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Iraq’s first F-16 fighter begins flying

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The first F-16 fighter jet for Iraq’s air force has completed its initial flight test, aircraft maker Lockheed Martin announced May 7.

The flight occurred May 2 above Fort Worth, Texas, and lasted less than an hour, company spokesman Mark Johnson said.

Built in Fort Worth, the manned multi-role fighter is the first of 36 F-16 Block 52 aircraft ordered for Iraq through a U.S. Defense Department foreign military sales program, Lockheed Martin said. The first jet is scheduled to be delivered to Iraq later this year.

The F-16s are part of a continuing effort to rebuild Iraqi forces that were decimated during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The United States has already delivered billions of dollars worth of other military equipment to the Middle Eastern country, including transport planes, helicopters, missiles and patrol boats.

In 2011, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency told Congress that providing F-16s would allow Iraq "to modernize its air force by acquiring Western interoperable fighter aircraft, thereby enabling Iraq to support both its own air defense needs and coalition operations." The agency added that Iraq would "have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.”

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