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Balad Air Base
Flag of the Iraqi Air Force.svg
[[Image:'Black Jack' soldiers aid USAF in Joint Base Balad transition 111108-A-CJ112-584.jpg|frameless|alt=|Joint Base Balad, after all U.S. forces departed Nov 8, 2011]]
Joint Base Balad, after all U.S. forces departed Nov 8, 2011
Airport type Military
Operator Iraqi Air Force
Location Balad, Iraq
Elevation AMSL 161 ft / 49 m
Coordinates 33°56′00″N 044°22′00″E / 33.9333333°N 44.3666667°E / 33.9333333; 44.3666667Coordinates: 33°56′00″N 044°22′00″E / 33.9333333°N 44.3666667°E / 33.9333333; 44.3666667
Direction Length Surface
ft m
14/32 11,490 3,503 Concrete
12/30 11,495 3,504 Concrete

Balad Air Base is an Iraqi Air Force base located near Balad in the Sunni Triangle 40 miles (64 km) north of Baghdad, Iraq.

Built in the early 1980s it was originally named Al-Bakr Air Base. In 2003 the base was occupied by the United States Armed Forces as part of the Iraq War and called both Balad Air Base by the United States Air Force and Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda by the United States Army before being renamed Joint Base Balad on 15 June 2008. The base was handed back to the Iraqi Air Force during December 2011 returning to be called Balad Air Base.

During the Iraq War it was the second largest U.S. Base in Iraq and today is home to the Iraqi Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons.


Iraqi use[]

Balad was formerly known as Al-Bakr Air Base, named in honor of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the president of Iraq from 1968 to 1979. It was considered by many in the Iraqi military to be the most important airfield of the Iraqi Air Force. During most of the 1980s, it operated with at least a brigade level force, with two squadrons of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighters. Al-Bakr Air Base was especially well known for the large number of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) built by Yugoslavsian contractors during the Iran–Iraq War in the mid-1980s. It had four hardened areas—one each on either end of the main runways—with approximately 30 individual aircraft shelters.

Coalition use[]

The Sustainer Theater at Joint Base Balad where US movies played.

Living quarters for NCOs, SNCOs and officers in the H-6 housing compound on JBB, referred to as "pods", circa Jan 2009

The base was captured by Australian special forces during April 2003 as part of the Iraq War

The Army's 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the Air Force's 332d Air Expeditionary Wing were headquartered at JBB. It was decided that the facility share one name, even though for many reasons and for its many occupants, it had differing names. Until mid-2008 the US Army had been in charge of Balad but, when it was re-designated as a joint base, the US Air Force assumed overall control. Balad was the central logistical hub for forces in Iraq. Camp Anaconda has also been more colloquially-termed "Life Support Area Anaconda"[1] or the "Big Snake".

It housed 28,000 military personnel and 8,000 civilian contractors.[citation needed] Like most large bases in Iraq, LSA Anaconda offered amenities, circa 2006 and later, including a base movie theater (Sustainer Theater), two Base/Post Exchanges (BX/PX), fast food courts including Subway, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell (2007), Burger King, Green Beans Coffee, a Turkish Cafe, an Iraqi Bazaar, multiple gyms, dance lessons, an Olympic size swimming pool,and an indoor swimming pool. The base was a common destination for celebrities and politicians visiting US troops serving in Iraq on USO Tours including the Charlie Daniels band (2005), Vince Vaughn (2005), Carrie Underwood (2006), Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, Chris Isaak, Neal McCoy, and Oliver North.[2]


170th EFS F-16, from Springfield, Illinois, taking off from Joint Base Balad

777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules at Balad AB Iraq getting a power wash of the engines to ensure that built up dust does not get pulled into the intake during flight.

46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron MQ-1B Predator UAV

Ground forces[]
  • 557 Maintenance Co. Oct 2007 - Dec 2008
  • 602nd Maintenance Co. Apr 2008 - Jun 2009
  • A/51st Signal Battalion (Airborne) (along with an unknown MP platoon and unknown water purification platoon) took control in mid April 2003 from an unknown infantry unit until V corps arrived around 1 May 2003
  • 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
  • 411th Engineer Brigade between 2006 and 2007
  • NMCB 28 and NMCB 4 - 2007
  • Headquarters and Support Company, 463d Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) between 2004 and 2005
  • 63rd Ordnance Company (PLS/MOADS) (United States) between 2004 and 2005
  • 77th Sustainment Brigade 2011
  • 103d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) between 2009 and 2011
  • 100th Infantry Battalion
  • Task Force 34
  • 864th Engineer BN (Combat Heavy)
  • 29th Brigade Combat Team (Hawaii National Guard) January 2005 - February 2006
  • 323rd Military Police Company (Toledo, Ohio) April 2003 - July 2003
Aviation forces[]


Starting in 2003, several mortar rounds and rockets were fired per day by insurgents, usually hitting the empty space between the runways, although there were isolated injuries and fatalities.[3][4][5][6] By mid-2006, this rate had dropped by about 40%.[7] Due to these attacks, the soldiers and airmen refer to the base as "Mortaritaville", though this name is shared with other bases in Iraq.[8]

Joint Base Balad had a burn pit operation as late as the summer of 2010. The pit, which was visible for miles, was in continuous use which resulted in 147 tons of waste burnt per day, some of which was considered toxic.[9][10] Respiratory difficulties and headaches were attributed to smoke inhalation from the burnt waste; however, according to research conducted on behalf of the US Department of Veteran Affairs, there is insufficient evidence to connect those symptoms to burn pits.[11][12] Despite this, the VA allows service members to file claims for symptoms they believe to be related to burn pit exposure.[13][14]


Joint base Balad was also home to the Air Force Theater Hospital, a Level I trauma center which boasts a 98% survival rate for wounded Americans and Iraqis alike.[15]

Return to Iraqi control[]

As American forces left Iraq, Joint Base Balad was returned to the Iraqi Air Force in December 2011.[16]

Current use[]

The base is home to the Iraqi Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons[17] of 9th Fighter Squadron (21 the November 2nd, 2017)[18]

The base came under attack by ISIS militants in late June 2014, when the insurgents launched mortar attacks and reportedly surrounded the base on three sides.[19]

See also[]


  1. Carter, Phillip (October 18, 2006). "The Thin Green Line". Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  2.[dead link]
  3. "Mortars, Grenades Fired at U.S. Troops in Several Attacks" (in en-US). Fox News. 2003-07-10. 
  4. "Letters to the editor for Wednesday, October". Stars and Stripes. October 27, 2004. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  5. "Mortar attacks part of daily life at Balad air base" (in en). 
  6. Burns, John F. (2004-01-04). "G.I. Killed and Two Wounded by Mortar Fire at Iraq Base" (in en-US). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  7. Powell, Anita (July 22, 2006). "Attacks on the decrease at LSA Anaconda, aka 'Mortaritaville'". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  8. "Base hit by daily attacks told no GIs available for patrols" (in en). tribunedigital-chicagotribune. 
  9. "Burn pit at Balad raises health concerns — Troops say chemicals and medical waste burned at base are making them sick, but officials deny risk". 2013-03-29. 
  10. "The New Agent Orange" (in en-US). New Republic. 
  11. Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Burn Pits - Public Health" (in en). 
  12. Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Studies on Possible Health Effects of Burn Pits - Public Health" (in en). 
  13. Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry - Public Health" (in en). 
  14. "Burn pit at Balad raises health concerns: Troops say chemicals and medical waste burned at base are making them sick, but officials deny risk" article by Kelly Kennedy in Army Times Oct 29, 2008, accessed 2010-08-07.
  15. Mason, Michael (March 2007). "Dead Men Walking". Discover. 
  16. "Iraqi generals visit to better understand base transition". U.S. Air Force. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  17. AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. August 2014. p. 23. 
  18. Iraqi 9th Fighter Squadron has now 21 F-16C/Ds in its fleet
  19. Lake, Eli; Josh Rogin (25 June 2014). "ISIS Tries to Grab Its Own Air Force". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 

External links[]

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