WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The Pentagon announced Monday that an initial group of F-16 fighter jets purchased by Iraq will not be delivered to Balad Air Base as previously scheduled due to the security environment.
Advances by the Islamic State in Balad prompted an evacuation of the air base contractors involved in the transfer process, the Pentagon noted.
The F-16s will instead be re-routed to Arizona so Iraqi pilots can safely train on the aircraft.
"We are going to deliver three F-16s to Tucson in December," said Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren. "And then one per month after that through May for a total of eight F-16s."
Warren added that "We expect the Iraqi pilots will begin flying their own aircraft for continuation training beginning in January."
To date, 24 Iraqi pilots have been trained in the U.S. to fly F-16s.