Mashhad Airbase / 14th Tactical Air Base
Imam Reza Air Base
The Mashhad Airbase (N36 14'03.50" E59 38'25.20") in Northeast Iran is approximately 50 miles from the Turkmenistan border and 100 miles from the Afghanistan border. The airbase serves jointly as military installation and a civilian international airport. There are two asphalt runways located at the base (12750 x 148 feet and 12389 x 148 feet). The base reportedly houses the main repair facilities of the Eastern Area Command, as well as two tactical fighter squadrons, one with Mirage F-1EQ/F-1BQ and the other with F-5E/5F aircraft. This was still the case through 2008. During the Iran-Iraq War, it had been reported that Mashhad air base housed all of the operating C-130's in Iran. No transport aircraft were stationed at Mashhad as of 2008.
In 1997 and 1998, tensions grew between Iran and the newly self-instated Taliban regime. As a result, the IRIAF upgraded the Imam Reza air transport base in Mashhad into the 14th Tactical Air Base in 1998. The transformation brought in 25 new fighter jets (Mirage F-1EQs) and advanced missiles to the base and an advanced radar system with a range of 500 km into Northeast Iran. The objective of the base was to provide support to existing land forces in the region, and guarantee the security of the Iranian region near Afghanistan. However, US defense intelligence believed that Iran's intentions were to launch air strikes and limited ground incursions. As Iran increased their military presence near the Afghan border, the Taliban were no longer able to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq.
Mashhad also housed contingents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. In July 2000, the IRGC launched a test flight of the Shahab-3 missile from an Mobile Erector-Launcher (MEL) located at the Mashhad Airbase. Supervised by IRGC commander Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the testing was to demonstrate complete systems integration, especially the propulsion and guidance subsystems.
In October 2000, fighters from the 14th TAB participated in Iran's first military exercise involving fighter and bomber aircrafts. The 'Velayat-8' exercises were aimed at enhancing the combat capabilities and transferring experience to younger pilots according to Brig-Gen Purali (commander of the 14th TAB) who stated that the 14th TAB "is regarded as one of the most powerful fighter bases in the country". Additional exercises were reported in September of 2002, in which a unit of fighters from Mashhad staged a bombing exercise in western Iran. These bombing exercises were the eleventh of their kind held in a matter of two months. In December 2000, fighters and helicopters tasked from Mashhad took part in an counter-narcotics operation near the Afghan border. The operation resulted in the death of 27 Afghans and the release of 12 hostages. The AFP reported that over 60 people were killed in fighting in the weeks surrounding the operation.
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