Iraq signs F-16 deal with US
F-16 warplanes (file photo)
Iraq has signed an agreement with the United States to buy eighteen F-16 warplanes and has paid for a part of the deal in advance, an adviser to the Iraqi prime minister says.
"Iraq has signed [a deal] with Washington to buy the F-16s," Ali Mussawi said.
"This agreement, for which Iraq has already paid some of the money, is for 18 F-16s in the first phase," AFP quoted him as saying on Tuesday.
Mussawi did not give any details about the price of the contract or the warplanes' delivery date, but reports have cited officials in Washington that Baghdad has already paid USD 1.5 billion in advance.
Earlier this year, Iraq and the US were close to sign the deal, however, Baghdad decided to re-route USD 900 million from the contract's allocated budget to a welfare plan.
The agreement is expected to be worth billions of dollars, and it may take years to be implemented since it needs time for training of Iraqi pilots and manufacturing the planes.
According to head of the US air forces in Iraq General Russ Handy, ten Iraqi pilots are receiving training in the US and their course will finish before the F-16s are delivered to Iraq.
The United States and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003, citing concerns over alleged weapons of mass destruction wielded by the executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist government.
No such weapons were ever found in Iraq. However, nearly 50,000 American troops still remain in the country.