A first group of Iraqi pilots has completed training on L-159 fighter jets at manufacturer Aero Vodochody. Iraq has bought 15 of the planes, which were surplus for the Czech Air Force, for training purposes and missions. So far, Iraq has received only two of the aircraft. Great Britain has so far blocked the remainder of the delivery over fears that certain technology could fall into the wrong hands.
Four Iraqi pilots successfully wrapped-up training this week on the Czech-built L-159 fighter jets and a second group will soon follow, General Faris Hasan Falah, the deputy commander of the Iraqi Air Force, confirmed. Speaking to Czech TV, the general explained the importance of the planes for Iraqi forces as a stepping stone for more advanced training on American F-16s; he also outlined their importance in missions against Daesh, the terrorist organisation also known as Isil or IS, holding large parts of Syria and Iraq.
“The planes will cover the gap between basic training and more advanced training on F-16s. They will also be used on a lot of missions against Daesh.”
The supply of more planes was blocked by Britain over the danger that the British radar early warning system, with which the planes are fitted, could fall into terrorist hands. On an official visit to Prague in January, British Prime Minister David Cameron, nevertheless, promised his government’s help.
“On the issue of the airplane, Britain and the Czech Republic both have a shared desire to combat Daesh and to help the Iraqi government with its Armed Forces. So anything we can do to help the Czechs in the work they are doing, we should do. So that is why we have been able to take action on this airplane. I think that this is an important shared objective for both our countries.”
Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has expressed the conviction any obstacles will be overcome; meanwhile, the ground is now set for a second team of Iraqi pilots to begin training. In all, under the existing deal, Iraq should eventually receive 12 flight-ready planes. Aero Vodochody is providing training not only for the pilots but also for ground crew and service personnel. An additional two planes bought will be refitted to make room for two pilots, while a final aircraft is to be provided for spare parts.
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