Iraq seeks to replace its F-16s, wants Rafale and pays in oil

BAGHDAD ($1=1454.48 Iraqi Dinars) — Iraq is interested in buying 14 French 4.5-generation Dassault Rafale fighter jets. The deal is valued at $240 million. Iraq offers to pay them through oil supplies.

France bought new Rafales to replace the 'Greek' fighters
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The news was first reported by the business magazine Forbes. At the moment, there is no information on exactly what combat aircraft Baghdad wants – brand new or second-hand [already used] aircraft. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that France is open to such deals, including a combination of new and old aircraft. Greece is one of the countries that benefit from such an option.

Spanish online defense portal InfoDifensa says recent months have been successful for the Dassault Rafale in international markets. In addition to Greece, Indonesia ordered 42 fighters and Croatia placed an order for 12 fighters. All this happened in just a few months. Earlier, India and Greece also acquired from the French flagship. InfoDefensa writes that at the moment one Balkan country is showing interest in Rafale – Serbia.

Iraq is primarily armed with American F-16 F-16C/D Block 52 fighters. They are an older model and there are 34 units in the inventory of the Iraqi Air Force. Forbes wonders why Iraq is interested in a high-end aircraft when it needs ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] turboprops. This type of aircraft is much cheaper and, as InfoDefense writes, is capable of fighting the Islamic State, or what is left of it.

However, Iraq does not fly its F-16s. At least that was the situation in 2021, when, in addition to the F-16, the Su-25 [Iraq operates the Russian Su-25 fighter as well] was grounded. The main reason is the lack of spare parts and maintenance. Iraqi F-16s are based at Balad Air Force Base. This base is regularly attacked by Islamic State militants. This forced the American team that maintains the Iraqi aircraft to withdraw from the base in 2021. There is no information that the work has been resumed. The reason is similar to the Russian Su-25, as well as with the unmanned aerial vehicles, bought mainly from China.

Syria tried to take down Turkish F-16 with Russian-made S-200
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Iraq’s interest in French fighters is not accidental. Baghdad is trying to break away from American dependence. The 14 Rafale fighter jets will be a signal to Washington, which refuses to withdraw its troops from the country, although the Iraqi parliament voted to do so at the end of 2020.

Another reason for the desire of the French Raphael is armament. Iraq has F-16s, but they are not armed with BVR missiles, while France will most likely offer them to Iraq. Last year, Iraq was even ready to buy Pakistani JF-17 precisely because of the BVR missiles.

Last but not least, the payment in oil is an indicator that Baghdad is considering an option in which inflation and a possible global economic crisis will not affect the deal. Baghdad offers something available and that is expensive. And specifically at the present moment, against the background of the war in Ukraine, a halving of natural gas supplies to Europe, Baghdad has something that is being sought in the market.

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