U.S. approves nearly $2 billion in weapons for Iraqi F-16 fighter jets

Image: U.S. F-16 fighter jet arrives at a military base in Balad, north of Baghdad July 13, 2015. On Monday, a first batch of four F-16s landed at Balad air base north of Baghdad, an Iraqi air force officer said. Authorities said the planes would join operations in Anbar within days.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government has approved the probable sale to Iraq of smart bombs, AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles and other munitions for use on its fleet of 36 F-16 fighter jets in a deal valued at up to $1.95 billion, the U.S. Defense Department announced on Wednesday.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said it notified U.S. lawmakers on Jan. 15 about the potential sale to Iraq, which is fighting to regain territory lost to Islamic State militants.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare since weapons deals are carefully vetted before any formal notification.

DSCA said the proposed sale, which also includes technical support, base operations, maintenance and manpower, would require about 400 U.S. government and contractor personnel to live in Iraq through 2020. It said the deal would contribute to U.S. national security by giving Iraq the additional weapons, munitions, and technical services it needs to maintain the operational capabilities of its fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

“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,” it’said in a statement about the proposed sale.

If approved, key contractors for the sale would include Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon Co, and United Technologies Corp, it’said.

DSCA said Iraq had requested 20 Joint Helmet Mounting Cueing Systems, 24 AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles built by Raytheon, 150 AGM-65D Maverick missiles, also built by Raytheon, 14,120 500-pound general purpose bombs, 2,400 2,000-pound general purpose bombs and over 8,000 laser-guided tail kits to add precision targeting to those bombs.

The agency said the value of the major defence equipment in the deal was around $550 million, with the remainder to go for logistics, training and other personnel costs.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Brown)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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