Istres-Le Tubé Air Base: Wikis


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Istres-Le Tubé Air Base

Base aérienne 125 Istres (BA 125)

Istres BA125 Landsat.png
United States LANDSAT 5 satellite false color infrared (channels 7,4,3) of Istres Air Base
Istres BA125.png
Aerial photo of Istres Air Base
Airport type Military
Elevation AMSL 82 ft / 25 m
Coordinates 43°31′28″N 4°56′30″E / 43.52444°N 4.94167°E / 43.52444; 4.94167
Direction Length Surface
m ft
15/33 3,750 12,303 Asphalt

Istres-Le Tubé Air Base (Base Aérienne 125 or BA 125) is a large multi-role tasked French Air Force base located near Istres, north of Marseille. The airport facilities are also known as Istres - Le Tubé (ICAO airport code: LFMI).


Operational units and uses


Armée de l'air

Istres-Le Tubé Air Base is located in France
Istres-Le Tubé Air Base
Location of Istres-Le Tubé Air Base, France
Badge of the squadron 3/4 Limousin

The user of the base is the Armée de l'Air with several operational units on the base, including:[1]

  • Strike squadron 3/4 Limousin equipped with Mirage 2000N.
  • Tanker squadron 00.093 Bretagne equipped with KC-135 Stratotanker.
  • DAMS 11.004 (Dépôt atelier de munitions spéciales) or Special Ammunition Storage responsible for the hardened alert facilities of nuclear mid-range Air-Sol Moyenne Portée ASMP missiles to be used by Strike sqn 3/4 in its deterrence role.
  • Air Defence squadron 01.950 responsible for the base air defense.
  • 25th air engineer regiment, a technical unit.
  • Guard detachment fusilliers commandos de l'air responsible for the base security and ground defenes.

Other uses

The base also hosts a helicopter squadron and a large repair and training facility. In addition, it also includes EPNER (École du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Réception); test facilities for DGA, Dassault Aviation, SNECMA, Thales and some aeronautical units of the French Navy. More than 5,000 personnel work on the base.

Secondary users occasionally include the United States Air Force (USAF), during Allied operations engaging United States and France. During Operation Allied Force, USAF KC-135s and U-2s operated out of the base. Istres was the home of U-2 detachment OL-FR (Operating Location-FRance).[2] Istres is also utilized by NASA as a contingency landing site for the Space Shuttle in the case of a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL).[3] The base's runway is 3,750 metres (12,300 ft) long and 60 metres (200 ft) wide[4], making it the longest one in Europe and thus suited to Shuttle landings.


On 31 March 1992, a Boeing 707 of Kabo Air, a Nigerian company made an emergency landing after a dangerous event almost unprecedented in the history of airliner flight. In turbulence at 35,000 feet, engines 3 and 4 separated from the wing, along with flaps and control systems. With delicate operation of the remaining power and controls, the flight headed for Marseilles trailing fuel from broken tanks. Istres air traffic control called the flight to tell them they had visual contact. "How can you see us? We're still in cloud?" "You're on fire," came the reply. Abandoning Marseilles as a potential landing site, the pilots spotted part of the Istres runway in a gap in cloud and performed a flapless, downwind landing with a touch-down speed of nearly 200 knots and a raging fire fueled by the remaining fuel load pouring from the right wing. The gear failed and the aircraft's ground slide took it off the far end of the runway, but the crew of five survived and the cargo was saved. The incident brought to light cowboy practices among certain airlines — the 707 involved in the incident had passed mandatory maintenance and was overloaded.[5][6][7]

World War II

Built prior to World War II, Istres Air Base was first used by the Armée de l'air during the early part of the war, and after the 1940 Battle of France and the June Armistice with Nazi Germany, became part of the limited (French: Armée de l'Air de Vichy) air force of the Vichy Government. It was attacked on several missions by Allied bombers based in England while under German control after November 1942. It was seized by Allied forces during Operation Dragoon, the Invasion of Southern France in August 1944 and was repaired and placed into operational use by the United States Army Air Forces XII Engineer Command, being turned over to Twelfth Air Force on 27 August 1944.

The airfield was designated by the Americans as Istres/Le Tubé Airfield or Advanced Landing Ground Y-17. It was also given the AAF designation of USAAF Station 196. Twelfth Air Force initially assigned the 324th Fighter Group to the airfield on 2 September, with P-47 Thunderbolts. However the 324th only remained a few days before moving forward to Amberieu on 6 September.

The main USAAF use of Istres was by the 64th Troop Carrier Group, which operated C-47 Skytrain transports from the airfield from September to November 1944. When the combat units moved north into eastern France, Istres was used by Air Transport Command as a transshipment point for supplies and Allied personnel, being administratively controlled by the 1411th Army Air Force Base Unit.

With the end of the war, the Americans used Istres as a staging point between Occupied Germany and Morocco for air transport of personnel back to the United States. It was returned to full French control in October 1945. [8]


  1. ^ (French) ""Appendix 2: List of Airbases and Their Principal Activities"". 2006 Finance Bill: Defense - Air Forces. French Senate. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-09.  
  2. ^, Washington Post, January 6, 1996
  3. ^ "France to assist NASA with the future launches of the Space Shuttle". Retrieved 2009-09-27.  
  4. ^
  5. ^ ""31 March 1992 - Transair 671" (transcript)". Cockpit Voice Recorder Database. (site not responding on 5 March 2008). Archived from the original on 2004-10-15.  
  6. ^ ""Aircraft Accident description of the 31 MAR 1992 accident of a Boeing 707-321C 5N-MAS at Istres"". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  7. ^ (French)""RAPPORT relatif à l'accident survenu le 31 mars 1992 au Boeing 707 immatriculé 5N-MAS (Nigéria) exploité par la Compagnie Trans-Air Limited"". Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA). Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  8. ^ PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
    • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
    • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975
    • Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

External links


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