F-16C Fighting Falcon

The Iraqi Government has signed a contract with the US for the acquisition of a second batch of 18 F-16 C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighter jets, the country’s acting defence minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi has revealed.

Speaking after a meeting with US officials in Baghdad, al-Dulaimi told Reuters that the new contract forms part of an original multi-billion deal agreed between the two countries for procurement of a total of 36 aircraft to help rebuild the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF).

"The contract is no different from the first contract in terms of the technical and financial details," al-Dulaimi added.

An unidentified US embassy spokesman in Baghdad also told the news agency that a letter of acceptance (LOA) for the second batch of aircraft had been presented to Iraq by the US Government.

"The United States would welcome Iraqi acceptance as another important step in our growing bilateral security assistance relationship," the spokesman added.

The IQAF, which is considered as the most ill-equipped branch of the country’s armed forces, had signed an approximately $3bn deal with US for delivery of 18 F-16 aircraft, including 12 C and six D models, along with engines and support equipment in September 2012.

Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F-100-GE-129 turbofan engine, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter, designed initially as an air superiority day fighter, but later evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft.

The F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft is an upgraded variant of F-16, featuring improved cockpit avionics, radars and all-weather capability with beyond-visual-range (BVR) AIM-7 and AIM-120 air-air missiles.

The initial batch is scheduled to be handed over to the IQAF in September 2014, while the delivery of second set is expected to complete in 2018.

Image: A US Air Force’s F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft during its flight. Photo: courtesy of SMSGT JOHN P. ROHRER, USAF.