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SOURCE: RAUNAK KUNDE / NEWS BEAT / IDRW.ORG.

Iraqi Air force’s F-16 fleet is facing serious issues after Lockheed Martin started pulling out of some of its contractors from the country due to repeated attacks on the airbase where they are usually stationed, Previous withdrawal of contractors has affected half the fleet, leading to poor maintenance that effected half the fleet and some being grounded for a while now. With the withdrawal of more contractors leaving Iraq in the coming weeks, it’s a matter of few weeks before the Iraqi F-16 fleet could have ground the whole fleet.

According to media reports, sensing an opportunity to get their hands on newer airframes with little flying hours, Pakistani air force (PAF) officials approached the Iraqi defense ministry officials and proposed to swap 12 F-16 for the sale of up to 24 Chinese made JF-17 fighter jet along with assurance to provide F-16 technicians and contractors from Pakistan in help maintaining other remaining jets, but the proposal reportedly was rejected by the Iraqi defense ministry.

Pakistani air force (PAF) also has started direct talks with the United States administration for procurement of additional F-16 jets from either surplus corps of the USAF or from other users. Original 40 F-16s supplied to PAF in the early ’80s are nearing their technical airframe life and have limited upgrade capabilities that are now MLU Block-15/20 that limits augmented capabilities in weapons package. PAF also lost 10 F-16s in nearly 4 decades in service, F-16s fleet in PAF continues to be top tier aircraft in the fighter jet hierarchy, even after induction of JF-17 in large numbers. To counter the recent Induction of Meteor next generation, Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system by IAF, PAF is also requesting the United States administration for sale of the latest and longer variant of AMRAAM called C7 to counter recent IAF moves to supplement 500 C5 variants that were sold nearly 15 years ago are now been outranged by recent induction by IAF.

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