The initial group of F-16 fighter jets purchased by Iraq will be delivered to Tucson, Arizona, for Iraqi pilot training due to the security situation in Balad in Iraq, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said here today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, the colonel discussed plans to send the aircraft to Arizona rather than Balad, where earlier this year delivery was originally planned.
“We had talked earlier in the summer about F-16s that the Iraqis had purchased,” Warren said. “They were due to go to Balad Air Base.”
The security situation still does not allow that, he said, so the initial group of F-16s will now be delivered to Tucson where there are Iraqi pilots currently in a training pipeline.
Security in Balad previously impacted the delivery of the aircraft when advances by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants triggered the evacuation from the air base of contractors who were part of the transfer process.
Iraqis Will Train With Their Own Aircraft
Following delivery of the fighters, Warren said, the Iraqi pilots in flight school in Arizona will begin to train on their own aircraft.
“We are going to deliver three F-16s to Tucson in December,” he said. “And then one per month after that through May for a total of eight F-16s.”
“We expect the Iraqi pilots will begin flying their own aircraft for continuation training beginning in January,” Warren said. “All maintenance for the F-16s will be provided by [contracted] logistic support.”
Warren said the Iraqi pilots have been using training aircraft — not their own purchased aircraft — for this training program.
“So they’re continuing their training,” he said, “but instead of training using U.S. training aircraft they will now use their own aircraft in Tucson.”
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