Iran Unveils Underground Air Base For Its F-4 Phantom II fighter jets

Iran underground base
Iranian F-4 Phantom fighter jets inside the underground base (Photo: Fars News Agency)

The underground base is said to be the first large enough to host fighter jets and one of several more being built.

As part of the celebrations for the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran unveiled an underground air force base, dubbed “Eagle 44”, which, according to Iranian news agencies, is the first of this kind large enough to host fighter jets, bombers and drones. The Iranians claim this is one of their most important bases, built deep underground to protect from air strikes its jets equipped with long-range missiles.

According to Fars News Agency, the base “consists of various sections, such as an alert area, command post, warplane hangars, repair and maintenance center, navigation and airport equipment, and fuel tanks. The underground bases accommodate jets in safe locations and furnish the planes with electronic warfare systems and various bombs and missiles, which allow for standoff aerial operations and extend the strategic range of attacks against remote targets.”

Iran underground base
Iranian F-4 Phantom fighter jets inside the underground base (Photo: Fars News Agency)

“Any attack on Iran from our enemies, including Israel, will see a response from our many air force bases including Eagle 44,” Iran’s armed forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri told state TV. Photos shared with the press show high-ranking officers walking through the tunnels, which are covered in slogans both in Arabic and English.

Iran claims that no kind of bomb can affect these tunnels, with state TV showing footage of a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb hitting a target inside a hardened shelter and a B-2A Spirit bomber dropping the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator. Let’s remember that the MOP, with its 30,000 lb (14,000 kg) of weight and 5,300 lb (2,400 kg) high-explosive warhead, can penetrate up to 200 ft (61 m) through reinforced concrete before detonating.

During the visit of the officers, the aging F-4 Phantoms jets of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force were shown starting up and taxiing through the tunnels to reach the runway outside of the underground base. The F-4s, acquired from the United States before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, is the most numerous fighter jet of the IRIAF, with about 60 in service as the country’s main combat aircraft.

Iranian high-ranking officers inspect an F-4 Phantom fighter jet armed with indigenous weapons, which appear to be a Mk-82 bomb with a glide kit and one of Iran’s anti-ship weapons. (Photo: Fars News Agency)

Iran sees its air force struggling due to long-running sanctions and arms embargoes, but somewhat the IRIAF continues its efforts to keep these types in service, and began a number of projects to refurbish and upgrade them. Among the upgrades there are indigenous glide weapons and anti-ship missiles shown in some photos alongside US-made weapons such as the Mk-82 “dumb” bombs, AGM-65 Maverick guided missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

Iranian news agencies reported that this is just the first base of this kind, with others being built across the country. The photos and videos shared online carefully avoided anything that could provide landmarks to locate this base. “These bases that have been constructed in proportion to the needs and with high safety factor are located under a mountainous areas, so that they can be used for surprise aerial operations,” reported the state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency.

Tasnim also reported the unveiling of a new indigenous air-launched cruise missile named “Asef”, which will reportedly be used by Soviet-era Su-24 Fencer bombers of the IRIAF. According to Tasnim, the new missile was put on display in the new underground base, but Su-24s and the “Asef” missile were nowhere to be seen in the photos and videos shared by the news agencies.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.