Military Wiki
Operation Attack on H3
Part of Iran–Iraq war
Operation H3 map.png
Map of the attack
Operational scope Strategic
Location Al-Waleed Airfield, Iraq
32°44′57″N 39°35′28″E / 32.749177°N 39.591186°E / 32.749177; 39.591186
Planned by Major General Javad Fakoori (the commander of the IRIAF)
General Hooshyar
Objective Destruction of the Iraqi military aircraft
Date 4 April 1981
Executed by Seal of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.svg Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Outcome Decisive blow to the Iraqi airforce
Casualties 3 Antonov An-12
1 Tupolev Tu-16
9 Sukhoi Su-17
4 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
18 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23
5 Dassault Mirage F1
4 Helicopter

The attack on H3 was a surprise attack by Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in April 1981, against the Iraqi Air Force at H3 Airbase.


File:Phantoms are fueling from Boeing 707.jpg

An example of the refueling that happened during the mission

General Hooshyar, Assault Designer

In Saddam's attempts for a successful offensive against Iran on the northern front between 12 and 22 March 1981, Iraq fired two 9K52 Luna-M 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 counterattack. 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, presumably out of reach of the Iranian Air Force. For the operation against Al-Wallid, the 31st and 32nd Tactical Fighter Wings (TFW) employed F-4E Phantom crews, four F-14A Tomcats, one Boeing 747 airborne command post and three Boeing 707 tankers. Iran had noted that the interceptors of the Iraqi air defenses were usually not very active, especially not in Northern Iraq, so a plan was made to approach the Iraqi sites from that direction. Aside from Iraqi interceptors, Iranian pilots had to be careful to avoid SAMs in order to reach their target. Al-Wallid was almost 1500 kilometres from Hamadan, and Phantoms had to fly over Baghdad.

To increase their chances, Iranian commanders decided to fly their aircraft to Urmia Lake first, and then from there they would have a "clean" route passing over the mountains of Northern Iraqi-Turkish border. Since Phantoms could not reach their target without a number of aerial refueling, two Boeing 747 had to be sent to Syria in order to help the operation by meeting the strike group somewhere over western Iraqi border.

The operation began at 10:30am of the April 4, 1981. A formation of eight F-4E, accompanied by two airborne reserves started from Hamedan AFB (TAB 3) towards Urmia Lake and then after refueling over the friendly airspace they crossed into Iraq. a pair of F-14 Tomcats patrolled the area hours before the strike began and stayed there a few hours later to counter any probable retaliation from Iraqis. Two Boeing 747 tankers were deployed to Damascus airport in Syria a day before the mission begins. When the 8 phantoms were busy doing their first aerial refueling over Iranian air space, they receive the Go Ahead signal from Colonel Izadseta aboard one of the 747's in Syria, then they proceed to the target. The Phantoms split their formation into two sections coming from several different directions and attacked different parts of the complex. First they bombed both runways at Al-Wallid in order to block any Iraqi fighters from taking off. Additionally, bombs were used to destroy several hardened aircraft shelters. In the meantime cluster bombs of the second group of Phantoms wrecked three large hangars, two radar stations and five Iraqi bombers. Subsequently, other parked aircraft were strafed. The Iraqi's still had not reacted in force, their anti-aircraft fire was weak, and the Phantoms had enough time to make multiple attacks and hit multiple Iraqi aircraft with gunfire. Iran claimed that 48 Iraqi planes were destroyed or badly damaged by the end of the attack.

After the attack the Iranian formation turned back towards their own bases. No Iranian F-4E aircraft were damaged during the attack on Al-Wallid and although many Iraqi interceptors were scrambled toward them, none could catch up with Phantoms.

The Iranian attack against Al-Wallid is the most successful Iranian operation against any air base since 1967. Eight aircraft were responsible for destroying a large number of enemy aircraft 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.[1]

Situation and Revolution Aftermath

Major General Fakouri, Defence Minister

The Iranian army, navy, and especially airforce had undergone extensive high-level cleansing after they declared neutrality following the joints cheifs meeting, in 1979, chaired by General Fardoust which was a triple agent. Fardoust was the Shah's right hand man and his childhood friend and the imparative part of the dagger in the back of the Shah and Iran. After declaration of neutrality by the military, which the Shah famously said in an interview: "what neutrality? between order and disorder?" Later on he mentioned "we were promising going back to our great civilization and I only need 2-5 more years to cross the gates but what now what did they choose? they traded great civilization for great terror. Ultimately, once the chaos settled the Army brass were executed in 5 minute trials ( some of the greatest and bravest of whome executed on the day of Khomeini's arrival atop the roof of Refah highschool). In the aftermath of Operation Dawn, the last highly traiend and experienced generals were executed. Military capacity after the executions was down to around 50% for all 3 branches. "They took the lions but the cubs still outperformed with valour" during 8 years of holly defence against the world.

Brief Background

When Saddam disputed the water borders in River Arvand and declared any Iranian ship, civil or military, will be fired upon if crossing the River into the Persian Gulf with an Iranian flag. He arrange the formation across the river alongside Iranian borders and was ready. The Shah had an interview with Le Monde Newspaper saying if Saddad won't honor the Algeria treaty he'd have to deal with the consequences. An Iranian cargo ship then set sail from the northern Iranian port towards the Persian Gulf. The Imperial Iranian Airforce scrambled a squadron of f-14 tomcats with the Shah , Aryamehr, piloting the vanguard. Target coordinates were the presidential palace in Baghdad. The Shah personally broadcasted the following directive on the common channel: "This is the Imperial Iranian Airforce, your presidential palace is within our missile range and will be fired upon unless you withdraw troops from the borders ...". Stuck in a starkly outmatched situation Saddam withdrew. However, this was a catalyzing event prompting Saddam to purchase as much air defence capabilities from USSR as he could. This was the second time USSR's nefarious activities were seized by the Imperial Iranian armed forces, the first being in Oman when Sultan Ghabus asked the Shah to help against the Zoffar communist guerrillas. The Shah helped but most importantly left Oman after mission was accomplished.


This mission was accomplished despite the support of Iraq by surrounding countries (including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Persian Gulf Sheikdoms) along with all out support of the Saddam Hussein regime by US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union. Germany famously supplied Saddam with chemical weapons while offering treatment to Iranian soldiers that were subject to the gas attacks. Every country more or less took the same approach playing both sides.


The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 was executed on the ground by the alligence of the communists and Islamists. Some of them were active politically and others through guerrilla warfare.

Groups like Forghan, People's Mujahedin of Iran also known as MEK, PMOI and MKO, Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas and Komala were staunch Khomeini supporters until a part of them branched off following islamists take over and finally sided with the enemy in Iraq showing their absolute true colors. In the meantime another fraction of these leftist toodei communists run the Islamic Republic to this date. A lot of the so called "anti imperialist" sentiment of the IRI is predicated upon such background. These terrorists supported in part by the PLO and Ghadafi and at large by USSR (at the time) were the integral part of aggrevating and spreading violence during and after the revolution, thereby bringing about the right type of atmosphere to remove Iranian military dominance.[citation needed]


Location of H3 airbase was in the west of Iraq in heart of desert near Jordan-Arabia-Syria-Iraq borders and very far from Iran's borders.


  1. Assault on Al-Wallid, Historical Iranian attack against H-3 base in 1981.

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