The US Air Force (USAF) has delivered the first two Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) F-16 C/D Block 52 fighter aircraft to Tucson International Airport, US.
Iraq ordered a total of 36 F-16 C/D Block 52 fighters from Lockheed Martin in September 2011 and October 2012, to help rebuild its ill-equipped air force.
Deliveries to the Iraqi Air Force were originally scheduled to start by mid-2014, but were postponed after the Islamic State (IS) overran much of the north-western part of the country, leading to evacuation of the programme contractors from Balad airbase.
Last month, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced that the initial batch of eight Iraqi F-16 fighters would be delivered to Tucson for Iraqi pilot training, due to the security situation in the country.
US Air Force international affairs assistant deputy under secretary major general Lawrence Martin said: "The arrival of Iraqi purchased and owned F-16s is a tremendous step towards Iraqi air force pilots providing organic air power for their country.
"They are one of many countries joining a partnering coalition in the fight against ISIS and this delivery will greatly add to their capability in this ongoing fight.
"(The situation in Iraq) doesn’t lend itself to training. The air bases are not ready to accept the aircraft.
"With this new fleet of aircraft and the skills that we’re teaching them here, they’ll be able to protect themselves from threats, and hopefully bring peace to Iraq."
Additional six F-16 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the Arizona air base over the next five months.
Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F-100-GE-129 turbofan engine, the F-16 was initially designed as an air superiority day fighter, but later evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft for accurate delivery of ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.
The jets are widely operated by the air forces of Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand, South Korea, Chile, Poland, UAE, Bahrain, Greece and Singapore.