Normally on World Abandoned we concentrate on abandoned and derelict buildings however this story is one of the strangest we’ve come across. It’s the story of the Iraqi Air Force and the aircraft that were abandoned in the run up to the coalition invasion. Not much information is clear about why Sajama Hussein’s regime grounded their entire fleet however the article here gives fantastic insight. The extract below and the pictures are from the same site (ACIG.org)
Then came the ultimate order. In mid-March the IrAF and the IrADF were ordered to disassemble all of their aircraft. The order was originally “nothing special:” the officers and personnel were used to such orders and were trained so often that the technicians became highly proficient in disassembling their aircraft, and hiding them in the countryside, on farms, or in urban areas. They would remove the wings, tow the aircraft to the hiding site, and then cover them with camouflage netting.
But, the Iraqi dictator obviously had a different idea in mind, about the eventual use of his air force: not only subsequently no order came to the IrAF and the IrADF to reassemble their aircraft, but in early March most of the commanders were ordered to even burry the aircraft. During the nights, fighter-planes worth millions of dollars were brought out of their underground shelters and buried in the sand several kilometres outside the bases or were carefully hidden in olive grows, or in nearby villages and towns. In one case a Su-22 was found – and later destroyed by USAF F-16s – in a middle of a hamlet more than dozen of kilometres away from the nearest airfield! Dozens of other aircraft were dispersed to different airfields around the country, especially to remote aircraft in the west of the country, like H-1 New, H-2, and the H-3 complex (consisting of three air bases and one highway strip).
Once there, the aircraft were mostly abandoned – both by the Coalition air, but also by the IrAF: both sides only monitored them. The last flight of an IrAF aircraft was recorded on 19 March 2003: a Mirage F.1EQ was scrambled from an unknown air base and then seen returning for a safe landing – shortly later.
Essentially, Saddam’s regime grounded the entire Iraqi air force.