Fact Check

Sand Trap

Do photographs show Iraqi fighter planes found buried in the desert?

Published Jan 31, 2006


Urban Legends Reference Pages: (Sand Trap)

Sand Trap

Claim:   Photographs show Iraqi fighter planes found buried in the desert.

Status:   True.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

Mig Buried in Sand

This has been out for well over a month, and I'll bet you haven't seen anything about it in the liberal news media.

No WMD’s, huh? Stand by!

MiG-25(Click to enlarge)

MiG-25(Click to enlarge)

MiG-25(Click to enlarge)

MiG-25(Click to enlarge)

Origins:   The al Taqqadum air field west of Baghdad in Iraq, a sandy wasteland surrounded by high dunes off the main Baghdad-to-Jordan highway, was the focus of intense search-and-destroy activity after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003; its vast desert spaces were thought to be a likely location for missile launchers or aircraft from which chemical or biological strikes against U.S. troops might be launched.

What military search teams eventually found at al Taqqadum, in July 2003, were remnants of the Iraqi Air Force as pictured above: a reported 30 to 40 planes, including several MiG-25 and Su-25 ground attack jets, buried more than 10 feet beneath tons of soil and covered with camouflage netting. According to the Pentagon, at least one of the MiG-25s was found because searchers spotted its twin tail fins protruding from the sand. Some of the planes had been wrapped in plastic sheeting to protect their electronics and machinery from the sand (and some had had their wings removed), but others were interred with little or no protection from the sand or the elements. The recovery teams had to use large earth-moving equipment to uncover the aircraft.

The discovery at al Taqqadum was not announced to the public until a month later, in a press briefing delivered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2003 — American forces have found Russian fighter jets buried in the Iraqi desert, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an Aug. 5 press briefing.

"We'd heard a great many things had been buried, but we had not known where they were, and we'd been operating in that immediate vicinity for weeks and weeks and weeks . . . 12, 13 weeks, and didn't know they were (there)," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said he wasn't sure how many such aircraft had been found, but noted, "It wasn't one or two."

He said it's a "classic example" of the challenges the Iraqi Survey Group is facing in finding weapons of mass destruction in the country.

"Something as big as an airplane that's within . . . a stone's throw of where you're functioning, and you don't know it's there because you don't run around digging into everything on a discovery process," Rumsfeld explained. "So until you find somebody who tells you where to look, or until nature clears some sand away and exposes something over time, we're simply not going to know.

"But, as we all know," he added, "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Additional information:

  Exhumating the Dead Iraqi Air Force   Exhumating the Dead Iraqi Air Force   (Air Combat Information Group)

Last updated:   1 March 2004


  Sources Sources:

    Farrell, Stephen   "Iraqi Planes Found Buried in Desert."

      The [London] Times.   2 August 2003.

    Rhem, Kathleen T.   "American Forces Pull Hidden MiG fighters out of Iraqi Desert."

    American Forces Press Service.   6 August 2003.

    Boston Globe.   "Desert Discovery."

      12 August 2003.

    The Seattle Times.   "Buried Fighter Jets Uncovered."

      13 August 2003   (p. A19).


David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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