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Manas International Airport
Ganci Air Base
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Manas, the international airport at Bishkek (named after the mythical national hero), was modernized in 1988 to make it the most modern commercial airport in Central Asia. A second international facility is located at Osh, and about twenty-five usable local fields supplement civil air service. Manas International Airport has about five commercial flights per day.

Manas has a 13,800-foot long runway, built for Soviet bombers. There is room for four C-17 or C-5 cargo planes to park along the taxiway. The base lies about 1,500 kilometers from Kandahar, a three-hour flight.

On 28 November 2001 CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy R. Franks stated that additional attack aircraft from the United States and France [and possibly other states] would be sent to Central Asia in early December. Kyrgyzstan was reportedly the most likely base for most of the aircraft as the country was the only one in the region to offer coalition forces unrestricted overflight rights for aircraft flying combat, humanitarian and search-and-rescue missions. The country reportedly leased Manas International Airport for a period of a year to the coalition.

The facility covers 37 acres. It is fenced off by a concrete wall at the top of which coiled razor wire has been placed. Four watchtowers overlook the facility which holds roughly 300 tents, a fitness room, a chapel, a post office, a recreation room as well as a $5 million, 60-bed military hospital which opened in April 2002, and is manned by South Korean troops.

Fuel for the American and French fighter jets flying out of Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan is provided by a firm owned by President Askar Akayev's son-in-law.

The facility was unofficially renamed Ganci Air Base, after Chief Peter J. Ganci Jr., chief of the New York City Fire Department who gave his life Sept. 11 during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Although the U.S. Air Force is renowned for providing for the comfort of its troops, American airmen here say Ganci is setting a new standard for comfortable deployments downrange. Compared to the dusty and desertlike temperatures at the tent city at Karshi-Khanabad — or K-2, as troops call it — in neighboring Uzbekistan, Ganci is almost like a resort. Troop accommodations in Afghanistan “aren’t fit for a dog,” one U.S. Marine officer said.

The Air Force's 376th Air Expeditionary Wing was been tasked with operating the facility which also houses troops from South Korea, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Norway and Spain. The 786th Security Forces Squadron is part of the 86th Contingency Response Group from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and its mission is to ensure the safety of coalition forces setting up the Manas airfield. As of June 2002, the 822nd Security Forces out of Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, GA, was also deployed at Manas.

According to a June 8th, 2004 Reuters report, the tents at Manas were being replaced by more permanent structures at a cost of $60 million. At that time, it was estimated that there were about 2,000 American and European troops based at Manas.

Imagery of Ganci Air Base
Click on the small image to view a larger version
CIA Map of Kyrgyzstan Landsat overview of Bishkek and surrounding area
Satellite overview of Ganci Air Base, April 12, 2003 (Credit: Space Imaging) Satellite overview of Manas International Airport, Feb. 11, 2000 (Credit: Space Imaging)
Support structures for Ganci Air Base (Space Imaging, 04/12/03) Pre-9/11/01 imagery of the airport (Space Imaging, 02/11/00)
Support structures, likely the command center, for Ganci Air Base (Space Imaging, 04/12/03) Pre-9/11/01 imagery of the airport (Space Imaging, 02/11/00)
Ganci Air Base, with civilian aircraft cleared from the tarmac and stored in an adjacent field. (Space Imaging, 04/12/03) Imagery of Manas International Aiport with civilian aircraft on the tarmac. (Space Imaging, 02/11/00)
Aircraft on the tarmac at Ganci Air Base, including two KC-135 Stratotankers, a C-130 cargo transport and three civilian aircraft. (Space Imaging, 04/12/03) An-124 Condor (Antonov), a Russian-built plane with a 240-foot wingspan that is one of the largest transport aircraft in the world. Above the runway is a newly constructed fuel storage area. (Space Imaging, 04/12/03)
Munition storage area, constructed at the same time as the other new structures at Ganci Air Base, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Space Imaging, 04/12/03) Detail of munition storage area (Space Imaging, 04/12/03)
F-16's: Six shown, in a row of nine total. (Space Imaging, 04/12/03)