On 24 April, representatives from the government of Iraq, the Air Force Security Assistance Center, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark a major milestone in the construction of facilities supporting the Government of Iraq’s purchase of F-16 aircraft from the United States.
The ribbon cutting for the F-16 bed-down facilities included 11 facilities and a power check pad at Balad Air Base was cause for celebration as the project had suffered several setbacks due to ISIS incursion in the region. The contract for the construction was originally awarded in January 2014 and scheduled to be competed in 2016. It came to a halt when contractors were evacuated as a security precaution. The ceremony took place in the Aircraft Maintenance Hanger that is a 75,000 square feet facility that can accommodate seven F16 aircraft.
The buildings, are modern and contain high quality equipment and materials to support and maintain modern aircraft. The facilities provide the maintainers with facilities to make repairs of airframes, weapons systems, and avionics systems.
“These aircraft require very precise power sources and extensive safety features to protect these assets. They include high quality fire alarm, fire suppression, and fume exhaust systems and will ensure the aircraft remain in top shape,” said Chuck Wilburn, a Middle East District project engineer who helped oversee construction.
The facilities also include a missile maintenance facility, a hydrazine facility, fire pump house, aircraft parking apron sunshades, a wash rack, bathrooms, a fuel Cell maintenance building; and a power check pad.
The initial $43 million contract was part of the overall F-16 foreign military sales case. A component of the Defense Department’s security assistance program, accomplished through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, FMS transfers defense equipment, services and training to allied nations to increase stability and capabilities for mutual benefit.
The ceremony had particular significance as the Iraqi Air Force celebrated their 87th birthday just a few days earlier on 22 April, the original date of the ceremony which was postponed due to weather.