Iraq will take delivery of 18 F-16s in 2012
Iraq has made the first payment in a $3bn deal with the US to buy 18 F-16 fighter jets.
Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh says that about $1.4bn has already been paid towards the cost of the aircraft.
The planes, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, are scheduled to be delivered in 2012 and are aimed at protecting Iraq’s airspace, according to the US state department.
US and Iraqi officials say that the F-16 fighter jets will act as the foundation of Iraq’s air sovereignty.
“The air force is considered a vital factor to protect Iraq’s sovereignty and security against external threats,” says Al-Dabbagh.
“Iraq needs to build its air force and to depend on its own capabilities to defend the skies instead of asking other countries to do so, especially if we know that the US forces will leave at the end of this year.”
There are currently about 44,000 US troops in Iraq, which are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011.
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