UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Ali Al Salem Air Base
2920'48"N 4731'15"E

Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait is a Kuwait air force installation with part designated for operations by the US Air Force and its allies. Ali Al Salem Air Base is a small, yet highly guarded base in Kuwait. There are no permanently assigned US aircraft, with only USAF and Navy transient aircraft and a squadron of British Tornado fighter aircraft. "The Rock" provides combat rescue, theater airlift, aeromedical evacuation, air surveillance and control, theater ballistic missile defense, as well as force protection, combat support and the ability to survive and operate for coalition air, ground and other operations.

Just 39 miles from the Iraqi border, the base is literally at the forefront of the ongoing campaign that is Operation Southern Watch. Affectionately known as "The Rock," the landscape surrounding Ali Al Salem is flat to slightly undulating desert sand. The "Rock" rises above the surrounding desert plains, a hill offering a dun-colored vista of the distant, arid horizon. The Rock is Ali Al Salem Air Base, deployed home to 1,500 people and the 9th Air Expeditionary Group, a unit literally at the forefront of Operation Southern Watch, just 39 miles from the Iraqi border.

Air Defense Artillery soldiers arm Patriot missiles during "ready for action" drills at Ali Al Salem Air Base. The drills are performed every day to maintain the ADA soldier's focus, readiness and reaction time to any airborne threats. Keeping the Patriot missiles poised for action is a continuing mission. All ADA soldiers work long shifts on a rotating schedule. This assures that within two minutes of a scud warning, there will be soldiers ready to fire the first Patriot missile in response.

The weather is about as hot here as any place you've ever been in your life. Even with the change in seasons, it's a rare occasion when the afternoon sun keeps temperatures below 120 degrees. As for recreational opportunities, the nearest major town is Kuwait City-a town of roughly 28,000 or half the estimated population of Ogden. Most reasonable people would agree that these factors alone make for a "less than enlightening cultural experience.

The mission at The Rock, while far less glamorous than that of other bases in Southwest Asia, is equally important. Airmen assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Group work toward a common goal, surveillance. Technicians here monitor the air traffic in southern Iraq and are keenly aware of the important role they play in preparing coalition forces for any eventuality. The radar site here serves as the sole mechanism for monitoring Iraqi airspace when the AWACS aircraft are not out patrolling the skies.

As of 1998 AV-8B Harrier jets were on the flight line of Ali Al Salem Air Base. The Harriers are assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and are flying in support of Operation Southern Watch, which is the U.S. and coalition enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Southern Iraq. As of 1999 a contingent of the British Royal Air Force was composed of 12 Tornado planes at Ali al-Salem air base, in western Kuwait.

At the Ali Al Salem AFB the 9th AEG consists of 6 permanent (one year) personnel, along with 700 personnel on 90-day rotations with 14-day turnovers. The most forward USAF location in AOR, it is located 40 nautical miles from Iraq. British and Kuwaitis share base with USAF. Missions include Combat Rescue (2 HC130s)(4 MH53s); Theater A/L (2 C130s), and a Patriot Battery.

For several years following the Persian Gulf War, Al Salem was a sleepy radar site, manned by just a handful of Air Force people monitoring air traffic in the southern no-fly zone. But after tensions in the region flared in late 1997, coalition forces started massing at the base. The US deployed forces to the Persian Gulf in February 1998 as part of operation Desert Thunder. During Operation Desert Thunder, the 9th Air Expeditionary Group was established at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. When the buildup renewed in November 1998, prior to Operation Desert Fox, the base doubled in size to its current population of 1,500. As the contingency buildup began, it grew into Commando Village and Fox Ridge [the tent cities at the foot of the hill].

The 9th Air Expeditionary Group provides air surveillance and control through that same radar site, while a fleet of C-130 Hercules provide theater airlift and, if necessary, combat search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation for Operation Southern Watch forces. The 9th AEG has brought all those functions under one umbrella. Though vital to Operation Southern Watch, the mission at The Rock does not receive the high-bisibility and front-page coverage like other Southwest Asia bases. The Rock's other missions, like search and rescue, are quiet unless things go wrong across the border. The rescue mission in Southwest Asia has been quiet since the Persian Gulf War because no Operation Southern Watch pilot has ever been shot down.

Ali Al Salem is the base where American and Kuwaiti flags were flown together for the first time over a Kuwaiti air base. That historic event occurred 06 May 1997 after several month of negotiations.

Life on The Rock is austere, even by the standards of Southwest Asia's deployed locations. Many Air Force people at other Southern Watch bases live and work in permanent buildings. But The Rock is almost entirely a tent city, with very few actual buildings. And most "buildings" are quonset-shaped, foldable general purpose structures. The environment makes The Rock a butt of some Southern Watch humor. Many people deployed to nearby Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base - a base with amenities like an in-ground pool, paved roads and permanent dormitories - call a trip to The Rock "Jaber Appreciation Day." It's hard to feel "deployed" at Al Jaber, once you see how The Rock people live. That space may be limited to tents and general purpose structures, but it includes three dining facilities, a small base exchange, a rec center and a gym, as well as other amenities like an above-ground pool. And the flight runs games, tournaments, intramural sports and other recreational activities almost daily.

The constant rotation of pararescuemen, or "PJs," has turned the pararescuemen's living quarters and ops center into a mansion by Al Salem standards. They've expanded it from just a tent to a wooden bungalo that may still have that dim and dusty deployed feel, but it includes a carpeted floor and a comfortably worn sofa. And even plywood walls are better than a billowing tent flap.

The Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Programs Center's (TAC) installation support team in Kuwait assisted the Air Force in developing a three-year plan to transition the American compound at Ali Al Salem to a full-fledged air base capable of providing force protection, operational, and quality of life requirements to U.S. forces. The Corps is an integral part of the team to convert the American compound into a more stable, permanent base. Their designs for a modern, more effective entry control point will greatly enhance force protection. Designs for dining and cold storage facilities will have a positive impact on quality of life. Working with the Corps through the planning and design, followed by effective contracting of these facilities, promises to be instrumental in the transition of this base in a timely manner.

A Job Order Contract (JOC) awarded in May 1998 to Kuwait Dynamics Ltd. is a tool used successfully on a number of projects. JOC contracts use a unit-price book (UPB) that establishes a unit price for many construction line items. A typical UPB has more than 50,000 line items and covers almost every construction task. Items that are not in the UPB can be negotiated, priced, and added at any time. The contract's price is put in terms of a coefficient, which is a multiplier that covers the contractor's overhead and profit, and any adjustment between the UPB and actual local prices.

Personnel were living and working out of tents, expandable shelters, and general purpose shelters. The Air Force planned to use the JOC contract to quickly design and build several basic-needs facilities such as a dining facility, cold storage, and a telephone switch facility. The quick response of the JOC contractor will allow them to be in place in minimum time.

In mid-2000 the Air Force began construction in Ali Al-Salem to move people out of tents.

The Air Force Contract Augmentation Program (AFCAP) is a cost-plus award fee contract designed to provide on-call capability in a wide range of contingency civil engineer and services support (except crash/fire rescue, explosive ordnance disposal, mortuary affairs and field exchanges). The current AFCAP contractor is Readiness Management Support L.C. a subsidiary of Johnson Controls. The RMS contract team is actively involved in two 12-month task orders that provide 35 power generator mechanics and 16 engineers at four locations in Southwest Asia. The four locations include Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Ali Al Salem AB, Kuwait; Al Jaber AB, Kuwait; and Al Dhafra AB, United Arab Emirates. Each location has a wide variety of mobility and commercial generators up to and including 1000KW. The support equates to "backfilling" 140 blue-suiter rotations and reduces the OPSTEMPO requirements on active duty AF power production specialists.

Several unmarked vehicles prepared to enter the isolated air base. The roadway emitted waves of evaporated water, warping the view near the street level. Leaving the pavement, the vehicles kicked up dust all around, obscuring everything in their wake. Guards met them at the gate, their faces and necks covered with a brown cloth and their eyes masked by thick goggles. They allowed the vehicles through, along with the following transport buses. The buses drove slowly through the base toward a central place to drop off their cargo. During the summer of 2001, Air Force troops from all over the world were called to participate in Operation Southern Watch's AEF-6, then called the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. The deployment put them 39 Kilometers from the border of Iraq, the closest Air Force base to that country. From the late spring to early fall, the active duty troops were joined by members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Although from different divisions of the same service, they personified the "seamless air force" concept.

By July 2001 facilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman were using JP8 for the first time. In Kuwait, additive injectors installed at the international airport provide an alternate JP8 fuel source for Ali Al Salem Air Base, saving a four-hour delivery time from the refinery.

The soldiers of Task Force 1-34, including Battery B, 6-52nd Air Defense Artillery and 1-34th Infantry (Califormia National Guard) arrived 1,500-strong in August 2001 at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, and departed in December 2001. During the deployment, the task force's two tank companies and scout platoon clocked 31,510 accident-free kilometers on their M1s and the infantry company with the scout platoon logged 17,866 accident-free kilometers on its Bradleys. Three of the tank crews snared the coveted perfect 1,000 score on their armor crew qualification tables in the desert heat. And, the task force averaged a 96.1 percent operational rate on all its equipment. While all the task force's vehicles came out of Kuwaiti depot storage 100-percent mission capable, it took some time to keep it that way -- just like doing preventative maintenance checks and services when needed on any Army vehicle back in the States.

Elements from the 1/184 Infantry (SecFor), 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, deployed in the second half of 2001 to Ali Al Salem Air Base to provide security to the base's Patriot site.

After years of operating out of a tent at a deployed location here, the 386th Air Expeditionary Group finally has a new chapel. In a dedication service held 17 January 2002, the new chapel - located in the back of the clinic - was officially opened for business. The new chapel features a sanctuary, office space and a small conference room for studies and confidential counseling. The actual move occurred 26 December 2001 when office furniture, administrative materials, religious supplies and other gear were moved from the tent to the permanent building. The service featured seven Army and Air Force chaplains serving in Operation Southern Watch, including Chaplain (Maj.) Graham Brown from the U.K.'s Royal Air Force.

A new 320,000-square-foot parking ramp for C-130 Hercules, and composed of interlocking aluminum matting, was completed on March 31, 2004 to accomodated the increasing number of C-130 aircraft assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, the tenant organization at Ali Al Salem Air Base. Prior to its completion, a ramp designed for helicopters was used instead as a stop-gap measure. That ramp only had a 2 inches thickness and would have been unable to withstand the weight of the C-130s during the summer months as a result of the extreme heat. The new ramp's planks are are 2-by-12 feet with a 2-inch thickness, with an approximate weight of 140 pounds each, while the individual pieces of matting are alike to semihollow planks and are also designed to interlock with each other to prevent them from moving around. The ramp, reportedly dubbed, "Beef Ramp" can accommodate up to 10 C-130 aircraft and is located on an area formerly assigned to Marine helicopters.

"Area 51"

In December 2004 the Army began operating a new air passenger terminal here, with the goal of transporting hundreds of Soldiers daily to destinations within the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater. The terminal is composed of several tents that serve as passenger holding areas, and a parking lot with a turn-around area for buses dropping off and picking up passengers. To keep the operation as efficient as possible, plans are to use only one type of tactical aircraft, each carrying the same number of passengers and two baggage pallets. The operation eases some of the congestion at the military APOD (airport point of debarkation) in Kuwait. Most travel though the new terminal will be work related, meaning rest and recuperation travel will not be processed here. Four airfields in Iraq will be serviced-Baghdad International Airport, Balad, Mosul and Al Asad.

The terminal, dubbed "Area 51" after the locale in Nevada that UFO fantasists theorize is an extraterrestrial stomping ground, is manned by a small permanent party of Army soldiers stationed at the terminal.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list