The Iraqi military will use U.S.-manufactured drone aircraft to protect its oil platforms in the Persian Gulf, officials told reporter Jim Michaels with USA Today on Monday.

The drones are just part of more than $15 billion of U.S.-made military hardware, including fighter jets, tanks and other vehicles, authorized for sale to the Iraqi government.

The unmanned aircraft are intended to give the Iraqi government a strategic advantage in Gulf oil exploration, on which they will be increasingly reliant in the coming years.

Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route through the Persian Gulf, if Israel or the U.S. launch attacks against their country.

The strait is also used by Iraq and is viewed as a key strategic choke point for the global energy market.

Energy consultants have cautioned that if the strait is ever shut down, global economic development could crash due to soaring oil prices -- causing gas to go up to $8 or more per gallon in the U.S.