Bagram Airfield

Bagram Airfield
Bagram Airfield
070520-Bagram Airfield from the Air Traffic Control Tower's catwalk 3.jpg
Bagram Airfield
Airport type Military
Owner Government of Afghanistan
Operator United States Army
United States Air Force
Location Bagram, Afghanistan
Elevation AMSL 4,895 ft / 1,492 m
Coordinates 34°56′46″N 069°15′54″E / 34.94611°N 69.265°E / 34.94611; 69.265
Direction Length Surface
m ft
03/21 3,003 9,852 Concrete
03/21 3,500 11,000 Concrete

Bagram Airfield,[1][2] also referred to as Bagram Air Base, is a militarized airport and housing complex that is located next to the ancient city of Bagram, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) southeast of Charikar in Parwan province of Afghanistan. The base is run by a US Army division headed by a major general. A large part of the base, however, is "owned" by the United States Air Force (455th Air Expeditionary Wing). The area under Air Force control (about half of the overall base) includes the flight line, the ramp, and most of the area involving air mission resources. The base is currently occupied and maintained by the Combined Joint Task Force 1st Cavalry Division (CJTF-1), having taken over from the 101st Airborne Division in the first half of 2011. The airfield is occupied and maintained by 10th Combat Aviation Brigade (Task Force Falcon) and 3-10 GSAB (Task Force Phoenix) of the United States Army, with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing of the United States Air Force and other U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and their NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) coalition partner units having sizeable tenant populations.

Bagram Airfield has three large hangars, a control tower, and numerous support buildings. There are more than 32 acres (130,000 m²) of ramp space and five aircraft dispersal areas, with a total of over 110 revetments. Many support buildings and base housing built by the Soviet Armed Forces during their occupation were destroyed by years of fighting between various warring Afghan factions after the Soviets left. New barracks and office buildings are slowly being constructed at the present time. There is also Bagram Theater Internment Facility, a detention centre which has been criticized in the past for its abusive treatment of prisoners. In May 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that since August 2009 it was informed by US authorities about inmates of a second prison where detainees are held in isolation and without access to the International Red Cross that is usually guaranteed to all prisoners.[3]

The ICAO ID is OAIX and it is specifically at 34.944N, 69.259E at 1,492 metres (4,895 ft) above sea level. The base had a single 3,003 metres (9,852 ft) runway built in 1976. A second runway, 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) long,[4] was built and completed by the US military in late 2006, at a cost of USD$68 million. This new runway is 497 metres (1,631 ft) longer than the previous one and 280 millimetres (11 in) thicker, giving it the ability to land larger aircraft, such as the C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III or the Boeing 747 (which is used by Southern Air and Kalitta Air for regular cargo flights).[5]



The original runway, 10,000 feet (3,000 m) long, was built in 1976.

Soviet invasion era

Bagram Airfield played a key role during the Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, serving as a base of operations for troops and supplies. Bagram was also the initial staging point for the invading Soviet forces at the beginning of the conflict, with elements of two Soviet Airborne Troops' divisions being deployed there. Aircraft based at Bagram, including the 368th Assault Aviation Regiment flying Su-25s, provided close air support for Soviet and Afghan troops in the field. The 368th Assault Aviation Regiment was stationed at Bagram from October 1986 to November 1987.[6] In 1987 a memorial was erected in honor of the five Soviet Air Force Su-25 "Frogfoot" pilots who had been killed during the war, including Captain Burak and Senior Lieutenants Aleshin, Zemlyakov, Paltusov and Hero of the Soviet Union Pavlyukov. The dilapidated memorial was discovered by U.S. Air Force Sergeants David Keeley and Raymond Ross, and Army Sergeant Tom Clark in 2006. An attempt was made to preserve it as a historical site, refurbish and possibly relocate the memorial to the Russian embassy in Kabul, but it was ultimately destroyed by base personnel in 2008.

Some of the Soviet land forces based at Bagram included the 108th Motor Rifle Division and the 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment of the 105th Guards Airborne Division.

Civil War era

Destroyed aircraft line the runway, early 2002

Following the withdrawal of the Soviet forces and the rise of the US armed and trained[7]Mujahideen, Afghanistan plunged into civil war. Control of the base was contested from 1999 onward between the Northern Alliance and Taliban, often with each controlling territory on opposing ends of the base. Taliban forces were consistently within artillery and mortar range of the field, denying full possession of the strategic facility to the Northern Alliance. Press reports indicated that at times a Northern Alliance general was using the bombed-out control tower as an observation post and as a location to brief journalists, with his headquarters nearby.

Reports also indicated that Northern Alliance rocket attacks on Kabul had been staged from Bagram, possibly with Russian-made FROG-7 Rockets.

US and allied forces invasion era

During the US-led invasion of Afghanistan the base was secured by a team from the British special force Special Boat Service. By early December 2001 troops from the 10th Mountain Division shared the base with Special Operations Command officers from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida and soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg. The British force consisted of B and C Companies from 40 Commando Royal Marines. As of mid-December 2001 more than 300 US troops, mainly with the 10th Mountain Division, were providing force protection at Bagram. The troops patrolled the base perimeter, guarded the front gate, and cleared the runway of explosive ordnance. As of early January 2002 the number of 10th Mountain Division troops had grown to about 400 soldiers.

As of late January 2002, there were somewhat over 4,000 US troops in Afghanistan, of which about 3,000 were at Kandahar airport, and about 500 were stationed at Bagram Airfield. The runway was repaired by US, Italian and Polish military personnel.

As of mid-June 2002, Bagram Airfield was serving as home to more than 7,000 US and other armed services. Numerous tent areas house the troops based there, including one named Viper City.

US President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush arrived to Bagram Airfield in Air Force One on 1 March 2006.

By November 2003 B-huts, 18-by-36-foot structures made of plywood designed to hold eight troops,[8] were replacing the standard shelter option for troops. There were several hundred, with plans to build close to 800 of them. The plans were to have nearly 1,200 structures built by 2006, but completion of the project was expected much earlier; possibly by July 2004. The increased construction fell under US Central Command standards of temporary housing and allowed for the building of B-huts on base, not to show permanence, but to raise the standard for troops serving here. The wooden structures have no concrete foundation thus not considered permanent housing, just an upgrade from the tents, the only option Bagram personnel and troops had seen previously. The small homes offer troops protection from environmental conditions including wind, snow, sand and cold. During 2005, a USO facility was built and named after former pro football player and United States Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

By 2007 Bagram has become the size of a small town, with traffic jams and many commercial shops selling goods such as clothes to food. The base itself is situated high up in the mountains and sees temperatures drop to −20 °F (−29 °C). Due to the height and snow storms commercial aircraft have difficulty landing there, and older aircrafts often rely on very experienced crews in order to be able to land there.

On 18 October 2009 The State reported on Bagram's expansion.[9] The article reported that Bagram was currently undergoing $200 million USD expansion projects, and called the Airfield a "boom town". According to the article: "Official U.S. policy is not to create a permanent occupation force in Afghanistan. But it is clear from what's happening at Bagram Airfield - the Afghan end of the Charleston-to-Afghanistan lifeline - that the U.S. military won't be packing up soon."

In March 2010 the US Air Force (USAF) installed 150 solar powered lights to address a rising number of sexual assaults at the base. Eight reported sexual assaults occurred at the base in 2009 involving Airmen and the US Army's sexual assault response team reported treating 45 victims in 2009.[10]

Significant Bagram Airfield attacks

The 2007 Bagram Airfield bombing was a suicide attack that killed up to 23 people and injured 20 more at the base, while Dick Cheney, the vice-president of the United States, was visiting. The attack occurred inside one of the security gates surrounding the heavily guarded base.

Veterans Day at the base in 2008

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack and said Cheney was the target. Another Taliban spokesman later said that Osama Bin Laden planned the attack, and reiterated that Cheney was the intended target. This claim is supported by the relatively limited number of large suicide bombings carried out in Afghanistan, combined with the intensity of this attack, and the fact that Cheney was at the base.

Cheney was unhurt in the attack. Among the dead were a US soldier, PFC Daniel Zizumbo, a US contractor, Geraldine Marquez-Rincon, a South Korean soldier, and 20 Afghan workers at the base.

On 4 March 2009, a car bomb exploded just outside Bagram Airfield wounding three civilian workers.[11]

On 21 June 2009, two US soldiers were killed and at least six other personnel were wounded during an early morning rocket attack.

In 2008, several U.S. servicemembers were accused of accepting bribes for the award of building contracts on Bagram.[12][13][14][15] Four of the Afghans have also faced charges, while three of them have been held as material witnesses. The GIs are reported to have received over 100,000 dollars in bribes.

On the morning of March 15, 2010 at 4:00am, Insurgents attacked the base with rockets. One of the rockets landed next to a B-Hut in a camp located on the west side of the base killing a Bosnian national, Almir Bikovic, who was working at Bagram as a contract firefighter

Early on the morning of 19 May 2010, Taliban suicide bombers attacked Bagram, with "nearly a dozen" insurgents and one U.S. contractor reported dead while nine service members were reported wounded. A base spokesman said a building was slightly damaged during attacks by rockets, small arms, and grenades; a Taliban spokesman claimed 20 armed men wearing suicide vests attacked the base with four detonating explosives at the entrances, but the military spokesman said they failed "to breach the perimeter" and were "unable to detonate their suicide vests."[16] The attackers were dressed in US Army uniforms.[17][18]

Most incidents do not receive press coverage. Evidencing this fact, it was reported in that "Bagram came under daily rocket attack" in 2002 even though most of these attacks went unreported by the press.[19][20] Landmines have also been a serious concern in and around Bagram.[21]

Early on the morning of 30 December 2010, Taliban insurgents fired two rockets on Bagram though no casualties were reported. Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident.[22]

During recent attacks, the mortars and rockets fired by insurgents have proven to be extremely inaccurate. Bagram Airfield has arguably become one of the safest bases in the country of Afghanistan.

Airlines and destinations

Bagram handles a number of scheduled and charter military and commercial flights, some of which have been listed based on available information.

Airlines Destinations
Daallo Airlines [23]
Emirates SkyCargo Dubai, Shanghai-Pudong [24]
Kalitta Air Bahrain, Hong Kong [25]
Silk Way Airlines Baku [26]

Bagram Theater Internment Facility

The nurse office inside the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in 2009.

Bagram Airfield is the main detention facility for persons detained by US forces in Afghanistan.[27] As of November 2011 more than 3,000 people are detained at Bagram, roughly 18 times as many as in Guantanamo Bay. The number increased 5-fold since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.[28] They are mostly held in a building deep in the heart of the installation.[27] The detainees have included senior members of al-Qaeda and alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

In July 2005, about 450 alleged militants and journalists were being detained there.[29][30] Four suspected al-Qaeda militants escaped from Bagram detention center in the same month of 2005.[29] Apart from US military and intelligence personnel, the only people officially allowed inside the prison building are Red Cross representatives who inspect the facility once every two weeks.[31] The detainees have no access to any legal process.[32]

The Detention Center at Bagram has been heavily criticized for alleged torture and prisoner abuse. In 2005, the New York Times reported that two detainees had been beaten to death by guards in December 2002.[33] Amnesty International has used the word "torture" to describe treatment at the detention center.[34]

Many of the officers and soldiers interviewed by US Army investigators in the subsequent criminal investigation said the large majority of detainees at Bagram were compliant and reasonably well treated.[33] However, some interrogators routinely administered harsh treatment which included alleged beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, shackling to ceilings, and threats with guard dogs.[33] Amnesty International has criticized the US government for using dogs in this way at the detention center.[34]

Heathe Craig Joint Theater Hospital

The military hospital on the installation, named Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital.

The Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital on the base is 50 bed military hospital named after Heathe N. Craig an American medic who died while trying to save a wounded comrade.[35][36][37] According to DoD interviews with medical staff at the hospital its modern facilities rival the facilities at modern hospitals in the United States. It replaces a small, less modern facility.

Craig was trying to evacuate a wounded Afghan National Army soldier into a helicopter, when the winch line broke, SSG Craig and his patient both fell to their deaths.

Accidents and incidents

  • On 1 March 2010, ACT Airlines Airbus A300 TC-ACB sustained substantial damage when the port main landing gear did not extend and lock out completely. It then collapsed on landing forcing it to veer off the runway which in turn collapsed the nose landing gear and rammed the nose itself into the dirt. The aircraft was a write off and was scrapped within 4 days of the crash.[38]
  • Prisoner abuse at Bagram by US personnel was the subject of the Academy Award Winning Documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. The film details the severe beatings and torture, and ultimate death, of an innocent Afghan taxi driver.

See also


  1. ^ Rubin, Alissa J.. The New York Times. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Red Cross confirms 'second jail' at Bagram, Afghanistan; BBC, 11 May 2010.
  4. ^ "Bagram Air Base (OAIX)". AZ World Airports. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Bagram Airfield opens $68 million runway.
  6. ^ Frank Rozendaal, Rene van Woezik and Tieme Festner, 'Bear tracks in Germany: The Soviet Air Force in the former German Democratic Republic: Part 1, Air International, October 1992, p. 210.
  7. ^ Marshall, Andrew (1 November 1998). "Terror 'blowback' burns CIA". London: The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  8. ^ Harris, Kent (15 March 2005). "Buildings going up at Bagram Air Base as U.S. forces dig in for the long haul". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  9. ^ Chuck Crumbo (19 October 2009). October 2009 "Bagram Airfield keeps growing: More than $200 million in projects in the works". [[The State (newspaper)|]]. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. October 2009. 
  10. ^ Rolfsen, Bruce, "Sex assaults spur new lighting at Bagram base", Military Times, March 23, 2010.
  11. ^ Car bomb outside main U.S. base injures 3 in Kabul, Afghanistan; Taliban claims responsibility. Associated Press, 4 March 2009.
  12. ^ Carrie Johnston (10 October 2009). October 2009 "Afghan Men Tricked Into U.S. Trip, Detained: Possible Witnesses Have Been Forced To Stay Since 2008". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. October 2009. 
  13. ^ Caryn Rousseau (27 August 2008). October 2009 "2 US military men indicted on bribery charges". Fox News. Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. October 2009. 
  14. ^ October 2009 "Five Individuals Arrested, Two Contracting Companies Charged in Bribery Conspiracy Related to Department of Defense Contracts in Afghanistan". United States Department of Justice. 28 August 2008. Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. October 2009. 
  15. ^ Chuck Goudie (19 June 2009). October 2009 "2 Chicago military officials plead guilty here, including a soldier named Patton". Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. October 2009. 
  16. ^ Atia Abawi (19 May 2010). "Nearly a dozen militants dead after Bagram attack". 
  17. ^ Vandiver, John, "Two U.S. Army Green Berets get Silver Stars, 12 others get Bronze Stars for valor", Stars and Stripes, 13 June 2011.
  18. ^ Ryan, John, "2 SF earn Silver Stars for Afghanistan heroics", Military Times, 2 July 2011.
  19. ^ "Life At Bagram". Newsweek. 5 July 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "Rocket, Small Arms Fire Aimed at Bagram Air Base". US Department of Defense. 22 January 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  21. ^ "Afghanistan". Landmine and cluster munition moniter. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  22. ^ "Taliban Fire Rockets on Bagram Airbase". TOLO News. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ Ek Cargo to Bagram
  25. ^ Kalitta Air Bagram schedule
  26. ^ Silk schedule
  27. ^ a b "Bagram: US base in Afghanistan". BBC. 27 February 2007. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b "Afghanistan: Manhunt Continues For Four Suspected Al-Qaeda Fighters". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. 12 July 2005. 
  30. ^ "Afghan journalist detained at Bagram Air Base". Committee to Protect Journalists. 18 February 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2008. "New York, 18 February 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by the detention of Canadian Television (CTV) journalist Jawed Ahmad by U.S. military forces at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, for almost three months without charge." 
  31. ^ US detention related to the events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath – the role of the ICRC.
  32. ^ Charlie Savage, in New York Times: Obama Upholds Detainee Policy in Afghanistan, (online).
  33. ^ a b c Golden, Tim (20 May 2005). "In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths". New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  34. ^ a b Amnesty International Annual Report.
  35. ^ Thomas J. Doscher (9 March 2007). "New Bagram hospital offers state-of-art care". United States Air Force. Retrieved 23 January 2010. "The new hospital is the most advanced in the area of operations and features a four-bed trauma bay, three operating rooms and a state of the art dental clinic." 
  36. ^ John Jung (14 October 2009). "Craig Joint Theater Hospital team helps build Afghan nursing foundation". United States Air Force. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  37. ^ Thomas J. Doscher (4 March 2007). "New Joint Theater Hospital Offers Advanced Care in Afghanistan". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  38. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 

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