Update: Iraq Air Force Viper

Captured during its first flight is the first Iraq Air Force F-16. (Image © Lockheed Martin – Liz Kaszynski)

Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first flight of the inaugural F-16 Fighting Falcon for the Iraq Air Force last week. The jet is the first of 36 F-16 Block 52 aircraft on order through the U.S. Department of Defense for Iraq.

The fleet of Iraqi F-16s is to be based at Balad Airbase, some 80 kilometers North of Baghdad. Earlier this year, te US Department of Defence awarded Sallyport Global Services a 215 million US dollar contract (fixed-price) to renovate and reconstruct key facilities.

The work at Balad is planned to last until June 2015, half a year before the final pair of Iraqi F-16s is planned to be delivered. The delivery schedule calls for two F-16s every month, with the first arriving next September.

Iraq ordered 36 F-16 IQ Block 52s, in two batches of 18 aircraft. Although the US doesn’t want them to fly sophisticated Joint Direct Attack Munitions, the Vipers will put the Iraqi Air Force back with the grown ups – to form a balanced force in a region that calls for well-weighted power between Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production line is expected to continue through 2017, with major upgrades being incorporated for all F-16 versions.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

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