US-trained Iraqi pilots land first batch of long-delayed warplanes at Al-Balad air base
- New warplanes expected to enhance Iraq air force capability
- Each of the four F-16 B52s costs $150-165m
Four Iraqi-piloted F-16 warplanes landed on 13 July at Iraqs Al-Balad air base, some 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, according to Iraqs defence ministry.
The four fighter jets are the first of the 36 units that Iraq had ordered from the US earlier on. Each jet is estimated to cost between $150-165m.
The warplanes are expected to reinforce Iraqs military capabilty as it battles Islamic State fighters that have occupied key territories in the country.
US President Barack Obamas envoy for the International Coalition against Islamic State said on social media Monday that after years of preparation and training in the US, Iraqi pilots today landed the 1st squadron of Iraqi F16s in Iraq.
Formal turnover of the fighter jets to the Iraq Air Force took place in Fort Worth, Texas on 5 June. Actual delivery of the jets to Iraq took more time than expected due to additional training required of Iraqi pilots to fly the aircraft. An Iraqi pilot was killed in June when he crashed his F-16 during training in Arizona.
Iraq acquired the F-16 Block 52 type, which Lockheed Martin produced under a contract with the US defence department.
The Block 52s are powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 improved performance engine (IPE) which has 29,000 pounds of thrust. The engine is understood to have been configured with the normal shock inlet (also known as the small mouth inlet). They also feature an on-board oxygen-generating system, which replaces the liquid oxygen system found in older versions to provide breathable air to the pilot.
According to Lockheed Martins website, Iraq has joined 27 other nations whose air forces are depending on the F-16 falcons. These countries include Greece, UAE, US, Chile and Poland. Tthe same fighter jets have been used by the US air force targeting IS fighters in Iraq and Syria.
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