Iraq F-16 Pilot Program Slows Due to Unrest

Some Iraqi pilots slated to graduate from the F-16 schoolhouse in Tucson, Ariz., later this summer are staying put for the time being, pending the resolution of security conditions in Iraq, a Defense Department official told Air Force Magazine. After militants rampaged through Iraq in June, the Iraqi government openly criticized the US delivery timeline for its planned acquisition of F-16 fighter aircraft. At the same time, Iraq elected to purchase several Russian-made close air support jets. Today, there are a total of 18 Iraqi Air Force pilots “in various stages of training,” including 12 at the F-16 schoolhouse in Tucson, said Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith. The final six trainees are now in “prerequisite pilot training” at various Air Education and Training Command bases, working with either T-6s or T-38s. They are not expected to graduate from the B-course until late Fiscal 2016 at the earliest, she said. “We anticipate the arrival of two additional future Iraqi Air Force F-16 pilots later this summer,” she added, though she noted there might be a delay in the enrollment of follow-on Iraqi pilots. The US anticipated having “three-to-four pilots leave Tucson in the August-September time frame,” although Smith said those individuals “will be on hold until the resolution of the security situation in Iraq.”