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H-3 Air Base
Al Walid Airbase
Camp Korean Village/Camp "KV" (USMC)
Al-Anbar Province, Iraq
H-3 Main AB Iraq.jpg
H-3 Main Air Base, 1995
Coordinates Latitude:
Longitude:
Built 1935 (1935)
In use 1935–2003
Current
condition
Abandoned
Garrison Royal Air Force (1935–1958)
Iraqi Air Force (1958–2003)
Coalition Forces (2003)
Battles/wars World War II
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom

H-3 Air Base (code-named 202C, 202D) is part of a cluster of former Iraqi Air Force bases in the Al-Anbar Governorate of Iraq. It was captured by Coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It is currently abandoned.

OverviewEdit

H-3 Air Base is a cluster of airfields located in a remote stretch of Iraq's western desert, about 435 kilometers from Baghdad in western Iraq. It is close to the Syrian-Iraqi border, and near the highway that connects Jordan with Baghdad.

H-3 Main is supported by two dispersal airfields, H-3 Southwest 32°44′48″N 039°35′59″E / 32.74667°N 39.59972°E / 32.74667; 39.59972 (H-3 Southwest AB), and H-3 Northwest 33°04′34″N 039°35′52″E / 33.07611°N 39.59778°E / 33.07611; 39.59778 (H-3 Northwest AB), and a Highway strip, 42 kilometers to the west 32°50′55″N 039°18′28″E / 32.84861°N 39.30778°E / 32.84861; 39.30778 (H-3 Highway Strip). H-3 Southwest is served by a single 9,700 foot runway and has a parallel taxiway that could be used as an alternate runway.

The complex was one of eight major operating bases of the Iraqi Air Force prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Coalition forces. It was later de-militarized by the Coalition and today is abandoned.

HistoryEdit

RAF H3Edit

H-3 was established by the Royal Air Force as a landing ground as "RAF H3" in the 1930s. It was named for the nearby H3 pumping station on the Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline. H3 one of several airfields established as part of the British Mandate of Iraq. Iraq was artificially created at the close of World War I from the former Ottoman Empire as part of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. It was used until the 1940s by No. 84 Squadron RAF.[1]

During the early days World War II, the airfield was abandoned as the RAF moved its units to RAF Habbaniya during the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état and subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War. It may have been used by some German Luftwaffe units that had moved in from Vichy French controlled Syria, during an attempted coups by German-leaning Iraqi Generals who had engineered a coup in Iraq on 31 March 1941. However, the British moved in both land reinforcements from British Palestine and flew in some Wellington and Blenheim bombers to RAF Habbaniya. The coup crumbled in disorder, with the pro-Nazi forces in Iraq surrendering on 30 May. The Luftwaffe units stranded in Iraq retreated back to Syria. Outnumbered at least three to one, using outmoded equipment and facing Fliegerführer Irak, the British still managed to conquer Iraq in less than four weeks.[2]

Iraqi Air ForceEdit

The airfield remained under British control until 1958 when, as a result of the 14 July 1958 Iraqi Revolution when Hashemite monarchy established by King Faisal I of Iraq in 1921 under the auspices of the British was overthrown. Subsequently, it was turned over to the Iraqi Air Force. During the 1970s, it was one of several Iraqi airfields upgraded under project "Super-Base" in response to the experiences from Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973.

Companies from Yugoslavia – previously engaged in building bridges in Iraq – became involved in airfield construction. Due to their specific construction of these airfields – which included taxi-ways leading right out of Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) and laid diagonally to the runways – they became known as "Trapezoids" or "Yugos".

The protection of each HAS consisted of one meter thick concrete shells, reinforced by 30 cm thick steel plates. There was only one entrance and this was covered by sliding doors, made of 50 cm thick steel armoured plate and concrete. The HAS' were usually built in small groups – seldom more than five, with each group sharing the same water and power supply, besides having own backup gasoline-powered electrical generator, and each HAS being equipped with a semi-automatic aircraft-refueling system.[3]

Iran-Iraq warEdit

During the winter of 1980–1981, Iraqi Air Force kept back its military airplanes in H-3 base to protect them from Iranian Air Force Attacks. So the Iranian decided to hit there. On 4 April 1981, eight IRIAF F-4 Phantoms flew their boldest interdiction strike of the whole war, penetrating over 1,000 km into Iraq in order to attack all three airfields of the H-3 complex.[4]

Achieving complete surprise, the Iranians made several passes against Al-Walid, H-3 Northwest and H-3 Southwest ABs, destroying three AN-12s, one Tu-16, four MiG-21s, five Su-20/-22s, eight Mig-23s, and two Mirage F-1EQs (delivered only weeks earlier), as well as damaging eleven others beyond repair, including two Tu-16 bombers. Two Iraqi pilots and fourteen personnel were killed, together with three Egyptian and an East German officer, while 19 Iraqis, four Egyptians, and two Jordanians were badly injured. This strike considerably degraded Iraq's capability to retaliate.[4]

Operation Desert Storm and the 1990sEdit

Chemical weapons were stored at the H-3 airfield (main) during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 according to declassified U.S. intelligence reports which describe Iraqi efforts to disperse chemical weapons by truck to other locations. The S-shaped bunker located at H-3 airfield (main) and the four at the H-3 ammunition storage facility were damaged or destroyed during Desert Storm. Of the 22 S-shaped bunkers located across Iraq, 10 had been destroyed as of 8 February 1991. It is not known whether the rest were subsequently destroyed.

In response to Iraqi hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring the Southern No-Fly Zone, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH coalition aircraft used precision-guided weapons to strike an air defense command and control facility at a military airfield 240 miles west and slightly south of Baghdad, at approximately 2:30 a.m. EDT on 5 September 2002. Aircraft dropped precision-guided bombs on the H3 airfield. The strikes were carried out by nine American F-15 Strike Eagles and three RAF Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft flying from Kuwait. The attack on the air defence command and control facility was the first time that a target in western Iraq had been attacked during the patrols of the southern no-fly zone. According to press reports, about 100 US and British aircraft took part in the attack, making it the biggest single operation over the country in four years

2003 Iraq WarEdit

SeizureEdit

The H-1, H-2 and H-3 airfields in Western Iraq were used as operating hubs for Iraqi mobile Scud units deployed to bombard Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, and securing the area was seen to be vital to deny Iraq the opportunity to launch WMD loaded Scuds into Israel once the invasion began, while also permitting coalition control of road traffic to and from Syria and Jordan.

On G-Day +1, 21 March 2003 a combined force of a squadron of British Special Air Service (SAS) and a squadron of Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) seized H-3 who assaulted the sites in formations of heavily armed Land Rovers – the UK SAS driving DPV (Desert Patrol Vehicles), the Aussies driving their similar 6-wheeled vehicles. After neutralizing the guard towers and other defensive positions, the SAS/SASR teams cleared the hangars and administration buildings of the sites. It has been reported that troops from 45 Commando, Royal Marines then set up a security screen around the airfields, which were rapidly set up as forward operating bases (FOBs) for the SAS.[5]

With the 2 FOBs established (also at H-2 Air Base), the SAS then headed eastwards, out into the Iraqi desert. In a reprisal of their role in Operation Desert Storm, the SAS were on the prowl for Iraqi SCUD missile launchers – which Saddam might again use to attack Israel – as well as any other military assets they could find. The SAS Land Rover columns were reportedly backed by air power provided by the 410th Air Expeditionary Wing, which flew primarily A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and Harrier GR.5s from Shahid Muafaq Al-Salti Air Base, Jordan, attacking any Iraqi forces that presented themselves. Unmanned Predator B spy planes were flown ahead of the SAS advance in order to scout out targets.[5]

A few nights after the initial SAS operation, the US Army's 75th Ranger Regiment airdropped in and took the H-1 Air Base which was then used as a launching pad for more allied Special Operations. One military source at the time described Iraq's western desert as a special forces playground.[5] By 29 March, an area some 170 miles east of the Jordanian border was blocked off from Iraqi forces, with the captured air bases serving as forward special operations bases.

Current statusEdit

Current aerial imagery shows that the operational structures around the airfield and its 3 auxiliary airfields appear to be largely intact, with the runways being operational. The series of taxiways at the airfields remain exposed to the elements. The use of runways is interdicted by a series of obstacles placed at a quasi regular distance from each other; among these, old unusable airframes.

ReferencesEdit

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. List of former Royal Air Force stations. (2013, 9 July). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 06:18, 13 July 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_former_Royal_Air_Force_stations&oldid=563525315
  2. British fought the good fight once before in Iraq
  3. Cooper, Tom; Bishop, Farzad (2000). Iran-Iraq War in the Air, 1980-1988. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. pp. 248–249. ISBN 0764316699. LCCN 2002110491. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Fire in the Hills: Iranian and Iraqi Battles of Autumn 1982, by Tom Cooper & Farzad Bishop, 9 Sept. 2003
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 British Special Forces – Gulf War 2

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