Jul 7, 2014
Plan to deliver F-16s to Iraq in September on hold
Last month, the U.S. evacuated contractors building the base for the F-16s at Balad as Sunni militants took large swathes of Iraq.
Currently, 18 Iraqi pilots are training in the U.S. to fly F-16s.
While the Iraqi pilots are skilled aviators, the complete training program could take two more years, but their government may call them to fly combat missions before then.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has purchased Russian fighters to attack Sunni insurgents who have taken large swathes of Iraq, but it is unclear who will fly the planes.
Accelerating the F-16 flying training program for any pilot, Iraqi or U.S., would be insufficient for training them to the skill level necessary to adequately employ the aircraft systems and to fly and fight in combat.
Iraqi officials have complained that the U.S. is taking too long to deliver the 36 F-16s that Iraq has purchased. The fighters were expected to be delivered between September and the fall of 2017. Recently, the Iraqi government purchased SU-25 fighters, raising questions about whether Iraq has pilots who are trained and experienced enough to fly them.