The Iraqi Defense Ministry is considering the acquisition of several French weapon platforms including up to 14 Dassault Rafale fighters, according to Norman Ricklefs of the consulting firm NAMEA Group, quoted by Defense News.
“The Iraqi Air Force is intending to purchase 14 French Rafale fighter jets at a cost of $240 million, which will be paid in oil rather than cash,” Ricklefs told Defense News. The $3,360-billion contract would likely include weapons, support, and training.
Rumors of Iraq’s interests in the French fighters have been circulating for years. In November 2020, the Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Enad Saadou met with the French Chief of Staff of the Air and Space Force, General Philippe Lavigne, for a demonstration of the Rafale quick reaction alert capabilities at the airbase 113 of Saint-Dizier, eastern France. Two months later, Saadoun confirmed Baghdad’s interest in Rafale fighters.
Rafales are a regular sight in the Iraqi skies. Since 2014, the French Air Force has been operating from the H5 Prince Hassan Air Base in Amman-Marqa, Jordan, where they operate strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as part of the ‘Opération Chammal’. The French Air Force also participates in the training of the Iraqi armed forces, including pilots and mechanics as well as forward air controllers, ground soldiers in charge of guiding aircraft engaged in close air support.
Iraq’s order would be the last in a long series for the Rafale in the past few years. In December 2021, Dassault Aviation received its biggest single order to date, as the United Arab Emirates signed a deal to procure 80 jets. On February 10, 2022, Indonesia signed a contract for the first six jets, with the intention to purchase 42 fighters in total.