have seen operational service, having reportedly carried out more than 510 combat sorties against ISIS targets across Iraq and Syria between June 2014 and December 2017.

Iraq was the 28th nation to accept the Lockheed Martin (formerly General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon into its inventory. The nation joins Bahrain, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan (or the Republic of China), the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Venezuala. Over 4,600 F-16s have been produced, with the aircraft still in production with the F-16V (Block 70) model being the newest variant on the market, a model which Lockheed Martin project could serve customers until 2070.

The Iraqi Air Force is expected to receive the remaining nine aircraft by the end of 2019, with five more F-16s due to be delivered by the end of April.

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By Khalem Chapman [12/04/2019]