Qayyarah Airfield West
|Qayyarah Airfield West
Qayyarah Airfield West is a former Iraqi Air Force base in the Qayyarah subdistrict of Mosul District in northern Iraq. It was captured by Coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It was also known as Q–West or Key West by the various U.S. Army Forces and civilian contractors stationed there.
Formerly known as Saddam Airbase, the facility is located 16 kilometers west of the Tigris River, 20 kilometers west of Qayyarah town, 60 kilometers south of Mosul and about 300 kilometers north of Baghdad. Qayyarah West AB was built in the late 1970s and was one of several Iraqi Air Force airfields of the 1970s which were re-built under project "Super-Base" in response to experiences from Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973. It became a major airfield during the 1980s war with Iran, when it was the main hub for Iraqi Mirage F1EQ operations, and when it was the first airbase of MiG-23MLs. Later during that war, MiG-25s operated from the airbase as well.
The secondary "Sector-Operations Center" (SOC) of the Northern Command IrAF was based here until March 2003. There were two Weapon Storage Areas (WSA) located 10 and 12 kilometers to the north that were probably associated with Qayyarah West. WSA 1 had 30 munition storage igloos and is 1640 acres in size. WSA 2 had 42 munition storage igloos and is 800 acres in size. It is not known whether these storage areas were built after Operation Desert Storm or whether they were struck during Operation Desert Fox.
United States military use
During Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, the base was heavily attacked by Coalition airpower and seized by Coalition ground forces. When US troops arrived on May 23, the main runway and the control tower, set about two miles away from the headquarters compound, had suffered damage. More than thirty craters were the result of precision bombing by American planes during both Gulf Wars: about 13 craters were gouged out of the 2.2-mile long main strip, and another 30 impact craters destroyed surrounding runways and lesser airstrips; some of the craters reached 30 feet in depth, and 120 feet in diameter.
By July 2003, Qayyarah West Airfield was the home of the 'Bastogne Bulldogs', the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. One of the first priorities was repair of the runway and tower, and the airfield was then able to accept the largest US transports, such as C-5 Galaxy. After 69 days of around-the-clock work, soldiers of the 37th Engineer Battalion, out of Fort Bragg, NC, repaired the craters that littered the main airstrip at Q-West and had prevented planes from landing there; as a result, a more secure route for needed items was established.
Qayyarah West was protected by a 20 kilometers security perimeter. Within the perimeter, vegetation growth highlights drew attention to the base. Vegetation planted to obscure the base from ground observation had the opposite effect when viewed from overhead.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, only a handful of the 101 Airborne's 1st Brigade actually lived on base; most of the soldiers were spread around the region, where they were tasked with missions such as local outreach and assistance, search and cordon, safety patrols and guard duty for important archaeological sites to prevent looting. The outlying troops lived where they worked, some in tents, others in makeshift quarters in existing buildings.
FOB Endurance was located at Qayyarah Airfield West. It was another name for FOB Q-West.
The facility is surrounded by desert and no settlements are located near the base. In November 2004, the facility's internet access was slow relative to that available at Mosul Airbase and sometimes prone to not working. Phone access was reported to be limited. Mail deliveries were described as taking extra time because of the facility's remote location, but were running at about 3 per week, while outgoing mail was limited to one or two times per month.
A soldier-operated mini-PX opened on November 20, 2004, in room 116 of the bombed out palace. The mini-PX was to be supplied with stock from the main PX warehouse at Mosul Airbase. Other facilities at FOB Endurance included a dining facility, an MWR building with a theater. The base gym which, in November 2004, was operated by KBR, offered a basketball court, along with access to free weights, exercise bicycles and treadmills.
On December 17, 2004, the 917th Corps Support Group took over the duties of the 167th Corps Support Group at FOB Endurance. The 2-8th Field Artillery and 163rd Ordnance Detachment F was also stationed at the facility starting around November 2004. The 116th Rear Area Operations Center moved to FOB Endurance after Thanksgiving 2004 from Mosul AB.
ISIL occupation and recapture
Qayyarah Airfield West came under ISIL occupation in 2014 along with the Mosul area. During the occupation, the base had been the target of airstrikes by aircraft of the international coalition. In February 2015, there were reports that ISIL evacuated the base intermittently in the aftermath of coalition bombing attacks. "Dozens of dead and wounded" among the ISIL militants in the attacks were also reported.
On 9 July 2016, the Iraqi army recaptured Qayyarah Airfield West from ISIL during the Mosul offensive, reportedly "without any resistance". The airfield was considered a "strategic launch-pad" for the ongoing offensive. Photos showed obviously unusable Iraqi warplanes.
- Pike, John (10 January 2012). "Qayyarah Airfield West / Saddam Airbase". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "Iraq: Iraqi forces liberate Alqayara air force base from ISIS". Arab 24. 11 July 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
[...] the Qayara Air Force Base, located 20 km from the town of Qayara [...].
- Cooper, Tom (26 September 2003). "Iraqi super-bases". Archived from the original on 10 October 2014.
- ISIS evacuates Qayyarah base after a heavy bombardment by aircrafts [sic] of international coalition, Shafaaq.com, 24 February 2015
- Iraqi army takes key base south of Mosul from ISIS, Alarabiya.net, 9 July 2016
- Qayarah airfield after liberation, Liveuamap.com, 9 July 2016