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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has asked for information about buying 36 F-16 fighter aircraft built by Lockheed Martin Corp, the U.S. Defense Department said on Friday.
The request, received August 27, is being reviewed "in the normal course of business" as part of the U.S. government-to-government arms sale process, said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.
Updated F-16s are among the world's most advanced multirole fighters and a powerful symbol of military ties to the United States.
Iraq's interest in the fighter jet, reported first by The Wall Street Journal, could spark concerns among neighbors worried about advanced arms in the hands of a country still facing major internal challenges.
U.S. reviews of possible arms sale can take a year or more. They involve the departments of State and Defense as well as Congress and weigh power balances, technology security and other thorny issues. If a contract were ultimately signed, deliveries could take another year or more, depending on the model in question.
The Pentagon did not specify which F-16 version Iraq was eyeing, nor whether it was new or refurbished. A Lockheed spokesman referred questions to the Pentagon.
F-16C/D Block 50/52 models are now being produced for Poland, Israel, Greece and Pakistan. The United Arab Emirates was the maiden customer for the Block 60 version, the most sophisticated F-16 produced to date.