on Al-Wallid


In their 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 and Ahwaz.
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 Iraq.
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?