Iraq began receiving its own F-16IQ fighters in 2014 and now has over ten of them regularly in action. To support this effort Iraq recently ordered nearly two billion dollars’ worth of missiles and smart bombs for their F-16s as well as some useful accessories. Iraq bought nearly 20,000 bombs, but only enough laser guidance tail kits for half of them. Most of the bombs were 227 kg (500 pound) types with about a quarter of them being 908 kg. The laser guidance is more accurate than the cheaper JDAM (GPS) model and reflects the fact that a lot of these bombs are being used in populated areas.
Accessories ordered include twenty JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) “look and shoot” helmets for F-16 pilots, 24 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 150 Maverick air-to-ground missiles. This contract includes 400 contractor personnel to help with handling and maintenance. While Arab air force often need (and empl0y) this degree of contractor support in this case the U.S. wants some of the contractors to also try and prevent Iran from grabbing any (or at least too much) of this stuff.
The Iraqi F-16IQ is a special version of the Block 52 F-16C and the two-seater F-16D. The F-16IQ is similar to American Block 52 F-16s except they are not equipped to handle AMRAAM (radar guided air-to-air missiles) or JDAM (GPS guided bombs). The F-16IQ can handle laser guided bombs and older radar guided missiles like the AIM-7. The first 18 F-16IQs were ordered in late 2011 and the first arrived in Iraq right about the time ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) seized Mosul in June 2014. In 2014 Iraq ordered another 18 F-16IQs. The Iraqis were eager to buy F-16s partly because neighboring Turkey and Jordan have done well with this model.
Meanwhile, Iraq is slowly building a new air force. This force currently has some 250 aircraft, about half of them helicopters. There are 15,000 personnel in the air force, but Iraq plans to double the size of the air force by the end of the decade and equip it with over 500 aircraft, most of them non-combat types. By then, there will be about 35 squadrons (14 fighter, 5 attack helicopter, 5 armed scout helicopter, 2 transport, 2 reconnaissance, 1 fixed wing training, 1 helicopter training, 3 helicopter transport, 1 utility/search and rescue, and 1 special operations). Currently, the air force is flying mostly transport and reconnaissance missions. Iraq got its first combat aircraft in 2009, when three Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft with laser designators and Hellfire missiles arrived. Mi-17 helicopters were equipped to fire unguided rockets. Most helicopters have a door gunner armed with a machine-gun.