(Adds statement from Iraqi prime minister, context)
SEOUL Dec 12 South Korean defence contractor
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) has signed a
deal with Iraq to export 24 light fighter jets valued at $1.1
billion, the company said on Thursday.
The deal to supply FA-50 aircraft also includes training for
Iraqi pilots and other support for the Iraqi Air Force for the
next two decades, which could push the total value of the deal
to $2 billion, the contractor said in a statement.
The FA-50 is a light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle
supersonic trainer that was co-developed by KAI and U.S. defence
firm Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Iraqi version of the FA-50, labeled the T-50 IQ, can be
armed with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, machine guns
and precision-guided bombs along with other munitions, KAI said.
"This deal will improve the performance of the Ministries of
Defense and Interior in defending the country and in fighting
terrorism," a statement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki said.
Iraq has sought F-16 fighter jets from the United States as
part of a deal to rebuild its airforce.
Iraq is suffering from its worst violence in at least five
years as insurgents carry out almost daily bombing campaigns
against civilians and government targets.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq in the first
11 months of 2013, according to the United Nations.
KAI has previously exported a T-50 variant to Indonesia and
is pursuing deals with the Philippines and Chile.
South Korea has been to capture a larger share of the global
defence market with its fighter jets amid a projected sharp
increase in demand for military equipment over the next decade.
Delivery to Iraq will begin in April 2016 and will be made
over a year, a company official said.
(Reporting by Michelle Kim in Seoul; Additional reporting by
Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad; Editing by Catherine Evans)