The first Iraqi Air Force force are set to fly to Iraq next July, the Iraqi Ministry stated earlier this week. The aircraft are expected to be used in the fight against Islamic State (IS) forces very soon afterwards.
The aircraft are they first of 36 F-16s ordered to actually arrive in Iraq. Since early 2015, Iraqi pilots are being trained in the US by the Arizona Air National Guard in Tucson, with Iraqi aircraft delivered there also.
The first F-16s were scheduled to arrive in Iraq last year already, but the US seemed to develop cold feet following the advance of IS in 2014. Balad Airbase, future home of the F-16s, was even under threat of being overrun. For safety, the first aircraft were kept in the US and flown to Tucson for training.
Iraqi pilots will operate the brand new F-16s, which were heavily anticipated by Baghdad. Iraqi authorities complained about the slow delivery, stating the F-16s were necessary to fight IS. Instead, Russia was quick to supply Iraq with a number of Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft mid 2014.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A two seat Iraqi Air Force F-16 in the US. (Image © Jordan Castelan / USAF)