– Iraq to buy US warplanes worth around $3 billion (MSNBC, Sep. 27, 2011):
Country has found itself flush with cash, reaping windfall profits as world oil prices remain above projection.
BAGHDAD — Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes to bolster its air force, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday.
The value of the deal was not immediately known, but a senior U.S. military official said recently the offer on the table for the Iraqi government was valued at “roughly $3 billion.”
Iraqi and U.S. military officials have said strengthening its air force is one of Baghdad’s top priorities as U.S. troops prepare to leave by Dec. 31, more than eight years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
“The contract was signed … and a part of the contract cost was sent to the bank account of the company,” said Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi.
Lockheed said in a statement it was “pleased by the announcement that the governments of Iraq and the United States” have agreed on the sale. The company added it welcomes Iraq “as the 26th nation to operate the F-16.”
The Pentagon said it was aware of news reports that Iraq had signed the agreement but did not immediately confirm and referred questions to Baghdad.
Iraq has long sought a combat jet for its rebuilt air force. The government delayed a planned purchase of F-16s in February to divert a $900 million down payment to its national food ration program to help quell street protests.