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Iraq makes first payment for 18 F-16s

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The Iraqi government has transferred its first payment for 18 F-16C Fighting Falcons, bringing Iraq closer to independently securing its airspace, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Sept 27.

"These aircraft will help provide air sovereignty for Iraq to protect its own territory and deter or counter regional threats," Little said.

The fighter aircraft, he said, "are also a symbol of the commitment to a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq."

The fighters are the block 50/52 variant of the aircraft -- the current production version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The sale is valued at about $3 billion, Little said.

The United States conducts foreign military sales with Iraq, he added, "and fully supports Iraq's efforts to purchase military equipment in line with its domestic spending priorities and in accordance with its budget laws and procedures."

Such foreign military sales will be a cornerstone of future cooperation and support the development of a long-term cooperative security relationship with Iraq, Little said.

"Foreign military sales around the world, such as this purchase of F-16 aircraft," the press secretary said, "strengthen our diplomatic and military relationships with our allies and supports American industry and jobs at home."

Article by Cherly Pellerin, American Forces Press Service