Balad Air Base

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Balad Air Base
Flag of the Iraqi Air Force.svg
'Black Jack' soldiers aid USAF in Joint Base Balad transition 111108-A-CJ112-584.jpg
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 / 33.93333°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
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.

It was opened during the 1980s called Al-Bakr Air Base which housed Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighters, during the 2000s 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[edit]

Balad was formerly known as al-Bakr AB, 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 AB was especially well known for the large number of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) built by the Yugoslavs 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[edit]

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 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 the base but, when the base went "Joint" the US Air Force took 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 Bean Coffee, a Turkish Cafe with Turkish food prepared by Turks, an Iraqi Bazaar which sold local souvenirs, 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), Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, Chris Isaak, Neal McCoy, and Oliver North.[2] Carrie Underwood played there in December 2006 and Gary Sinise visited again going out of his way to greet the troops at the Base/Post Exchange (BX/PX).


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[edit]
Aviation forces[edit]


Starting in 2003, several mortar rounds and rockets were fired per day, 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]

Back to Iraqi control[edit]

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

Current use[edit]

The base is home to the Iraqi Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons.[17]

The base came under attack by ISIS militants in late June 2014, with the insurgents launching mortar attacks and reportedly surrounding the base on three sides.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carter, Phillip (October 18, 2006). "The Thin Green Line". Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Mortars, Grenades Fired at U.S. Troops in Several Attacks". Fox News. 2003-07-10. Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  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". Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  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". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  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". Military Times. 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  10. ^ "The New Agent Orange". New Republic. Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  11. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Burn Pits - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  12. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "Studies on Possible Health Effects of Burn Pits - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  13. ^ Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health. "VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry - Public Health". Retrieved 2017-07-27. 
  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. ^ Lake, Eli; Josh Rogin (25 June 2014). "ISIS Tries to Grab Its Own Air Force". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 

External links[edit]