Iraqi Seasoning

As Iraq’s completed but undelivered F-16s sit waiting for Iraq and the US to decide what to do with them, Iraq’s F-16 pilots continue to train in the US, Air Education and Training Command chief Gen. Robin Rand said Wednesday. During a press conference at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Rand said the Iraqi pilots at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., continue to gain experience and “seasoning” as “flight leads and wingmen.” Even though their aircraft aren’t flying, the pilots “aren’t suffering, from a proficiency point of view,” he said. Rand noted there are a number of options available regarding Iraq’s F-16s, all of which have been used by other international partners. The aircraft could be flown in the US by the Iraqi pilots, similar to what Singapore does with its F-15s and F-16s, but that would require “some kind of financial support on the maintenance,” Rand observed. The Iraqis could take their jets home, as the UAE did after getting its F-16E pilots experienced in the US; so far, that hasn’t been deemed safe given the ISIS conflict. Or, they could fly them in a neighboring Middle East country as guests. However, “thus far, they have not chosen to do that,” Rand said. The choice will be made “above the Air Force” and is a “country-to-country decision,” he observed.