US completes M1A1 Abrams deliveries to Iraqi Army
The Iraqi Army has received the final shipment of nine General Dynamics Land Systems-built M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) from the US, at Besmaya Combat Training Center in Iraq.
The delivery forms part of an $860m order placed by the Iraqi Government in March 2009 for the supply of a total of 140 tanks, under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme.
Deployed during a demonstration exercise, the newly delivered Abrams MBTs validated the Iraqi Army platoons' capabilities in successfully working with each other.
US Embassy's Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) chief US Army lieutenant general Robert Caslen said that the drills demonstrated the growing capabilities of the Iraqi Army.
"Iraq's new state-of-the-art equipment shows that the US foreign military sales programme works and is a successful example of what the United States is doing here with the Iraqi military: equipping, training, and developing a professional Iraqi security force,'' Caslen stated.
''We have seen many other FMS equipping and training cases completed in the past that have brought significant capability to the Iraqi defence forces, and we will continue to see more equipment delivered in the near future."
OSC-I spokesman commander Gary Ross was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that out of the total $860m, $804m was paid by Iraq, while the rest came from the US.
The initial batch of MBTs under the contract was shipped to Baghdad in August 2010.
An upgraded variant of the US Army's combat proven M1Abrams third-generation MBT, the M1A1 Abrams features improved armament, protection and electronics systems.
Apart from Abrams tanks, the US had also proposed sale of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, Stryker armoured vehicles, as well as modern radios under a potential $2.16bn deal in August 2008, to help boost Iraq's armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) capability.
Image: Iraqi Army personnel conducting familiarisation training with an M1A1 Abrams tank at Camp Taji, Iraq. Photo: courtesy of Chad Menegay.