The Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) is to receive 36 US F-16 fighters, twice the number Iraq initially planned to purchase to enhance its air defences.

According to Reuters, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said, “A delegation from the Iraqi Air Force along with advisers, will travel to revive the contract to include a larger number than the contract had agreed before … We will make it 36 instead of 18.

“We have to provide Iraq with airplanes to safeguard its sovereignty,” he added.

The IQAF is considered as one of the weakest branches of Iraqi armed forces which depend heavily on US forces for air support for its troops.

US soldiers formally ended combat missions in Iraq last year and are now assisting Iraq’s armed forces.