frustration for a successful offensive against Iran on the
northern front between 12th and 22nd March of 1981, Iraq fired
two Frog-7 surface-to-surface Rockets against cities of Dezful
Within days after this attack, commanders of the 31st and
32nd Tactical Fighter Wing in Shahrokhi Tactical Air Base
(TAB 3, near Hamadan) planned a counter attack. According
to Iranian intelligence, the Iraqi Air Force removed most
of her valuable assets to its Al-Wallid air base on the Baghdad-Amman
highway close to Jordanian border, part of H-3 complex. There
at least two squadrons equipped with ten Tu-22B and at least
six Tu-16 heavy bombers as well as two other units with MiG-23BNs
and Su-20s were hidden. Supposedly out of reach of the Iranian
Air Force. But, Iraqi's were wrong. For their operation against
Al-Wallid, 31st and 32nd Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) gathered
their best F-4E Phantom crews, four F-14A Tomcats, one Boeing
747 airborne command post and three Boeing 707 tankers. The
plan was as follows, since the interceptors of the Iraqi air
defenses were usually not very active, especially not in Northern
Iraq. The only other obstacle was that Iranian pilots had
to be careful to avoid SAMs in order to reach their target.
Al-Wallid was almost 700 kilometers from Hamadan, and Phantoms
had to fly over Baghdad. To increase their chances Iranian
commanders decided to deploy their aircraft to Tabriz (TAB
2) first, and then from there they would have a "clean"
route passing by Mosul and Kirkuk toward H-3. Since Phantoms
could not reach their target without refueling in the air,
two Boeing 707-3J9C had to be sent to Turkey in order to help
the operation by meeting the attackers somewhere over northern
The operation began in the early hours of the April 4,1981.
The formation of eight F-4E, accompanied by two airborne reserves
(whose pilots were sad enough that they had to return as nobody
had any technical problems), started from Tabriz (TAB 2) and
crossed into Iraq. Two pairs of F-14 Tomcats stayed at low
altitude over the border waiting for their return. Sometime
earlier, two Boeing 707 started from Istanbul International
Airport in Turkey (officially in order to return to Iran)
and clandestinely diverted from international commercial route
in order to fly into Iraq. Flying at very low altitude between
mountains of northwest Iraq, two tankers meet the Phantom
formation and topped their fuel tanks, before escaping without
an incident back towards Tabriz. The Phantom attackers then
turned toward their prime target. The surprise was terrible
for Iraqi's, not a single Iraqi interceptor on three bases
of H-3 complex was in the air or ready to start.
The Phantoms split their formation into two sections coming
from several different directions and attacked different parts
of the base. First they bombed both runways at Al- Wallid
in order to block any Iraqi fighters from taking off. Then
further, bombs destroyed several hardened aircraft shelters.
In the meantime, cluster bombs of the second group of Phamtons
wrecked three large hangars, two radar stations and five Iraqi
bombers. Subsequently, other parked aircraft were strafed.
Iraqi's still hadn't reacted, even their anti-aircraft fire
was weak, Phantoms had enough time to make multiple attacks
and hit one enemy aircraft after another with the fire from
their guns. No less than 48 different planes were claimed
as destroyed or badly damaged at the end.
Finally, the whole Iranian formation turned back towards their
base. Not even one F-4E was damaged during the attack on Al-Wallid
and although many Iraqi interceptors were hasty scrambled
toward them, none could catch up with Phantoms.
The Iranian attack against Al-Wallid is the most successful
such operation against any air base since 1967. Never again
would only eight aircraft destroy such a large number of enemy
aircrafts on the ground in one mission.
Iraqi air defense command later claimed that Syrian interceptors
were helping Iranians during the attack, and their radar followed
Phantoms for some 67 minutes. If it was so, there are only
two questions to be asked from Iraqi air defense. First, If
they were alarmed by Syrian interceptors, why Iraqi interceptors
weren't in the air already?. Secondly, why didn't they succeeded
in stopping the brave bunch from the 31st and 32nd TFW?