0254 GMT October 22, 2020
A Baghdad-based spokesman of the US military said on Wednesday that the warplanes were delivered to Iraq to bring the number of the sophisticated US warplanes procured to the country to six.
Colonel Steve Warren said lack of trained Iraqi pilots has been the main factor holding up the delivery of 30 more F-16 jets which Iraq has purchased from the US.
“The limiting factor has been pilot generation,” Warren said in a video conference with reporters, adding, “We bring the F-16s in as pilots are available.”
The US official said Iraqi pilots need to go through a year or more of instruction in Arizona before they could operate the jets.
Over the past few years, Iraq has signed contracts with major military powers to buy modern warplanes in a bid to strengthen its air force in the fight against militants.
The Iraqi army and allied volunteer fighters have been battling Daesh Takfiri terrorist group since it overran parts of the country in the summer of 2014 and the Iraqi fighter jets have provided a big boost to the ground operation against Daesh.
Warren said the US has been considering the fact that Iraq needs the warplanes to facilitate its ground operations against militants.
“We look forward to this additional capability along with the additional trained pilots,” he said.
The allied Iraqi forces have managed to retake some key positions across the country from Daesh, including the city of Tikrit in the northern province of Salahuddin and Ramadi in Anbar Province. Iraqis now eye the recapture of more cities in Anbar before they begin the long-anticipated offensive into the city of Mosul in the northern province of Nineveh.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said after the liberation of Ramadi that the year 2016 will be the year for elimination of Daesh from the Iraqi soil.