Iraq‘s military bases are littered with plane and tank carcasses destroyed when Saddam’s regime came crashing down. The evidence, however, is often hidden away from the public gaze, depriving urban explorers the opportunity to inspect them. But now you don’t have to, as this unique series of photos takes you to an aircraft graveyard filled with gutted MiG-23s.
Photographer Tamara Mann carried her camera almost everywhere while serving in Iraq, and has captured some compelling images as a result. These stripped-out and heavily graffitied MiG-23s were once the mainstream ground attack jets of the deposed regime. The Russian-built MiGs were discovered dispersed in isolated hiding places outside Joint Base Balad‘s perimeter, poised for action in the event they would once again be called upon.
However, these dejected-looking MiGs stood little chance of resurrection, and their only value now is scrap. The same goes for the abandoned T-72 tank above.
Joint Base Balad, formerly Al-Bakir Air Base, is now a major U.S. base and primary hub for operations around Baghdad (which is 80km south). American and Australian forces found most Iraqi combat aircraft in poor condition at various bases around the country, while others had been disassembled and buried. Many of the aircraft, like these MiG-23 Floggers, had been hidden but remained reasonably intact.
None of the aircraft procured during Saddam Hussein’s tenure remain in service today. The pictures above from Google Earth show the vast airbase at Balad. One of the MiG-23s was found parked in a makeshift revetment in a cemetery north of the base (bottom picture). The aircraft were towed back inside the perimeter, where they have since become an interesting sideshow for the troops based there. By the time these pictures were taken, the MiGs had begun to look like Iraqi versions of Britain’s most famous derelict fighter plane, now scrapped.
All images in this article are copyrighted and published with the permission of Tamara Mann. Be sure to check out Tamara’s website here, where you can see the full Mig-23 set and more.
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