BAGHDAD: Iraq has put F-16 warplanes acquired from the United States into action against the self-styled Islamic State for the first time, the commander of the air force said on Sunday.
“Fifteen air strikes were carried out in the past four days,” Staff Lieutenant General Anwar Hama Amin said following a news conference in Baghdad.
“Smart weapons” were used in the strikes, Amin said, without specifying the type.
Defence Minister Khaled al-Obaidi told the news conference that the strikes had achieved “important results” and that the jets will have “an impact on the conduct of operations in the future”. Amin told the news conference that the F-16 strikes had taken place in Salaheddin and Kirkuk provinces, north of Baghdad.
The first four Iraqi F-16s arrived from the United States in mid-July, out of a total of 36 Washington has agreed to sell to Baghdad.
The purchase had been a source of tension, with Baghdad repeatedly complaining that they have not been delivered quickly enough.
Insecurity in Iraq, where IS seized significant territory in June 2014, had delayed the delivery of the jets, with the first batch being sent to Arizona, where Iraqi pilots have been training.
An Iraqi pilot was killed when his F-16 crashed during training in Arizona earlier this year.
F-16 jets are much more sophisticated than other aircraft in Baghdad’s arsenal and will boost Iraq’s capacity for air strikes, which are currently carried out by ageing Sukhoi Su-25 jets, Cessna Caravan turboprop aircraft and various helicopters.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2015