Iraq delays F-16 deal in favor of food rations

Thursday, February 17, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

BAGHDAD Iraq, concerned over rising unrest, has delayed the purchase of a U.S. fighter-jet.

Officials said the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has decided to delay plans to sign a contract for the F-16 multi-role fighter. They said the Defense Ministry had been planning to sign a contract with the U.S. government to procure 18 F-16 Block 52+ aircraft in 2011.

"The F-16 contract has been postponed this year and the money has been diverted toward improving food rations," Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.

In a briefing on Feb. 14, Al Dabbagh did not provide details on the F-16 package. But officials said parliament was already told of plans to allocate $900 million as a downpayment to Lockheed Martin, prime contractor of the F-16.

Officials said the F-16 project was worth $3 billion and would include spare parts, munitions and trainng. They said the Iraq Air Force would require an expensive infrastructure to support the advanced fourth-generation combat aircraft.

Parliament has been debating a government budget for 2011 reported at $81.86 billion. The budget contained a $13.3 billion deficit.

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