Iraq to Acquire 28 Czech Combat Jets for $1bn

Reuters15.10.2012 Iraq
Iraq to Acquire 28 Czech Combat Jets for $1bn

Iraq to Acquire 28 Czech Combat Jets for $1bn

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Iraq has agreed to buy 28 combat planes from the Czech Republic for about $1 billion as part of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's program to rebuild the country's Air Force and control its vulnerable airspace.

The purchase of Czech L-159 jets came as Maliki faces pressure from Washington to prevent Iran transporting arms through Iraqi airspace to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle to end a 19-month-old uprising.

Iraq has had no real Air Force since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and Baghdad says it will not be able to defend its airspace until 2020.
The country will buy 24 new L-159 aircraft made by Czech company Aero Vodochody and 4 planes from the Czech military's stock.

The first plane, which will come from the Czech Defense Ministry, will be handed over within seven months of the contract's signing. New plane deliveries should start in two years.

“I can call what we agreed today a first step,” Iraq's acting Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi said in Prague at a news conference with his Czech counterpart Alexandr Vondra.

Maliki led a delegation on a two-day visit to NATO member Czech Republic, with which it had discussed the purchase of the aircraft for more than two years.

Iraq is also purchasing more than 30 US-made F-16 fighter jets, with the first planes due to arrive in March 2014. Those planes will form the backbone of the country's new Air Force.

L-159 Advanced Light Combat and Training Aircraft is designed to fulfill a variety of combat missions including air-to-ground, air-to-air and reconnaissance.  

L-159s are sub-sonic planes used for light combat planes or training. The Iraqi deal would be a huge success for the Czech arms industry.

Currently, L-159 aircraft serve with the Czech Air Force, which uses them for Close Air Support, Advanced Training and Air Defense missions. L-159s have been participating in numerous NATO exercises, mainly in air-to-ground role.


Source: Reuters; Aero Vodochody



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