With Iraq needing all the help it can get in pushing back Islamic militants, the government has requested 1,400 additional Hellfire missiles from the United States to restock its depleted supply. Iraq burned through its inventory of 300 Hellfire missiles two weeks ago.
In mid-July the US plans to deliver to Iraq the 200 missiles still remaining from an expedited purchase earlier this year of 500 missiles, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Friday.
However, Kirby also disclosed that “another sale of more than 600 Hellfire missiles is in execution right now, with a delivery of most of them expected by the end of July.”
The US, he said, has “received a letter from Iraq asking for another 800, and we’re processing that as we speak.”
Kirby added that the missiles’ manufacturer Lockheed Marin has two shifts “working at full capacity right now to modify and test these missiles and get them on their way.”
The Iraqi military uses the missiles to great effect, with a small Air Force that lacks fighter aircraft, Iraq has two Cessna Caravan aircraft that have been rigged to fire the missiles.
ABC News has learned that Iraq ran out of its current stock of Hellfires two weeks ago.
In addition to the missiles, Kirby said that the US continues to meet Iraqi requests for “small arms and ammunition, rifles, grenades, flares, and those are all being worked on as fast as possible right now. Kirby said “a lot of energy” has been applied to the requests,” adding, “we’re doing this as fast as we can.”
With 180 US military personnel now in Baghdad to serve as assessment teams and advisors for the Iraqi Security Forces, Kirby confirmed that the U.S. is now flying some armed drones over Baghdad to provide for their protection. The drones are among the mix of unmanned and manned aircraft that have been flying 30 to 35 missions a day over Iraq for reconnaissance purposes.
“The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisors whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy,” he said.
Kirby added that President Obama has not made any decisions about the use of airstrikes or “kinetic force” in Iraq which means the Pentagon plans and prepares for that in case a decision is made, but that “the primary reason that some of the aircraft flying over Iraq is armed is for force protection purposes.”
Separately, a U.S. official told ABC News that as the teams move outside of Baghdad so will the drones, but for now they’re limited to the Baghdad area.
Kirby said the number of assessment advisors in Iraq will likely stay at 180 as they begin their assessment in and around Baghdad.