Czech Republic plans to send pilot instructors to Iraq
PRAGUE - The Czech Republic on Wednesday said it would send instructors to Iraq in June to train pilots on how to use the combat L-159 jets bought from Prague to fight the jihadist Islamic State group.
Up to 35 instructors will take part in the mission, which still needs to be approved by parliament and represents "the Czech contribution to the battle against the Islamic State group," according to Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek.
"If all goes well, the mission will begin on June 1 at Iraq's Balad Air Base and last until 2018," Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said, putting the total cost at 265 million koruna (10 million euros, $11 million).
The Czech government approved the sale of 12 L-159s in March 2015 for 750 million koruna, and Iraq received the first batch of two in November.
L-159s can be equipped with munitions for both air-to-ground and air-to-air missions, with the former being the more important for Iraqi forces battling ISIS jihadists.
The jets are part of a series of aircraft deliveries -- including F-16 warplanes and Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jets -- that have bolstered Iraq's air force since IS overran large parts of the country last year.