ISIS could make big military aircraft haul by taking over Balad Air Base

ISIS could make big military aircraft haul by taking over Balad Air Base

[Ed. – Fortunately, you can’t just hop in an Mi-8 helicopter and start flying it.  If ISIS does get hold of a bunch of military aircraft, and is able to start using them, we’ll know who’s helping them train themselves and maintain the airframes.]

Now, that airbase is coming under fire—and is in danger of falling into the hands of ISIS, according to U.S. intelligence officers, internal reports from Balad, and outside analysts. Reuters reported Wednesday that the base was now surrounded on three sides by insurgents and taking heavy mortar fire.

“We assess the group continues to threaten the air base and Iraqi Security Force control of the air base as it moves south towards Baghdad,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters Tuesday.

Of course, even if ISIS were to gain control of Balad, there is no guarantee its fighters would know how to operate or maintain the aircraft that are stored there. But an ISIS takeover of Balad would be significant nonetheless. As NBC News reported Tuesday, Iraqi officers say without air support they are on an equal footing with ISIS fighters. …

If ISIS were to gain access to Balad, they would be able to acquire a significant arsenal to add to their already impressive stock of vehicles, weapons and equipment. James Codling, who served as a contractor and senior engineer on the base between 2008 and 2012, told The Daily Beast that when the U.S. forces left in 2011, they left at least 1,000 trucks and vehicles, some of them armored, along with 500 to 600 portable power generators. He also said the base housed Russian-made Mi-8 transport helicopters, small surveillance planes, military tactical vehicles, Humvees and a fleet of pickup trucks with machine guns mounted in the truck beds. …

For ISIS…the lower-tech equipment will likely prove most useful—in part, because they are easier to operate and maintain.

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