Abandoned MiGs & Other Aircraft: Former Soviet Hardware From Iraq to Russia

Image by Bahamut0013

(Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported)

“The MiG“, and all the aircraft variants that name covers, has become an enduring icon of the Cold War.  The vast number built by the Soviet Union and later Russia over the last half century and heavily exported means that, while some remain airborne, others lie derelict or destroyed from Siberia to Iraq and beyond.  The MiGs shown in this article – along with bomber aircraft built by other Russian manufacturers – reflect a small percentage of those that continue to languish on in various states of disrepair.

Al Asad Air Base, Iraq

Image via U.S. Marine Corps

(Image in public domain)

Al Asad Air Base became a major staging post in the U.S.-British led invasion of Iraq.  The abandoned MiG-25 (top) was left behind by Iraqi forces and subsequently destroyed when U.S. troops took over the base.  The jet is typical of the wrecks littering Al Asad, although some, including the twin-seat MiG-21 above, remain in better condition.  The relatively intact bombers (below), manufactured by Ilyushin and Tupolev, languish on the desert floor to the extreme south side of the field.

Images by jamesdale10 (top) and James Gordon

(Images top and bottom licensed through Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

These aircraft were built in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and exported far and wide.  Many Middle Eastern countries operate Soviet-built equipment as well as, ironically in the case of Iran, the U.S.-built F-4 Phantom - one of America’s front line defenses against the Soviet Union in addition to its key role in the Vietnam War.

Tallil Air Base

Images via U.S. Federal Government

(Images top and bottom in public domain)

Not quite as intact as Al Asad, Tallil Air Base shows the signs of heavy bombing dating back almost 20 years.  These barely recognisable jets were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and have remained in the same place ever since.  Discovered by Allied forces around 2003, this bombed-out MiG-23 and MiG-29 Fulcrum are a common site on the Iraqi landscape.

Al-Taqqadum Air Base

Images by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

(Images left and right licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

It’s amazing how far the authorities will go to prevent others from uncovering – literally – military secrets, from highly classified aircraft to military hardware buried in the sand.  Russian-built jets were well known for their robust airframes, so there’s every chance this MiG-25 Foxbat was expected to fly again at some stage.  But the U.S. got to it first, digging it out of the sand at Al-Taqqadum Air Base, west of Baghdad.  It’s now  in the restoration hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

MiG-23 Graveyard, Balad

Images by nathanm

(Images licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

Rotting away at Balad Air Base is a graveyard of armoured vehicles, tanks and most significantly, a row of abandoned MiG-23s.  North of Baghdad and now known as Camp Anaconda, the 11 derelict MiGs can be seen on Google Earth arranged in single file and isolated from other military wreckage.  These pictures suggest the MiGs and other abandoned military hardware were moved to this vehicle graveyard after the base was swallowed up by U.S. and British forces.  (Read our full feature about Balad’s abandoned MiG-23s.)

Old and Abandoned Migs in Russia and Ukraine

Images by Leszek Golubinski

(Images licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

Despite the spoils of recent wars, the best place to find abandoned MiGs and other Soviet aircraft is Russia and other former Eastern Bloc states.  The vast number built combined with the remoteness of their locations – especially in the far reaches of Siberia -  mean many former front line aircraft remain in their old operating locations far away from civilisation.

Images by Wojsyl (top) and Kobel

(Top image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; lower in public domain)

Many massive Cold War airfields in Russia have now been destroyed, with their concrete used for other projects.  But in these distant corners of the world, some disused airfields will probably remain for generations, together with the aircraft that once frightened the West on a daily basis.

Images by English Russia

The abandoned Soviet bombers above, courtesy of this collection of photos from English Russia, are a prime example!

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  • StainlessSteelCynic

    The Iraqi MiG-25 found buried under sand was actually found by Australian SAS personnel

  • Tom

    Hey, thanks a lot for the heads-up! I was actually thinking of constructing an entire post around that buried MiG 25, so I’ll be sure to credit the Australian SAS in there :)

  • Pingback: Destroyed MiG-25 in Iraqi Aircraft Graveyard | Storm Climb

  • Matt

    So, so sad. Those beautiful airplanes left to rot

  • Matt

    So, so sad. Those beautiful airplanes left to rot

  • That Guy

    Actually your info regarding the F-4 Phantom is outdated, it’s been retired from US service as a combat aircraft since 1996. Its last use was the first Gulf War where F-4G Wild Weasels were used in the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) role.

  • Guest

    i saw a mig 15 in the the junk

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=734785186 Tron Frico Suave Bosse

    I saw some of these jets when I was at Al-Taqaddum Air Base back in 2005.

 
 
 
 
 

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