Iraq expects F-16s in July to boost ISIL fight

Iraq expects F-16s in July to boost ISIL fight

BAGHDAD - The Associated Press
Iraq expects F-16s in July to boost ISIL fight

AFP Photo

Iraq will at long last be getting the first batch of F-16 fighter jets it ordered four years ago, its air force commander said April 23, a shipment that is expected to boost Iraq’s capabilities in battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the fighters would arrive on July 12 along with the U.S.-trained Iraqi pilots and spare parts and would immediately begin carrying out operations, according to a statement posted late on April 22 on the Defense Ministry’s web site.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not confirm the date, and only said the planes were expected by the summer.

Iraq first ordered the 18 jets for $3 billion in 2011 to supplement its almost nonexistent air force. A year later, then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki complained over the delays in delivering the planes.

The pilots have been training with three of the planes in Arizona and plans to send them last year to Balad air force base in Iraq were scrapped after ISIL militants threatened the area, according to an article on the Pentagon website.

U.S. personnel and contractors were evacuated from the base last summer after an IS blitz overran large swaths of the country, along with significant stretch of territory in neighboring Syria.