Iraq has deposited the initial payment toward the procurement of 18 F-16C Block 52 fighters in September 2011. The planes are scheduled for delivery in late 2014 or 2015. Along with the fighter aircraft Iraq also purchased various weapons including AIM-9 air-to-air missiles, GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, a logistics package and training.
There are currently six Iraqi F-16 candidates in the U.S. for different phases of pilot training. These students will form the core of Iraq’s future F-16 force. The training is all inclusive and typically starts with English language training, which is the international language of aviation. At present, some are finishing an English language course while others are finishing their initial training in the T-6, a trainer aircraft. One of the pilots is scheduled to begin Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals, a preliminary course to the actual F-16 training program, as early as January.
The Chief of Iraqi air force staff Lt. Gen. Anwer Amin said Iraq’s purchase of 18 F-16C Fighting Falcons, for their future air defense, will encourage and strengthen the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraq. During the past few years, the Iraqi air force, which celebrated its 80th anniversary this year, has steadily modernized its infrastructure and increased its number of personnel. At the end of 2006, the Iraqi air force had 748 airmen and 28 aircraft. Now, there are more than 6,000 airmen and 72 aircraft, including the T-6 Texan and C-130E Hercules.