Washington (CNN) -- Iraq appears to be moving forward on plans to buy as many as 18 U.S. F-16 fighter jets at a cost of $3 billion, after putting off a potential sale several months ago, an American military spokesman told CNN on Tuesday.
"Iraq had stated a desire to relook at this over the last couple of weeks," said Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States and Iraq had reached an informal agreement for such a sale some months ago, but that deal was never formalized and did not take place, according to Johnson.
The fighters would be used to protect Iraq's airspace, Johnson said. It's expected the F-16s would be equipped with both air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground weapons. The potential sale comes as U.S. concerns continue to grow about Iran's rising power in the region, as Washington prepares to end much of its military mission in Iraq by the end of the year.
If Iraq makes a formal request to purchase the jets and it is approved by the Obama administration and Congress, the cost could reach $4 billion when weapons, spare parts and maintenance are added. Johnson said the majority of the costs are likely to be paid using Iraqi oil revenues.
As with all foreign military sales, the United States places restrictions on technology transfers to ensure that U.S. technology does not fall into unapproved hands. If a request for a purchase is made by Iraq, Baghdad would have to provide assurances that it could control the technology, a U.S. official said.
Iraq's fledgling air force already has helicopters and some small surveillance aircraft.