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 Iraq to buy 28 Czech L-159 fighter jets for $1 billion

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Iraq to buy 28 Czech L-159 fighter jets for $1 billion  12.10.2012 

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Necas, right, shake hands with his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki, left, after their press conference in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. Photo: AP    See Related Links

Czech Republic Agrees to Sell 28 Military Jets L-159 to Iraq. Photo: CTK

Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra (R) and Iraqi Defense Minister Saadun Dulajmi in press conference in Prague 12th October. Iraq agrees to buy 24 fighters L-159 for about one billion dollars (19.2 billion CZK) from the Czech Republic. Photo: CTK
October 12, 2012

PRAGUE, — The Czech Republic will deliver 28 L-159 fighter jets to Iraq and Czech experts will participate in the training of Iraqi pilots, Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said after meeting his Iraqi counterpart Sadun al-Dulaymi Friday.

The contract for the Czech-made aircraft is worth about one billion U.S. dollars. The training is to start as soon as possible, Vondra said.

The deal comes as a part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's program to rebuild the country's air force and control its vulnerable airspace.

The purchase of Czech L159 jets came as Maliki faces pressure from Washington to prevent Iran transporting arms through Iraqi airspace to help Tehran's ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle to end a 19-month-old uprising.

Four of the two-seat aircraft will be fighter planes owned by the Czech military and the remaining 24 will be new ones.

Vondra thus confirmed the information that Reuters news agency released Friday, citing a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The spokesman told Reuters that Iraq will receive the four old L-159s for free.

Iraq has no real air force since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and Baghdad says it will not be able to defend its airspace until 2020.

"We have a deal to buy 24 L159 combat and training aircraft from the Czech Republic. Four of them will be given for free and will be handed over within seven months," Ali al-Moussawi, Maliki's media advisor, told Reuters by telephone from Prague.

L159s are sub-sonic planes used for training or as light combat planes. The Czech Republic has not been able to sell the jets beyond the Czech army so the Iraqi deal would be a huge success for its arms industry.

Maliki is visiting the Czech Republic as well. He arrived in Prague on Thursday.

The first of the four Czech military´s jets will be transferred to Iraq seven months after the contract takes effect, Vondra said.

The Czech producer Aero Vodochody will start delivering the new aircraft to Iraq in approximately two years.

The negotiations on the purchase lasted more than a year.

After the details of the contract are agreed on by experts from the two countries, the contract will be signed, Vondra said.

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