Iraq Wants to Double its F-16 Buy (or Does It?)

Iraq has not only reopened talks to buy F-16 fighters but it apparently wants to expand its first buy of frontline jet fighters in decades to 36 jets.

The country has been rebuilding its air force with significant U.S. help had hoped to buy 18 F-16s for $4.2 billion but froze talks on that deal earlier this year. Now, awash in higher than expected oil revenues, the company wants to double that purchase. Additionally, Iraq is requesting air defense missiles and guns to complement the modern network of air defense radars the U.S. has been helping it build.

The Iraqi air force has been steadily rebuilding starting with small propellor planes like the Cessna Caravan and Beechcraft Kingairs which are used for ISR and light transport to standing up units that fly C-130 cargo planes and UH-1N Huey II helicopters. The IqAF is in the midst of acquiring T-6 Texan II trainers, a step toward building an indigenous capability to qualify pilots to fly high performance aircraft. Still, you can bet that future Iraqi fighter jocks will likely learn to fly T-38 jetss here in the states and then Falcons at the USAF’s F-16 schoolhouse at Luke AFB, Arizona.

In addition to the F-16s, Iraq is hoping to buy a modern fleet of helicopters and get back a bunch of old Soviet fighters it sent to Yugoslavia in the late 1980s to be refurbished.

At the end of the day, one has to ask if this investment in fighters is worthwhile considering the threat of a renewed civil war (for which F-16s wouldn’t be very cost-effective) still looms over the country and that basic government services are still scant.

Here’s more on the potential fighter deal.

Bloomberg, however, is reporting that Iraq wants to abandon its fighter deal:

Iraq isn’t currently seeking to buy U.S. F-16 fighter jets made byLockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) because it lacks the funds to rebuild itsair force, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“Iraq is determined to rebuild its air power capabilities, but the plan is postponed,” al-Dabbagh said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. “There are no new negotiations by the Iraqi government or the defense ministry,” he said. The defense portfolio is held by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that Iraq has started negotiations to buy U.S. fighter jets

The Iraqi government was close to signing an agreement on the purchase last year before plans were delayed when funds were diverted for food rations and other urgent items, al-Dabbagh said.

“The plan was postponed, but not canceled as we will rebuild our armed forces in the next few years when there will be more liquidity,” the spokesman said.


  • CSZ

    Ah, as expected, the Iraqi oil (and oil money) eventually goes to uncle Sam…

    • blight

      We have replaced first night with “first buy”. The Iraqi military will be built in our image, similar to how it was built in the Soviet image (and how the Shah and RVN’s militaries used to be built in our image)

    • Jay

      we aren’t using Iraqi oil, and if we needed it we would buy it.

      The Iraqis can buy whatever they want with their oil money. They saw firsthand how well American planes and methods work, and they want them. Give them some credit, they are smart people.

  • elportonative77

    Hey does anyone know more about the T-11 suspension and the death it supposedly caused? I can’t find much on my own.


      You mean the Army parachute? There is an article on

      • elportonative77


  • chaos0xomega

    36 F-16s would make the Iraqi air force largerthan some western militaries, funny how that works…

  • kim

    Tsk, Tsk, as if a fighter’s usefullness was the deciding factor when purchasing it. Remember the F-5 Freedom Fighter, the low-cost alternative from Northrop? Didn’t sell much, even if it would do what most airforces needed. But it just wasn’t as sexy as the mach 2+ capable fighters all the other air forces would buy.

    • Atomic Walrus

      Huh? Northrop sold 2200 F-5s to various air forces, majority non-U.S. sales. There have been ~4400 F-16s sold, but ~2200 of those were purchased by the US. That means that the F-5 and F-16 have had approximately equal success in the export market. Maybe you’re thinking of the F-20.

  • CSZ

    During iraq-iran war Iran was armed by US with F-4, F-5 and F-14s, while Iraq was equipped with Mig-21, 23 and 25s.

    Now that the table has turned … maybe we’ll finally see F-16s shooting down their stablemates?


      Does Iran have parts to keep those fighters flying?

      • anon

        By a process of canabalisation and black market procurement, yes.

        More of a problem has been obtaining new missiles – that’s why Iranian F14s have been equiped with modified HAWK SAMs

        • chaos0xomega

          Iranian F-14s are almost all grounded permanently at this point (if not, their pilots aren’t getting very many flight training hours in those airframes). The US destroyed or is destroying almost its entire inventory for the purpose of keeping Iran from acquiring parts to keep them flying.

          The F-4s and F-5s are almost certainly good to go however, considering how widespread their sales were, parts should not be difficult to come by.

          • Joe Schmoe

            The Iranian F-14’s are being used as a local AWAC equivalent, they are their most prized and guarded planes; as such, they are not expected to enter the fight themselves.

  • aSDF

    those fighters that they sent to yugoslavia are worthless – 30 yrs of hardly any maintenance does that

  • david

    Has Israel given the US the OK to go forward with this sale?

    • crackedlenses

      They don’t give a flip. If they ever have to bomb Iraq again they’ll just blast the Iraqi’s out of the sky, regardless of what the Iraqis are flying….

  • Rajarata

    What a waste of $ …Iraq needs to build that country not buy expensive toys ~

    • Jay

      why build a country to have Iran take it away?

      The Iraqi military will need advanced capabilities to deter Iran and fight the reamining Iranian-back terrorists.

  • jamesb

    This sounds like a US person standing behind an Iraq militarty guy ….
    Telling him what to say…..
    High performance jet fighters?

    Come on….
    Does someone expect us to believe this?

  • jamesb

    Contractors trying to get at the Oil money…….

    That’s all…

    Besides WTF knows what the political stucture of that country will be 5…10 …15 years out?

  • William C.


    We need the money so why not? Plus it keeps the F-16 line running and maybe it will deter the Iranians if they get any crazy ideas.

  • ncb1010

    233 million a piece. What a steal for a 40 year old aircraft.

    • USSHelm

      They would be NEW aircraft, the newer blocks are a lot better than the original aircraft back in the 70s.

      • blight

        Wow, at that price F-22’s are cheaper.

        • William C.

          You’re probably talking about a price figure that includes munitions, support facilities, and other essential things.

          • blight

            I doubt the manufacturer actually does support facilities. They probably contract it out to Bechtel or something and pocket the up-front markup. Even if the F-16s were going out the door at 100 mil apiece, that’s 1.8 billion for 18 F-16’s.

            Why is Oman getting a better deal, at 3.5B versus 4.2? Are they not going to be based at facilities that were just used by American F-16s? Former enemy markups?

  • miker

    And when Iran decides to take over Iraq, once we are gone that will upgrade their aging fleet.

    • blight

      Oh indeed, and that’s why we should never have fought in South Vietnam! But we did. And the world did not end. And because we trusted our erstwhile allies, less Americans were deployed, and less died.

  • David

    Next thing you know US will be giving them b-2s