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Our New Megabase in Afghanistan

by John Reed on January 3, 2012

So, this is some drone-related news about the Afghan war that we missed. While most media attention has been focused on CIA drone bases in Pakistan, the U.S. last year transformed the remote ex-Soviet air field at Shindand, near the Iranian border, into the second biggest air base in all Afghanistan.

The perimeter of the once sprawling Soviet base was officially expanded to three times its size to accommodate the Afghan air force’s undergraduate pilot training center. However, with last month’s downing of an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone, news emerged that Shindand plays host to the secret UAVs, which had previously only been known to fly out of Kandahar air base.

The facility’s remoteness and proximity to the border with Iran makes it the perfect location for a variety of ops against Tehran. In fact, its one of the few major U.S. bases that doesn’t appear to be updated when veiwed through satellite viewers like Google Maps. Even the sensitive U.S. facilities in the UAE show plenty of Western jets parked on their ramps. Meanwhile, updated (albeit grainy) images of Kandahar Airport, where the RQ-170 likely takes off from for missions over nearby Pakistan, are easily viewable in Google Maps.

Do a quick Google Image search for Shindand and you’ll see plenty of images of everything from AH-64 Apache helos, F-15E Strike Eagles and C-17 Globemasters (shown above) to Afghan air corps Cessna Caravans and even old MiG-21s operating out of the base.

Shindand’s remote location even made it the ideal ground for the Soviets to test out their VTOL fighter, the Yak-38 in 1980.

In any case, as long as tensions between the U.S. and Iran remain high, you can bet that Shindand will remain important.

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