“Iraq Lacks Ability to Fly F-16s It Seeks”
The Washington Post, July 4, 2014, p.A1
“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. … A delivery date for the F-16s is uncertain, in part because Balad Air Base, which would have housed the jets, is no longer secure. … There are some concerns within the U.S. government that the Iraqi air force will use the Hellfire missiles not only to kill terrorist leaders but also to intensify a sectarian campaign against Sunni political foes, according to senior U.S. military officials and experts.”
Quickie Analysis: Despite what some may think, the issue of supplying high-tech weapons to help Iraq fight ISIS is more complicated than shipping guns or butter.