Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first flight of the inaugural F-16 Fighting Falcon for the Iraq Air Force. The jet is the first of 36 F-16 Block 52 aircraft on order through the U.S. Department of Defense for Iraq.
In 2011, Washington agreed to sell the F-16s 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 defenses.
In October 2012 Iraq called for the US to speed up its weapons deliveries as the two countries near a deal on a second set of 18 F-16s, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pushed for faster deliveries from Washington during talks in Baghdad with Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, focusing on an initial set of 18 F-16 fighter jets, currently due for delivery in 2014.
Maliki spoke of the “need for the Iraqi Army to develop its defensive abilities to protect Iraq's security and national sovereignty,” a statement from his office then said.
While Iraq anticipates an initial delivery of F-16 Fighting Falcons in September 2014, the pilots who will fly them embarked on a historic partnership with the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing on 03 September 2012 to learn how to fly the multipurpose fighter.
Already, two Iraqis have joined aspiring fighter pilots from the United States, Singapore, Poland, Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands at the U.S. Air Force's international F-16 schoolhouse at Tucson (Arizona) International Airport.
With more than 4,540 F-16s delivered to date, the Foreign Military Sale to Iraq adds to the F-16's reputation as the world's most versatile and affordable 4th generation multi-role fighter. Lockheed Martin's F-16 production line is expected to continue through 2017, with major upgrades being incorporated for all F-16 versions.