Despite complaints by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the United States has been slow in its delivery of F-16 fighter jets, no Iraqi pilot team has qualified to fly the aircraft in combat and none will be ready before mid-August, according to an official at the U.S.-based program where the pilots are being trained.
That problem is one of many the Obama administration is confronting as it tries to speed more equipment to the Iraqi air force to help it defeat the Islamic insurgency engulfing the country. There are also challenges in providing or quickly deploying laser-guided Hellfire missiles and Apache combat helicopters, and concerns that the weaponry going to Iraq could be used against political targets.
As the crisis worsens, the Pentagon and Congress are scrambling to send hundreds of Hellfires to Iraq, but only two planes in the Iraqi air force are capable of firing them, both turboprop Cessnas. The U.S. military is rushing to figure how to retrofit other rudimentary aircraft that the Iraqis can fly.
For the moment, the United States has been left with accelerating the shipment of 1,132 Hellfires that Congress has approved for sale to Iraq. A Pentagon spokesman said that more than 400 have been delivered this year and that Congress is interested in sending hundreds more beyond the current order.
Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, said in Washington this week that Baghdad had asked the administration “again and again” for air support such as Apache helicopters and without it, Iraq has been forced to turn to Russia for fighter jets. “We don’t have choices,” said Faily. “The situation on the ground is pushing us to choose whoever will support us.” Russia sent several disassembled Su-25 fighter jets to Iraq this week, and Iran has also supplied Su-25s.
Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-confronts-difficulties-in-arming-iraqi-air-forces-with-missiles-and-f-16s/2014/07/03/3784ac22-0224-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.htmlIn all bluntness, and with respect to the fine machine that is the F-16, the Iraqis are better off going for Russian. Those are designed for poor maint and below average pilots.