Mitiga International Airport

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Mitiga International Airport
مطار امعيتيقة الدولي
Airport type Joint (public and military)
Location Tripoli, Libya
Built 1995 (established as public airport)
Elevation AMSL 36 ft / 11 m
Coordinates 32°54′N 13°17′E / 32.900°N 13.283°E / 32.900; 13.283Coordinates: 32°54′N 13°17′E / 32.900°N 13.283°E / 32.900; 13.283
MJI is located in Libya
Location within Libya
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03/21 6,000 1,829 Asphalt
11/29 11,076 3,376 Asphalt

Mitiga International Airport (IATA: MJIICAO: HLLM) is an airport in Libya, located about 8 kilometres (5 miles) east of Tripoli's city center that was established in 1995.


The airport was originally built in 1923 and served as Mellaha Air Base (الملاّحة) for the Italian Air Force. A motor racing circuit was subsequently built around the airport and Mellaha Lake and became home in 1933 for the popular Tripoli Grand Prix.[1] During World War II is was taken over by the German Luftwaffe and after the war by the United States Air Force (USAF) who renamed the facility Wheelus Air Base. During the USAFs tenure the base was extended, demolishing the derelict motor racing buildings.

After 1970, the facility was known as Okba Ben Nafi Air Base (after Uqba ibn Nafi), a Libyan People's Air Force (LPAF) installation. In 1986, the base was a primary target of Operation El Dorado Canyon (see below), a US retaliatory strike against Libya for Libyan missile attacks on US aircraft over Libya's claimed territorial waters in the Mediterranean Sea and alleged Libyan involvement in alleged terrorist attacks on US servicemen in Europe.

Libyan/Soviet use[edit]

After the USAF left, Wheelus became a Libyan People's Air Force installation and was renamed Okba Ben Nafi Air Base. OBN AB housed the LPAF's headquarters and a large share of its major training facilities.

LPAF Soviet-made MiG-17/19/25 fighters and Tu-22 bombers were based at Okba Ben Nafi Air Base. Of the combat aircraft, the US State Department estimated in 1983 that fifty percent remained in storage, including most of the MiG fighters and Tu-22 bombers. In addition, aircraft and personnel of the Soviet Air Force took up residence at the base.

Operation El Dorado Canyon[edit]

Main article: 1986 Bombing of Libya
Ilyushin Il-76 targeted in the bombing of 1986.

At 2 a.m. on 16 April 1986, Okba Ben Nafi AB, various Libyan government buildings, and three of thirty alleged Libyan terrorist training camps were bombed by F-111Fs from the USAFE's 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying non-stop from RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, to Libya in Operation El Dorado Canyon. The mission was in retaliation for Libyan missile attacks on US aircraft over Libya's claimed territorial waters, and alleged Libyan involvement in terrorist attacks on US servicemen in Europe.

Operation El Dorado Canyon included eighteen 48 TFW F-111F "Aardvark" fighter-bombers (Pave Tack-equipped), five EF-111A "Sparkvarks" from the 66th Electronic Combat Wing/42nd Electronic Combat Squadron at RAF Upper Heyford, UK, and carrier-based US Navy F-14 Tomcats and A-6E Intruders. The 66 ECW Sparkvarks formed up with the attack force to provide electronic defense during the attack. One 48 TFW F-111F was lost outbound from the attack to (presumably) a SAM or AAA hit.

The fourteen-hour 9,300-kilometre (5,800-mile) round trip to Libya required numerous in-air refuelings (over seven million pounds of fuel), because countries closer to Libya – Spain, Italy, France, and Greece – had refused American planes permission to fly over or from bases in their countries.

The 48 TFW had practiced for years at Wheelus with F-100s and later at Zaragoza AB Spain with F-4D Phantoms and the F-111s for just such a mission.

Post–Cold War[edit]

Okba Ben Nafi AB was apparently converted for civilian use and became Mitiga Airport in 1995, according to Italian Wikipedia, from the name of a little girl killed by mistake during an exercise plan.[2] The airport also housed the headquarters of Buraq Air.[3] From 1948 until 1970, Mitiga, then known as Wheelus Air Base, served as a United States Air Force base.[4]

2011 Libyan civil war[edit]

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, the The Times and The Guardian reported claims that the airport had been taken over by protestors opposed to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.[5][6]

On 13 March 2011, Ali Atiyya, a colonel of the Libyan Air Force at the airport, defected and joined the anti-Gaddafi forces.[7]

On 21 August 2011, rebels launched an assault on Mitiga as part of a bid to battle loyalist forces in Tripoli, sustaining a number of casualties in the process[8]

On 25 October 2011, Google Earth released mutlispectral imagery from Geo Eye taken on 28 August which showed the airfield as well as the highly capable MiG-25 aircraft without any visible damage. This imagery confirmation helps validate the reporting which suggests the airfield had been taken over early on by opposition protesters as NATO and US air forces would want to avoid collateral damage to the opposition movement.[9]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Air services to Libya were suspended during the civil war of 2011, airlines have started returning since the situation has stabilised, this included three foreign carriers launching service to Mitiga on a temporary basis, as the main Tripoli International Airport was closed to traffic.

Of these Tunisair suspended flights to the airport due to a major security lapse, endangering crew and passengers onboard one of their aircraft,[10] they have now resumed service to Tripoli International.

Alitalia and Turkish Airlines also moved back to Tripoli International after it reopened. Turkish Air now operate cargo flights to Mitiga.


Airlines Destinations
MNG Airlines Amsterdam, Istanbul-Ataturk, Munich [11]
Turkish Airlines Cargo Istanbul-Ataturk, Maastricht/Aachen, Zurich [12]

Pre civil war service that has not resumed[edit]

Airlines Destinations
Buraq Air Aleppo, Benghazi
Libyan Airlines Misrata

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Here Mittiga base where Gaddafi celebrates 40 years of resistance". Il Foglio. 17 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "Company Profile." Buraq Air. Retrieved 14 May 2010. "The company headquarters are located at Mittiga International Airport in Tripoli – Libya."
  4. ^ "Middle East Countries: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia". World Digital Library. 1955. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  5. ^ "Fresh Reports of Tripoli Fighting – Air Base May Have Fallen to Rebels". The Times. 25 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Libya in Turmoil – Live Updates". The Guardian. 25 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  7. ^ [2].
  8. ^ Staff (20 August 2011). "Libyan Rebels in Fight for Tripoli Airbase – Activist". Reuters. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "After Action Report: Umm Aitiqah Airfield, Libya". OSGEOINT. 28 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Tunisair suspends Tripoli
  11. ^ MNG Airlines Schedule
  12. ^ TK cargo summer 2012 schedule listing MJI

External links[edit]