U.S. Approves $1.9 Billion Sale of Bombs, Missiles to Iraq

 - January 21, 2016, 2:31 PM
The first four of 36 F-16s Iraq has ordered arrived in the country in July; Iraqi pilots have trained in the U.S. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The U.S. State Department has approved a foreign military sale (FMS) of missiles, bombs and logistics support to Iraq valued at $1.95 billion. Iraq intends to use the weaponry on recently arrived Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons in the campaign against Islamic State militants.

The proposed FMS will require 400 U.S. government and contractor personnel to reside in Iraq through 2020 to provide maintenance support and training.

“Iraq requires these additional weapons, munitions and technical services to maintain the operational capabilities of its aircraft,” states a January 20 announcement by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). “This proposed sale enables Iraq to fully maintain and employ its aircraft and sustain pilot training to effectively protect Iraq from current and future threats.”

The DSCA said it notified Congress on January 15 that the State Department had approved the sale. Earlier this month, the agency notified Congress of the possible FMS to Iraq of 5,000 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and 10 captive air training missiles, valued at $800 million. The sales will proceed unless Congress opposes them.

Iraq ordered 36 F-16 Block 52 fighters through an FMS in 2011. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin reported the first flight of an Iraqi F-16 from its Fort Worth, Texas facility in May 2014, followed by the first delivery that June. The 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona National Guard trained the first Iraqi pilots in Tucson, Ariz. One of the Iraqi student pilots, a brigadier general, was killed last June when his F-16 crashed during a night training mission.

The first four F-16s arrived at Balad Air Base in Iraq in July; they participated for the first time in operations against the Islamic State in September, according to the Pentagon.

The latest FMS includes 24 AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air and 150 AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles; 14,120 500-pound bombs; 2,400 2,000-pound bombs; 8,000 Paveway II laser-guided bomb tail kits, 150 Paveway III tail kits; 8,500 fuzes and other components. The sale also calls for 20 joint helmet mounted cueing systems pilots use to aim weapons.

The U.S. Air Force earlier awarded Lockheed Martin training and support contracts for the Iraq F-16 program. In June, the Pentagon announced a $119 million contract award to the manufacturer for logistics support at Balad Air Base through August 2016. In January, the USAF awarded Lockheed Martin a $9.5 million contract for F-16 aircrew training in Tucson until January 2017.