PARIS (Sep. 26)
France and Iraq have concluded an agreement for the sale of 24 Mirage F-I’s, equipped for in-flight refuelling and capable of firing air-to-sea Exocet missiles.
The plane’s manufacturer, Marcel Dassault, 93, personally announced the sale last night, saying that Iraq has agreed to pay for the planes in cash, some 15 billion Francs, or some $2 billion. The planes will be delivered over an 18-month period.
Iraq already has 89 F-I’s but the new model will have, thanks to their in-flight refuelling facilities, a far longer strike range. They will carry two 30 mm. guns and seven air-to-air to air-to-sea missiles.
The Exocet is the super sophisticated air-to-sea missile used with devastating effects by the Argentinians during their battle with the British over the Falkland Islands. Iraq has used the Exocets to strike and sink tankers carrying Iranian oil from the Kharg terminal.
French experts at last night’s press conference held by Dassault, privately told reporters they were deeply impressed by the high level maintenance of the planes by the Iraqi ground crews and by combat capabilities of the air crews. The French technicians said that the long war with Iran has given the Iraqis the combat experience needed to turn them into a modern and efficient air force.