Possible F-16 Buy Highlights Iraq’s Progress

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2011 — Iraq’s poten­tial pur­chase of 18 U.S. F-16 Fight­ing Fal­con air­craft is an encour­ag­ing devel­op­ment that ben­e­fits both nations, the senior U.S. Air Force com­po­nent com­man­der in Iraq told Pen­ta­gon reporters today.

“I do not have any word yet that a let­ter of offer and accep­tance is signed, but as you prob­a­bly know, we did have a senior mem­ber of the Iraqi gov­ern­ment vis­it Wash­ing­ton,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rus­sell J. Handy, com­man­der, 9th Air and Space Expe­di­tionary Task Force-Iraq, and direc­tor, Air Com­po­nent Coor­di­na­tion Ele­ment-Iraq.

“There was some great work done on that. Every­one that I talk to at every lev­el of gov­ern­ment in Iraq is con­vinced that that is the right approach for them,” Handy said. “And so we’re very encour­aged by those words, and we feel that we’re very close to them sign­ing that let­ter of offer and accep­tance.”

Handy said the Iraqis could poten­tial­ly buy more F-16 air­craft if, and when, they sign a let­ter of offer and accep­tance.

“They are seek­ing to buy a larg­er num­ber of F-16s than they had orig­i­nal­ly — up to 36,” he said. “This first let­ter of offer and accep­tance is for 18 of them … we hope to hear very soon that’s signed but no final word yet on that.”

Handy not­ed things remain very promis­ing but chal­leng­ing in Iraq with Iraqis “on a path to be able to stand alone as a sta­ble, self-reliant and uni­fied nation.”

“It’s very excit­ing … because we are afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the results of years of progress by many, many Amer­i­cans’ — hard-earned progress,” the gen­er­al said. “It’s chal­leng­ing because as we con­tin­ue to estab­lish this endur­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship, we are re-pos­tur­ing or rede­ploy­ing some 50,000 sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines and civil­ians from Iraq and tran­si­tion­ing bases, facil­i­ties and infra­struc­ture to the gov­ern­ment of Iraq and our U.S. Embassy part­ners.”

Handy laud­ed U.S. mil­i­tary efforts in Iraq as troops con­duct sta­bil­i­ty and tran­si­tion­ing oper­a­tions.

“The air­men I have the priv­i­lege of lead­ing in Iraq through this chal­lenge have a very impor­tant role in the tran­si­tion,” he said. “We con­tin­ue to per­form all the roles and mis­sions we’ve done for a num­ber of years.”

Handy said these mis­sions include over watch of Amer­i­can forces with intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, recon­nais­sance assets; close air sup­port; air mobil­i­ty; aer­i­al port oper­a­tions; per­son­nel recov­ery; and air base man­age­ment — all while re-pos­tur­ing U.S. forces.

“In addi­tion to these tra­di­tion­al air com­po­nent tasks, you’ll find air­men work­ing togeth­er with their joint part­ners in just about every area in the coun­try, to include engi­neer­ing, ana­lysts, logis­tics spe­cial­ists,” Handy added.

The senior U.S. Air Force com­man­der in Iraq also praised air­men for their per­for­mance as advi­sors to Iraqi air force per­son­nel.

“Our Air Force per­son­nel have helped the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi Army Avi­a­tion Com­mand progress to where they are now and have much to be proud of,” Handy said. “These advi­sors have been very suc­cess­ful — extra­or­di­nar­i­ly so if you think about it in the last five years.”

Iraqi air force and Iraqi Army Avi­a­tion Com­mand ranks “have grown ten­fold,” Handy said, not­ing Amer­i­can air­men have had an advi­so­ry role in those Iraqi units.

“As the Iraqis are mov­ing for­ward and we’re tran­si­tion­ing, we are hand­ing more and more of those func­tions com­plete­ly over to the Iraqis,” Handy said. “Those proud, young Iraqi air­men I spoke of give us great hope.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)