Balad Air Base

(Redirected from Joint Base Balad)

Balad Air Base (Arabic: قاعدة بلد الجوية) (ICAO: ORBD), is an Iraqi Air Force base located near Balad in the Sunni Triangle 40 miles (64 km) north of Baghdad, Iraq.

Balad Air Base
Flag of the Iraqi Air Force.svg
Airport typeMilitary
OperatorIraqi Air Force
LocationBalad, Iraq
Elevation AMSL161 ft / 49 m
Coordinates33°56′00″N 044°22′00″E / 33.93333°N 44.36667°E / 33.93333; 44.36667Coordinates: 33°56′00″N 044°22′00″E / 33.93333°N 44.36667°E / 33.93333; 44.36667
Balad Air Base is located in Iraq
Balad Air Base
Balad Air Base
Direction Length Surface
ft m
14/32 11,490 3,503 Concrete
12/30 11,495 3,504 Concrete

Built in the early 1980s, it was originally named Al-Bakr Air Base. In 2003 the base was captured by the United States Armed Forces at the start of the Iraq War and was called both Balad Air Base and Anaconda Logistical Support Area (LSA) by the United States Army before being renamed Joint Base Balad on June 15, 2008. The base was handed back to the Iraqi Air Force on November 8, 2011, during the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, after which it returned to being called Balad Air Base.[1]

During the Iraq War it was the second largest U.S. base in Iraq. It was also one of the busiest airports in the world with 27,500 takeoffs and landings per month, second only to Heathrow Airport.[2] Today it is home to the Iraqi Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.


Iraqi useEdit

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 Yugoslavian 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.

U.S. military presence (2003–2011)Edit

The Sustainer Theater at Joint Base Balad where US movies were 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 U.S. forces in early April 2003, renaming it Camp Anaconda and later Joint Base Balad.[3] The area was nicknamed "Mortaritaville" (in a play on Margaritaville), because of a high frequency of incoming mortars, at times every day, from Iraqi insurgents.

The US Army's 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the US 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"[4] 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, Toby Keith, Gary Sinise, Chris Isaak, Neal McCoy, Oliver North, and WWE.[5]


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 forcesEdit
Aviation forcesEdit
US Air Force
  • 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment from September 2006.
  • Task Force 11th Aviation Regiment (United States Army Europe) from April 2003 until February 2004
  • 528 Quartermasters Ft. Lewis Washington 2003–2004
  • 172 Medical Logistics Battalion, Ogden, UT 2003-2004
  • M/158 Aviation Regiment (AVIM) (1-142 AVN BN)
  • 159th Combat Aviation Brigade Oct 2005 – Oct 2006


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.[6][7][8][9] By mid-2006, this rate had dropped by about 40%.[10] Due to these attacks, the soldiers and airmen refer to the base as "Mortaritaville", though this name is shared with other bases in Iraq.[11]

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.[12][13] 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.[14][15] Despite this, the VA allows service members to file claims for symptoms they believe to be related to burn pit exposure.[16][17]

Joint base Balad was also home to the Air Force Theater Hospital, a Level I trauma center which boasted a 98% survival rate for wounded Americans and Iraqis alike.[18]

A black jail, a U.S. military detention camp to interrogate high-value detainees, was established at Balad in summer 2004, named the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF).[19][20][21] A British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) lawyer who visited a black jail, believed to be at Balad, described it as holding prisoners in wooden crates, too small to stand in or lie down, who were subject to white noise.[22] General Stanley McChrystal, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, regularly visited the site, reporting that the staff of interrogators and analysts was six times the number of detainees, enabling important detainees to be questioned through each shift.[23]

Return to Iraqi controlEdit

On 8 November 2011, as U.S. forces were in the process of withdrawing from Iraq, Joint Base Balad was handed back to the Iraqi Air Force, after which it returned to being called Balad Air Base.[1]

Sallyport GlobalEdit

In 2014, Sallyport Global, subsidiary of Caliburn International, was awarded contracts to work on Balad Air Base in support of the Iraq F-16 program.[24] Following reports alleging timesheet fraud, investigators found evidence of alcohol smuggling, human trafficking, security violations, and theft. The investigators were subsequently fired by the human resources personnel that they were originally sent to investigate, and removed from the base under armed guard.[25][26] Employees have also raised concern about racism, particularly from white South African security guards who made open endorsements of Apartheid and refused to work alongside Iraqis and other people of color. Former employees say that they feared for their safety at the base due to security failures. In one such report, a militia member shot a bomb-sniffing dog that had flagged their vehicle. It is also said that animals were intentionally starved, and the company withheld passports from employees who wished to leave.[27]

Sallyport is also being investigated by United States Department of Justice on allegations of bribing Iraqi officials for exclusive contracts.[28][29]

Current useEdit

The base is home to the Iraqi Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons[30] of 9th Fighter Squadron (21 aircraft delivered by November 2017).[31]

The base came under attack by ISIL militants in late June 2014, when the insurgents launched mortar attacks and reportedly surrounded the base on three sides.[32]

On January 4, 2020, the base came under a rocket attack, and no claims of responsibility have been made yet.[33] The attack wounded four people.[33] On 20 February 2021, four rockets targeted the base, in which one Iraqi contractor was wounded.[34]

Rockets fell in Iraq’s Balad air base on March 17, 2022 leaving no damage, 2 security forces wounded.[35]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Huge U.S. air base returned to Iraqi control". Reuters. November 9, 2011 – via
  2. ^ "Huge U.S. air base returned to Iraqi control". Reuters. 9 November 2011. Archived from the original on 2019-02-22.
  3. ^ "Huge U.S. air base returned to Iraqi control". Reuters. 9 November 2011. Archived from the original on 2019-02-22.
  4. ^ Carter, Phillip (October 18, 2006). "The Thin Green Line". Slate. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
  5. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Mortars, Grenades Fired at U.S. Troops in Several Attacks". Fox News. 2003-07-10. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "Mortar attacks part of daily life at Balad air base". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  9. ^ Burns, John F. (2004-01-04). "G.I. Killed and Two Wounded by Mortar Fire at Iraq Base". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Base hit by daily attacks told no GIs available for patrols". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  12. ^ "Burn pit at Balad raises health concerns — Troops say chemicals and medical waste burned at base are making them sick, but officials deny risk". Military Times. 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  13. ^ "The New Agent Orange". New Republic. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  14. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Burn Pits - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  15. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Studies on Possible Health Effects of Burn Pits - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  16. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "VA's Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Mason, Michael (March 2007). "Dead Men Walking". Discover.
  19. ^ Schmitt, Eric (22 August 2009). "U.S. Shifts, Giving Detainee Names to the Red Cross". New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  20. ^ Allisa J. Rubin (2009-11-28). "Afghans Detail a Secret Prison Still Operating on a U.S. Base". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-11-08.
  21. ^ Cobain, Ian (1 April 2013). "Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  22. ^ Ian Cobain, Jamie Doward (30 June 2018). "M16 put questions to prisoner waterboarded 83 times by CIA". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  23. ^ McChrystal, Stanley (2013). My Share of the Task: A Memoir. Penguin. ISBN 9781101601426. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  24. ^ Editor (31 January 2019). "Sallyport wins $375m Iraq Contract". Iraq Business News. Retrieved 2019-05-10. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  25. ^ "AP: U.S. contractor ignored security violations at Iraq base". Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  26. ^ Hinnant, Desmond Butler and Lori. "U.S. company turned blind eye to wild behavior on Iraq base". Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  27. ^ McCullough, Zack Kopplin|Irvin (2018-09-18). "U.S. Paid $1B to Contractor Accused of Bigotry at Iraq Air Base". Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  28. ^ McCullough, Zack Kopplin|Irvin (2019-02-12). "DOJ Is Investigating Whether U.S. Payoffs to Iraqi Officials Opened the Door for ISIS". Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  29. ^ Iannelli, Jerry (2019-02-15). "Miami Migrant-Camp Contractor Tied to Iraqi Government Bribery Investigation". Miami New Times. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  30. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. August 2014. p. 23.
  31. ^ Delalande, Arnaud (November 8, 2017). "AeroHisto - Aviation History: Iraqi 9th Fighter Squadron has now 21 F-16C/Ds in its fleet".
  32. ^ Lake, Eli; Josh Rogin (25 June 2014). "ISIS Tries to Grab Its Own Air Force". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  33. ^ a b Sisk, Richard (January 4, 2020). "Rocket Attacks Hit Baghdad's Green Zone, Balad Air Base: Iraqi Military".
  34. ^ "Rocket attack on Iraqi airbase where US defense company operates". The Guardian. 20 February 2021.
  35. ^ "balad air base". Arab News. Retrieved 2023-02-28.

External linksEdit