Mitiga International Airport
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
|Mitiga International Airport
مطار امعيتيقة الدولي
|IATA: MJI – ICAO: HLLM|
|Airport type||Joint (public and military)|
|Built||1995 (established as public airport)|
|Elevation AMSL||36 ft / 11 m|
Mitiga International Airport (IATA: MJI, ICAO: HLLM) is an airport in Libya, located about 8 kilometres (5 miles) east of Tripoli's city center that was established in 1995. Originally an Italian air base built in 1923, it became a German air base during World War II before coming under American control as Wheelus Air Base until the 1969 Libyan coup d'état. It was then used as Okba Ben Nafi Air Base by both Libyan and Soviet air forces. The United States bombed the base in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon. The air base was renamed and converted to civilian use in 1995 as a second airport for Tripoli. Lightly damaged during the 2011 Libyan Civil War, Mitiga frequently serves some commercial cargo and passenger flights, the more so over periods when Tripoli International Airport is closed, as it has been since 14 July 2014.
The airport was originally built in 1923 by the Italian Air Force as Mellaha Air Base (الملاّحة). A motor racing circuit subsequently built around the airport and Mellaha Lake began hosting the popular Tripoli Grand Prix in 1933. During World War II is was taken over by the German Luftwaffe, falling to the British in 1943, and after the war handed to the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1945 and renamed Wheelus Air Base. During the USAFs tenure the base was extended, demolishing the derelict motor racing buildings. A 1954 agreement with Libya extended use of the base until 1971, but changing needs led the United States to withdraw completely by 1970, handing the facility over to the new Libyan government that had taken power a year earlier in the 1969 Libyan coup d'état. 
After the US Air Force left in 1970, the base was renamed Okba Ben Nafi Air Base (seemingly after the legendary hero Uqba ibn Nafi) and served as a Libyan People's Air Force (LPAF) installation. OBN AB housed the LPAF's headquarters and a large share of its major training facilities. In addition, aircraft and personnel of the Soviet Air Force took up residence at the base.
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.
Operation El Dorado Canyon
In 1986, the base was a primary target of Operation El Dorado Canyon, a US retaliatory air strike against Libya for missile attacks on US aircraft over disputed territorial waters in the Mediterranean Sea and Libyan involvement in terrorist attacks on US servicemen in Europe. 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.
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 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.
The fourteen-hour 9,300-kilometre (5,800-mile) round trip to Libya required repeated in-air refueling (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.
2011 Libyan civil war
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. On 13 March 2011, Ali Atiyya, a colonel of the Libyan Air Force at the airport, defected and joined the anti-Gaddafi forces. 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
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.
Airlines and destinations
As of November 2014:
|Libyan Airlines||Alexandria (HBE)|
|Afriqiyah Airways||Istanbul (IST), Casablanca (CMN), Niamey (NIM), Khartoum (KRT)|
|Buraq Air||Istanbul (IST)|
|MNG Airlines||Amsterdam, Istanbul-Ataturk, Munich |
|Turkish Airlines Cargo||Istanbul-Ataturk, Maastricht/Aachen, Zürich |
- Flashback: The Berlin disco bombing. BBC on 13 November 2001.
- "Here Mittiga base where Gaddafi celebrates 40 years of resistance". Il Foglio. 17 June 2011.
- "Company Profile." Buraq Air. Retrieved 14 May 2010. "The company headquarters are located at Mittiga International Airport in Tripoli – Libya."
- "Fresh Reports of Tripoli Fighting – Air Base May Have Fallen to Rebels". The Times. 25 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
- "Libya in Turmoil – Live Updates". The Guardian. 25 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
- . libyafeb17.com.
- Staff (20 August 2011). "Libyan Rebels in Fight for Tripoli Airbase – Activist". Reuters. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- "After Action Report: Umm Aitiqah Airfield, Libya". OSGEOINT. 28 October 2011.
- MNG Airlines Schedule
- TK cargo summer 2012 schedule listing MJI
- Accident history for MJI at Aviation Safety Network
- Airport information for HLLM at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
- 20th FDW/TFW F-100 photos
- Lady Be Good Official Website
- USAF Museum Lady Be Good Factsheet