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Thursday, January 20, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Iraq air force plan slowed by budget shortfall

BAGHDAD — The Iraq Air Force, hampered by a shrinking budget, has delayed procurement programs.


Officials acknowledged that the Iraqi Defense Ministry has suspended or slowed down procurement of combat air and other platforms. They said the move reflected a dwindling procurement budget as well as the underestimation of costs.

"Everything that is required will be procured, but not necessarily according to the order and timetable originally envisioned," an official said.

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The delay in Air Force procurement was said to have included the U.S.-origin F-16 multi-role fighter. Baghdad, in the first purchase of U.S. air combat platforms, has requested 18 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft in a $4.3 billion sale.

But in November the Iraqi Defense Ministry acknowledged delays in the purchase of U.S.- and French-origin aircraft. The ministry cited a funding shortage in the 2011 budget.

As a result, the Air Force has been seeking cheaper non-Western air platforms. One such candidate has been the Czech-origin L-59 air trainer, which could be selected over such Western contenders as the Hawk, T-50 and M-346. The Defense Ministry has been administering a tender to procure 24 jet trainers.

In 2010, the Air Force received 15 U.S.-origin T-6A trainers ordered from Hawker Beechcraft. The T-6 basic trainer was meant to prepare Iraqi pilots for the F-16s, meant for delivery by 2013.

"It is probable that the price of new aircraft proved prohibitive and that Iraq is now looking at buying cheaper used jet trainer aircraft," D.J. Elliot, former U.S. intel analyst, said.

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