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Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 'Flogger'
Image Gallery 9

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Formerly known as the Al-Bakir Air Base in Iraq, Joint Base Balad is littered with the remnants of Saddam Hussein's once-mighty war machine. Among the ruins is a "MiG-23 graveyard" featuring stripped and graffitied carcasses of several fighters left behind after the fall of Hussein's regime.

Prior to the US invasion, Saddam's forces had dispersed the planes outside the base's perimeter hoping to save them from destruction during airstrikes. Joint Base Balad is now a major American base that has been used to support operations in and around the capital of Baghdad, located about 50 miles (80 km) to the south. Soldiers discovered the MiGs hidden nearby, including one in a crude revetment constructed in a cemetery north of the base.

The Iraqis used similar techniques at bases across the country hoping to resurrect its military power after US forces departed. These MiG-23s had been stored relatively intact, unlike a group of MiG-25 fighters that were disassembled and buried in the desert.

Their efforts came to naught, however, and none of the combat planes acquired during Saddam's reign remain in service today. The MiG-23 fleet was towed back inside the Balad perimiter and placed in a junkyard with T-72 tanks and other arms. The dilapidated planes have instead become a means of entertainment for idle American soldiers to express their thoughts through spray paint.

MiG-23 (57k) Abandoned MiG-23 of the Iraqi Air Force covered in graffiti from American soldiers
MiG-23 (58k) View up the long disused tailpipe of a forlorn Iraqi MiG-23
MiG-23 (31k) American Black Hawk helicopter flies above a group of battered MiG-23s
MiG-23 (82k) Tanks, rocket launchers, and anti-aircraft guns among the discarded equipment stored in the MiG-23 graveyard
MiG-23 (43k) Birds perch atop the cockpit frame of a dilapidated MiG-23 formerly used by the Iraqi Air Force
MiG-23 (32k) Row of Iraqi MiG-23 fighters covered in love notes from lonely American soldiers
MiG-23 (126k) View into the cockpit and upper fuselage of a MiG-23 stripped of avionics
MiG-23 (51k) Graveyard of forlorn Iraqi MiG-23 fighters covered in graffiti
MiG-23 (52k) Rudder of an abandoned Iraqi MiG-23 emblazoned with the words "I LOVE U KATIE"
MiG-23 (44k) Cockpit canopy lies on the ground next to a stripped MiG-23 that will never fly again
MiG-23 (65k) Former MiG-23 of the Iraqi Air Force covered in a new kind of camoflauge
MiG-23 (96k) An Iraqi MiG-23 sits grounded as a US C-17 climbs into the sky from Joint Base Balad
MiG-23 (38k) The sun sets over Iraq's MiG-23 graveyard
MiG-23 (59k) Closeup of graffiti nearly obscurring the Iraqi roundel and fin flash on this MiG-23
MiG-23 (51k) Nose of a dilapidated Iraqi MiG-23 pointing skyward though it will never fly again

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