On May 2, the first Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 jet for the Iraqi Air Force made its first flight from the company’s facility located in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 2011, Iraq confirmed the purchase of 18 F-16s, and reports say that they have also ordered another 18 units. Orders for the F-16 have been extended to 2017. Today, over 4,000 units of F-16 have already been delivered. This seals the jet’s reputation of being an affordable, yet versatile multi-role fighter.
The F-16 has a new color that is quite different from the desert-themed colors that were used before. Now, the jets have a two-tone grey camo theme.
F-16 Fighting Falcon In Flight
According to reports, Iraq is rebuilding its Armed Forces. In addition to the T-50s and F-16s, Baghdad is also procuring Night Hawk helicopters, while Apache attack choppers are being evaluated.
The U.S. Air Force has already swapped the Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES) with 300 Block 40-52 aircrafts, because of budget constraints, yet they are still asking for $1.4 billion for the next five years in order to develop service-life extension programs (SLEPs) and spend for the modernization of the F-16.
Reports say that the U.S. Air Force still wants to improve on the jets’ operational flight program, as well as upgrade the electronic attack pod and the modular mission computer.
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh of the U.S. Air Force said in a Congress statement in April that the F-16 will be replacing the A-10 Thunderbolt for budget reasons.
The improvements they are aiming to complete will allow new weapons to be integrated in to the jet, such as targeting pods, and the JASSM-ER. The SLEP will also improve the jets’ life to 10,000 or more hours. In addition, more modifications are still being developed for the Block 40-52 fleet.
Image via Wikimedia Commons