Iraq Revives Attempt To Buy U.S. F-16s

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Iraq is renewing its bid to buy F-16 jet fighters from the United States, the Pentagon says.

Maj. Christopher Perrine, a Defense Department spokesman, told the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram more negotiations are planned after the sale of 18 warplanes was put on hold because Iraq did not budget the $4.2 billion it proposed spending last fall.

“We’re still working on letters of offer and acceptance for 18″ planes, he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday he would come back to the U.S. government with a request to purchase 36 F-16s.

Perrine said that to sell more than 18 aircraft, the Pentagon must again notify Congress, which would have 30 days to block a sale.

Lockheed Martin wants to book new F-16 orders to keep production going at its Fort Worth plant and among suppliers. As of last week, it had 65 unfilled orders, which would keep the line running through 2013. Production of many parts and components begins two or more years before final assembly.

Lockheed directly employs about 2,000 workers in Fort Worth on the F-16, with many more working at suppliers in the area.

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