UK-based BAE Systems says that it will support Baghdad in its efforts to purchase 24 Hawk jets in a deal that could be worth up to $1.6bn.

If the new deal goes ahead then it would be Britain’s biggest arms deal with Iraq since the 1980s. The Hawk is a single-engine, advanced jet trainer aircraft and is used as a trainer or a low-cost combat aircraft. A time line for the deal is not yet clear.

Hawk jets in the GCC
Country Number of jets
UAE 36
Saudi Arabia 45
Kuwait 11
Oman 15
Bahrain 6
Source: MEED

“BAE Systems will support Iraq’s requirements, including Hawk as and when they arise in line with the export licensing requirements of the country in which the BAE Systems’ business resides,” says a spokeswoman for BAE Systems.

Officials from the Iraqi Air Force were reported to have travelled to the UK in May and June to test the Hawk as Iraq now tries to rebuild its armed forces.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait all currently operate Hawk jets in their own air forces.

Baghdad is also looking to purchase Boeing F-15 and F-16 aircraft as well as Fighting Falcons, which are manufactured by US-based Lockheed Martin Corporation. The discussions are high-level between the governments of Iraq and the US and as such Boeing says it would be “inappropriate” to comment on any potential deal.

The Middle East is expected to spend up to $100bn by 2014 as political tensions in the region rise with Iran’s growing nuclear threat and troops beginning to deploy from Iraq, countries in the region are now shoring up their defence against possible attack (MEED 7:7:10).