The Iraqi Air Force is looking to rebuild and modernize its fleet of fighter jets, the country’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Yehia Rasool, has confirmed.
Iraq currently relies on an ageing fleet of F-16IQ and is looking to revamp its air force to increase the country’s security within the Middle East.
On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, Major General Rasool hinted that France is one of the countries from which Iraq is considering purchasing “modern military equipment”.
“The Commander-in-Chief Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered to complete the capacity-building of the Iraqi Armed Forces, including the Air Force Command, so Iraq will purchase modern military equipment from many countries, including the Republic of France,” Major General Rasool explained to the Iraqi News Agency (INA).
He added: “France is considered one of the developed countries in the field of military industries, including the air force […]. Iraq is cooperating with France in many fields, including air defense.”
According to the publication Airforce Technology, contracts between France and Iraq have in fact already been signed.
Iraq has reportedly agreed to purchase 14 Rafale aircraft, which had been said to be under consideration back in February 2023 according to Norman Ricklefs of the consulting firm NAMEA Group.
“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 at the time. The $3,360-billion contract would likely include weapons, support and training.
According to Airforce Technology Iraq is also considering agreements for 24 AT-6C Texan II Aircraft from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and 12 units of JF-17 Block 3 from China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.
Rumors have been circulating for years of Iraq’s interests in the French fighters.
In November 2020, the Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Enad Saadoun 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 airbase 113 of Saint-Dizier, eastern France.
Two months later, Saadoun confirmed Baghdad’s interest in Rafale fighters.