Our Bureau
12:35 PM, November 11, 2014

Iraq will not take delivery of 36 F-16 fighter aircraft after the United States expressed security concerns surrounding the delivery of the aircraft.

Instead, the Pentagon will send them to Tucson, Arizona where the Iraqi pilots are training.

“We had talked earlier in the summer about F-16s that the Iraqis had purchased,” Defense Department spokesman Col. Steven Warren said in a press conference Monday. “The security situation still does not allow that, so the initial group of F-16s we are now going to deliver to Tucson, Arizona, where there are Iraqi pilots currently in the training pipeline.”

Warren said that three fighter jets would be delivered to Arizona in December followed by one jet each month until all the eight planes are delivered.

“We expect the Iraqi pilots will begin flying their own aircraft for continuation training beginning in January,” Warren said. “All maintenance for the F-16s will be provided by [contracted] logistic support.”

The fighter jets were slated to arrive at Balad Air Base by the end of this year, but the Islamic State's control of Sunni areas in central Iraq have put the air base at great risk.

“Instead of training using U.S. training aircraft the Iraqi pilots will now use their own aircraft in Tucson,” said Warren.

The Iraqi government had signed the deal as part of a $12 billion arms deal aimed at strengthening the Iraqi military’s defense capabilities.

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