Iraq has for the first time used F-16 fighter jets acquired from the US along with ‘smart weapons’ against Islamic State.
“Fifteen air strikes were carried out in the past four days,” staff lieutenant general Anwar Hama Amin was quoted as saying in a news conference in Baghdad by the Guardian Sunday. “Smart weapons” were used in the strikes, Amin said, without specifying the type.
Khaled al-Obaidi, the defense minister, 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.
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.