Al Minhad Air Base

Al Minhad Air Base

Introduction

Located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Location of Headquarters of Joint Task Force 633 (HQ JTF633) and of a wide range of support for OPERATION SLIPPER in Afghanistan, Operation MANITOU involving Maritime Security Operations in the Middle Eastern Area of Operations and counter piracy in the Gulf of AdenOperation OKRA against ISIL in Iraq from September 2014, and Operation ACCORDION “to support the sustainment of Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations, enable contingency planning and enhance regional relationships in the Middle East Region (MER).”

In September 2014 the Australian government announced the deployment of an 600-person ADF contingent as part of a US-led coalition to attack Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) forces in Iraq. An RAAF element made up of up to eight Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, a Boeing E-7A (737) Wedgetail airborne early warning & control aircraft, and an Airbus Defence & Space KC-30A (A330 MRTT) air-to-air refuelling tanker was to be based initially at Al Minhad Air Base. RAAF C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft used in humanitarian relief operations were also deployed to Al Minhad. Forces deployed to Al Minhad for Operation ACCORDION initially included a 200-personnel Special Forces task group and an 400 person RAAF Air Task Group.

In February 2014 the ADF announced that the Australian facilities at Al Minhad Air Force Base were to be renamed Camp Baird. At that point some 800 ADF personnel were based Al Minhad AFB.

Used by ADF elements during the invasion of Iraq, and subsequently as a base for RAAF AP-3C surveillance aircraft. The ADF’s Middle East Area of Operations command shifted from Baghdad to Al Minhad in late 2008. By late 2009, Australian air, land and sea operations in support of Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Iraq and Afghanistan operations were based from Al Minhad, following a rationalisation of Gulf bases.

Following the ADF drawdown from Afghanistan, 150 extra ADF personnel deployed to Al Minhad to close the Redeployment Fusion Cell at HQ JTF633 in mid-214.

As of September 2014, Operation ACCORDION support units located at Al Minhad AB included:

  • Force Support Unit
  • Force Communications Unit
  • Joint Movements Coordination Centre
  • Joint Task Force 633 Air Component Headquarters
  • C-130 Detachment
  • Combat Support Unit (CSU)
  • C-17 Support
  • Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Detachment
  • ADF personnel embedded with Coalition Headquarters

Al Minhad was used by ADF elements during the invasion of Iraq, and subsequently as a base for RAAF AP-3C surveillance aircraft. The ADF’s Middle East Area of Operations command shifted from Baghdad to Al Minhad in late 2008. By late 2009, Australian air, land and sea operations in support of Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Iraq and Afghanistan operations were based from Al Minhad, following a rationalisation of Gulf bases.

This rationalisation shifted C-130 transport operations from Al Udeid in Qatar, training and acclimatisation from the Billabong Flats facility in Kuwait, and the MEAO headquarers from Baghdad. The consolidation was prompted by cost concerns, particularly with the shift of operational emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan. Defence estimates in 2009 revealed a plan to spend $87.5 mn on upgrading the Dubai facility, with more than 500 ADF personnel expected to be permanently stationed there by the end of the year.

The Qatar, Kuwait and Dubai bases were publicly known for many years – in both the Gulf region and in Australia – but never acknowledged by the Australian government due to “host nation sensitivities”. In the earlier phases the Australian facility was linked to the Canadian Camp Mirage. The more recent expansion is linked to parallel French and Italian facilities development.

Al Minhad Air Base, UAE

Al Minhad Air Base, UAE. Source: Google Earth

 

Al Minhad Air Base - JetPhoto.net

Al Minhad Air Base. Source: JetPhoto.net

Take a virtual tour of Australian Bases Abroad.

Government sources

2014 – 

Minister for Defence – Visit to Australian Defence Force Personnel in the Middle East, 25 September 2014

The Special Forces task group includes up to 200 personnel who will be available to support the Iraqi Security Forces in an advise and assist role.

The Air Task Group includes approximately 400 Royal Australian Air Force personnel as well as F/A-18F Super Hornets, a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, and an E7-A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft. This deployment is in addition to the RAAF C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft that are already providing humanitarian and logistic support to Iraq.

Operation Accordion, Global Operations, Department of Defence

Operation ACCORDION’s mission is to support the sustainment of Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations, enable contingency planning and enhance regional relationships in the Middle East Region (MER).

Around 400 ADF personnel work under Operation ACCORDION providing support to Operations SLIPPER and MANITOU, predominantly from the Al Minhad Air Base (AMAB) in the United Arab Emirates.

Operation ACCORDION’s supporting Units are:

Force Support Unit
The Force Support Unit (FSU) is an ADF joint unit providing logistic support, personnel support and theatre induction training for Australian Defence Force elements in the MER.

Force Communications Unit
The Force Communications Unit (FCU) is an ADF joint unit comprising personnel, primarily from Army and Air Force with a small number of Navy personnel.

Joint Movements Coordination Centre
Movements and transport are fundamental enablers to operations. Movement control and coordination involves the planning, routing, scheduling and control of personnel and cargo movements to and from Australia, and throughout the entire MER.

Joint Task Force 633 Air Component Headquarters
The JTF633 Air Component provides coordination and tasking support to HQ JTF633 for all aircraft and air combat support elements assigned to Operation ACCORDION.

C-130 Detachment

A task unit operates and maintains two C-130J Hercules aircraft which provide intra-theatre air movement for Australian forces throughout the MER, as well as catering for strategic aero-medical evacuation (AME).

Combat Support Unit (CSU)
The CSU is comprised of maintenance and support personnel who look after the administrative and support functions of AMAB, as well as Air Load Teams in Afghanistan and support personnel for the Combined Air Operations Centre Detachment.

C-17 Support
C-17 aircraft from RAAF Base Amberley’s (Queensland) No.36 Squadron provide routine strategic lift support to Australian forces in the MER, including Afghanistan.

Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Detachment
A small element is co-located with the multinational MER CAOC. This detachment provides important information and liaison duties to enable Australian air operations throughout the MER.

ADF personnel embedded with Coalition Headquarters
ADF members are embedded across a number of Coalition and ISAF headquarters throughout the MER and Afghanistan, providing critical, specialist staff effort in support of military liaisons and combined operations.

Reason  to be pleased, Air Force, 11 September 2014, p. 5

The Redeployment Fusion Cell coordinated in-theatre redeployment activities, which involved the deconstruction or gifting of infrastructure, remediating land, clearing cargo to be returned to Australia and disposal of other items.

ADF mission in Iraq continues, Air Force, 11 September 2014

An RAAF C-130J Hercules delivered 15 bundles of Australian humanitarian supplies to isolated civilians in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli. The supplies included high-energy biscuits, bottled water and hygiene packs, which are designed to feed and hydrate 2600 people for 24 hours. It followed an Australian humanitarian aid drop on August 14, which delivered nine tonnes of supplies to Yezidi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar in the country’s north.

Opening Statement by General D.J. Hurley, AC, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force, Budget Estimates Hearing, Parlimanet of the Commonwealth of Australia, 26 February 2014

We mourned with Corporal Baird’s family last year and it was an honour to salute Corporal Cameron Baird, VC, MG and his family on behalf of all those who serve and have served in the Australian Defence Force. His courage and extreme devotion to duty that day was of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of the  Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
Corporal Baird died with honour and valour, taking the fight to the enemy with an extraordinary brand of tenacious courage that inspired his men and continues to inspire members of the 2nd Commando Regiment today. As a final tribute to Corporal Baird, the Australian facilities at Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates will now be known as Camp Baird.
Approximately 800 Australian personnel are based at Al Minhad, supporting our commitments in Middle East Area of Operations. Their role is to support the ADF’s commitment in Afghanistan following the conclusion of Australia’s mission in Uruzgan province at the end of 2013.

2011

Visit to Al Minhad Airbase, United Arab Emirates, Defence Sub-Committee visit to the Middle East Area of Operations Report of the Delegation to the MEAO 14 to 18 May 2011

3.1 Al Minhad Airbase (AMAB) is located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is a host nation operational military base where Australia has its Middle East air head and HQ based on the invitation of the Government of the UAE. The ADF has been located at the airbase since 2003 when the airfield was utilised to base RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. In late 2009 HQ JTF 633 moved to the AMAB from Baghdad as a result of the withdrawal of Australian combat forces from Iraq.

3.2 AMAB is also the ADF’s base for the Reception, Staging, Onward Forwarding and Integration (RSO&I) of all forces deploying into the MEAO, with the exception of the Maritime Forces’ ships company. This RSO&I provides Australian force elements and individuals with time to deal with jet lag, acclimatise to the conditions and it is where additional theatre specific training is conducted and additional equipment is issued.

3.3 The following ADF elements are based in the AMAB:

  1. HQ JTF 633
  2. Air Component Command
  3. Force Communications Unit, rotation 4 (FCU-4)
  4. Force Support Unit, rotation 4 (FSU-4)
  5. Combat Support Unit, rotation 5 (CSU-5)

Air Component Command 

3.16 The Air Component Commander, Group Captain Heap, hosted the delegation airside prior to their departure into Afghanistan on 15 May. He provided a classified brief on the Air Component to JTF 633.

3.17 Air Component Command commands all Australian Air capabilities in the MEAO less the CH47’s of the Army’s Rotary Wing Group, the Army’s Skylark UAV and the RAN helicopter aboard HMAS Stuart. The command is made up of:

  • Air Component HQ: 133 personnel coordinate the operations of RAAF air elements, and liaise with Coalition air forces in the MEAO.
  • AP-3C Orion: The RAAF provides two AP-3C Orion aircraft for overland surveillance of Afghanistan, and maritime surveillance of the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden.
  • C-130J: The RAAF provides three C-130J Hercules aircraft which conduct troop and equipment transportation across the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan they provide support to both Australian and Coalition Forces.
  • C-17: The RAAF provides C-17 aircraft from Amberley (Queensland) for routine strategic lift support to Australian Forces in the MEAO including Afghanistan.
  • Heron UAV Task Unit: Heron UAV based at Kandahar Airfield and provides overland surveillance in RC(S) Afghanistan.

Analysis

Al Minhad Air Base, Dubai, UAE, Wikimapia

Camp Mirage, Wikipedia

“Camp Mirage is a Canadian Forces forward logistics base located near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It was established in the fall of 2001, to support Canadian personnel deployed to the Gulf region. The exact location of Camp Mirage and the nature of its mission(s) is classified by the Canadian Forces. The Australian Defence Force as well as the New Zealand Defence Force also use Camp Mirage.

Canada Will Vacate UAE Base: MacKay, Josh Pringle, CFRA, October 11, 2010

Australia commits combat aircraft to fight IS, Andrew McLaughlin, Flightglobal.com, 15 September 2014

The ADF will commit up to eight Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets from 1 Squadron based at RAAF Amberley near Brisbane, a Boeing E-7A (737) Wedgetail airborne early warning & control aircraft from 2 Squadron based at RAAF Williamtown, and an Airbus Defence & Space KC-30A (A330 MRTT) air-to-air refuelling tanker from Amberley’s 33 Squadron. The ADF will also provide a task group element of about 200 Army special forces soldiers to provide training to anti-IS forces.

The Australian forces will be initially based at Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE, about 1,500 kilometres south-east of Baghdad. With most of the operations against IS expected to be conducted taking place north and west of the Iraqi capital, if they are committed to operations missions of five or more hours for the Super Hornet crews will be common.

Australia’s basing its $87m secret on sensitive absurdity, Tom Hyland, Age, 9 November 2009

Don’t tell anyone, but the Federal Government is spending $87.5 million of your money on a new Middle East military base. Not that it uses the word ”base”. Instead, budget papers say that the money is being spent on ”command and control enhancements” which will ”consolidate ADF supporting assets to one location”. Nor will it say where the base is because under a deal with the host country, Australia agrees not to reveal it. Nor does it give the location of the old bases the new one is replacing. An ADF spokesman told The Sunday Age that Defence did not say where the bases are because of security considerations and ”host national sensitivities”.

The coyness has less to do with security and more to do with the ”sensitivities” of the the Arab hosts, who don’t want to advertise that they accommodate foreign troops and their hardware, including big, noisy aircraft with red kangaroos stencilled on the fuselage. The secrecy leads to a curious absurdity: details and images of most of the bases are on the internet, in the Middle East press and even on ADF websites. Australian ambassadors have openly said where they are. They are mentioned in Hansard. One of them has a big sign out the front, adorned with red kangaroos and the words ”Billabong Flats”.

Drawing on the public record, we can reveal that bases have been or are being closed in Kuwait and Qatar. The new one is at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Australia’s Middle East bases have mushroomed since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now their focus is supporting the war in Afghanistan.

When the force support unit moves to Dubai, it will join Defence’s regional headquarters and the RAAF. The Government has not announced this but Australia’s ambassador to the UAE has, in an interview with Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper last month. The paper revealed that 250 ADF personnel have been stationed at Dubai’s Al Minhad Air Base since December. Air force Hercules and crews completed their move from Qatar to Dubai last Thursday, joining an Orion detachment that has been there since 2003. By the end of the year, 500 Australians will be permanently based there, the numbers boosted by hundreds more as troops transit to and from Afghanistan.

There’s a serious side to all this, said academic Richard Tanter, director of the Nautilus Institute at RMIT, which maintains an online database on Australian forces abroad. ”Governments ought to be as transparent as possible, and secrecy should only be justified in serious cases of potential danger to persons,” Professor Tanter said. ”The double standard imposed by the UAE Government corrodes trust in co-operation between allies. ”They are fooling no one, certainly not their own people. Forcing Australia to collude in what’s a fairly destructive process is a hypocritical basis for public policy.”

Australia’s four Mideast bases to be combined to cut costs Mideast Aust, Max Blenkin (AAP), SMH, 2009-10-31

By the end of the year, Australia’s four bases in the Middle East will have become one under a rationalisation program designed to cut costs and improve efficiencies for fighting the conflict in Afghanistan. The new facility will host RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft as well as support troops serving in Afghanistan. It will also house around 500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel with capacity to accommodate another 500 as troops transit to and from Afghanistan. Australia is spending $87 million on new accommodation, hangars and maintenance facilities at the base. But under diplomatic agreements, the Australian government and defence force undertake not to publicly identify the Persian Gulf nation hosting the new facility, shared with New Zealand, Canadian, Dutch, British and US forces. Neither will Australia identify the other Persian Gulf nations in which troops have been based, although all are well known.

Defence Business: View from Canberra – Home away from home, Australian Defence Magazine, 1 March 2009

Since 2003, Australia has maintained three significant bases in the Persian Gulf region but these will soon become one. Two AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and 170 personnel operate from Al-Minhad air base in Dubai, three C-130 Hercules transport and 160 personnel operate from the US Al-Udeid air base in Qatar and the Force Level Logistics Asset (FLLA) with 110 personnel operates from the major US facility at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.

None of these are top secret and there is much information out there. But agreements with the host nation mean that in each case, the Australian government undertakes never to acknowledge that Aussies operate from their bases. In some cases agreements even stipulate that it never be acknowledged that there is such an agreement. Through a process now well under way, these will be amalgamated into one facility based in Dubai. Already the Australian region headquarters with around 70 personnel including the commander Major General Mark Kelly has relocated there from Baghdad. Construction is proceeding on a new facility. This is set to be a done deal by mid-year. Quite likely the upcoming Defence White Paper will spell out the complete rationale, without mentioning any particular nations.

Both economics and changed strategic realities make the case compelling. On one estimate, the RAAF could save well over 1,000 C-130 flying hours a year from this change. That’s around 10 per cent of the entire 24 aircraft C-130 fleet flying hours allocation for a year, with potential savings on operating costs and maintenance running to many millions.

Under the new status of forces agreement between Iraq and Australia, the embedded personnel can stay on to July, with the prospect that a handful of specialists may remain after that date. SECDET operates under a diplomatic convention which allows a nation to provide security for their diplomats and mission. Afghanistan is now the main event with the Hercs routinely flying into Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kowt. But getting there is a roundabout route because Iran bars coalition overflights. The way in is out the Gulf then up across Pakistan.

Dubai is regarded as wholly welcoming with warm relations at all levels. For personnel, the place is perhaps the most western flavoured of any Arabian city. On the other hand, the no consuming booze on Australian Middle East bases rule will apply there. In Dubai, Australia will share the base with the Brits and Canadians, firm allies and good friends but not possessing the awesome resources which makes co-locating with the US such an agreeable experience. This also applies to FLLA in Kuwait, established as a staging post for Iraq, so that troops could acclimatise, undertake final medical checks and zero their weapons on the way in. FLLA handled mail, leave and resupply for those in Iraq while outgoing troops stayed there for three days, undergoing medical check and the psychological debrief and handing in kit before heading home. With number in Iraq down to low triple figures, there’s simply no continuing need for FLLA in its present form. In tough economic times, this significant rationalisation of facilities appears to be irresistible.

Australia to double force in UAE base, Zoi Constantine, The National [UAE], 2009-06-28

Australia is planning to double the number of military personnel stationed at its permanent base in the UAE.?? Some 500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) staff could be stationed at Al Minhad Airbase in Dubai – where the ADF’s regional military headquarters is based – by the beginning of next year, according to Jeremy Bruer, the Australian ambassador to the UAE. “There has been an increasing closeness between the Australian and Emirati militaries and we are now in the process of expanding our presence here,” he said.?? The ADF’s regional Middle East headquarters opened at Al Minhad at the end of last year, and there are currently 250 armed forces personnel stationed there. Prior to the opening of the base, the Australian military had maintained a small presence in the UAE.

Now all regional military operations, including those in Afghanistan, where Australia currently has some 1,500 troops, are run from the headquarters in the UAE, which has a joint army, navy and air force team. There is also an additional air force element, and support staff. The base supports surveillance and transport aircraft, as well as Australian naval vessels in Gulf waters. Australia is considering lending naval support to attempts to curb piracy.?? “It’s our hub and our headquarters and will be more so in the future,” Mr Bruer said. The expansion of the base was recently approved when the Australian federal budget was passed, with plans to incorporate further air, transport and logistics assets.

During a meeting of high-level officials and figures from both countries in Abu Dhabi in March, topics of discussion included defence and security. ??Currently, the two countries are party to a defence co-operation agreement, which Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, said would “only be enhanced”.

Australia’s moves to bolster military ties with the UAE come as the Government pursues similar co-operation with France and Italy. Earlier this month Italy announced that it would ratify a defence treaty with the UAE by the end of the year. ??In May the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was in the capital to inaugurate France’s first military base in the Gulf region. ??Around 500 military personnel from the French navy, air force and army will be stationed there.

Mid-east military HQ goes to Gulf, Patrick Walters, Australian, 2008-09-22

The Australian Defence Force will embark on a major revamp of its command arrangements and logistical bases in the Middle East next year as the military winds down its involvement in Iraq and gears up for a long campaign in Afghanistan. The relocated joint taskforce headquarters will be much closer to Australia’s main war effort in Afghanistan with the last of combat forces having been withdrawn from Iraq earlier this year. At the same time, Defence wants to consolidate its current support bases dotted along the Arabian Gulf into one key location. Since the 2003 Gulf War Defence has maintained separate bases in the region for its C-130 Hercules detachment, its AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft, and its main logistical support base in Kuwait. The C-130 Hercules detachment with about 160 personnel is based in Qatar and the AP-3C Orions with 170 personnel are based in the United Arab Emirates.

The worst-kept secret in the Persian Gulf, Paul Koring and Borzou Daragahi, Globe and Mail, 21 May  2005.

“Camp Mirage is on Minhad Air Force Base in the desert south of the glittering port city of Dubai, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.Camp Mirage, the Canadian Forces forward logistics base in the Persian Gulf, is real. Only the notion that it can be kept under wraps, cherished in some Ottawa quarters, is an illusion. Officially, Camp Mirage is “somewhere in the Gulf region” and the location is “top secret” because Canada’s hosts have been assured it will not be disclosed. “We do not say where we are out of respect for the host nation,” is the official line delivered by several Canadian Forces spokesmen. “We do not talk about the location of Camp Mirage.”

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Updated: 29 September 2014