Iraq says signs contract for 18 F-16 fighter jets

BAGHDAD Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:36pm EDT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has signed a contract to buy its second set of 18 F-16 fighters from the United States, part of a deal to purchase 36 of the jets to rebuild its air force, Iraq's acting defense minister said on Thursday.

Baghdad signed an initial deal for the first set of 18 jets in September last year valued at roughly $3 billion and those aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by September 2014.

"The (new) contract is no different from the first contract in terms of the technical and financial details. This handover will be finished in 2018," acting Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi told reporters after a meeting U.S. officials in Baghdad.

Duliami said Iraq was also talking with U.S. officials about buying air defense systems and Apache helicopters.

Iraq has had no real air force since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad, which has also signed military contracts with Russia and the Czech Republic this month, says it will not be able to defend its airspace until 2020.

(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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