BEIRUT

Middle East

Iraq to get first US F-16s in Sept 2014: officials

F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

Baghdad: The first batch of F-16 fighter jets bought by Iraq are due to be delivered in two years, US officials said on Tuesday as the top American military officer was on a visit to Baghdad.

Washington agreed last year to sell 36 F-16 jets to Baghdad in a multi-billion-dollar deal aimed at increasing the capabilities of Iraq's fledgling air force, a weak point in its national defences.

The first batch of those F-16s are due to be handed over to Iraq in September 2014, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They said that thus far, the United States had agreed to deals worth $12 billion with Iraq, covering arms sales and training. Iraq had also expressed interest in buying radar and air defence systems, they added.

While Iraq's security forces are regarded as able to maintain internal security, Iraqi and American officials acknowledge they cannot protect Iraq's airspace, borders or territorial waters.

Until last year, when US forces withdrew from Iraq, American troops had helped Baghdad carry out those tasks.

News of the timeline came as General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi army chief of staff Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari in Baghdad.

 

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