On Tuesday, February 7, 2023, Iran unveiled “Eagle 44,” an underground air force base large enough to house fighter jets, bombers, and drones, according to Iranian news outlets. The Iranians claim this is one of their most critical locations, built deep below to protect its jets equipped with long-range missiles from air strikes.
According to Fars News Agency, the base “consists of various elements, such as an alert area, command post, warplane hangars, repair and maintenance center, navigation and airport equipment, and fuel tanks. The underground facilities house jets in secure locations and outfit them with electronic warfare systems and various bombs and missiles, allowing for aerial standoff operations and extending the strategic range of the planes.
“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 said.
Iran says that no bomb can penetrate these tunnels, with state television showing a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb hitting a target within a reinforced shelter and a B-2A Spirit bomber dropping the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator. Remember that the MOP, with its 30,000 lb (14,000 kg) weight and 5,300 lb (2,400 kg) high-explosive payload, can penetrate reinforced concrete up to 200 ft (61 m) before detonating.
During the officers’ visit, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force’s outdated F-4 Phantoms jets were seen powering up and taxiing via the tunnels to the runway outside the underground facility. The F-4s were obtained from the United States before the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Iran’s air force is struggling due to long-standing sanctions and arms embargoes, but the IRIAF is still trying to maintain these types in service and has begun several programs to restore and modernize them. Some photographs show indigenous glide weapons and anti-ship missiles alongside US-made weaponry like Mk-82 “dumb” bombs, AGM-65 Maverick guided missiles, and GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
According to Iranian mainstream media, this is only the first of its kind, with more being built across the country. The photographs and videos uploaded online avoided anything that could be used as landmarks to pinpoint this base.
“These bases that have been constructed in proportion to the needs and with high safety factors are located under a mountainous area so that they can be used for surprise aerial operations,” reported the state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency.