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Wheelus Air Base\Okba Ben Nafi Airfield.
Category. Statistic.
Location. Libya.
Opened in. 1923 by the Italian Air Force as Mellaha Air Base.
Closed in. No, it is still open to both civil and some milltery trafic.
Operated by. Regia Aeronautica (1923-1939), Luftwaffe (1939-1943), British Army (acting during 1943) USAAF (1943-1947), USAF (1947-1954), Libyan Air Force\USAF (1954-1969), Libyan Air Force (1969-1970), Libyan Air Force\Soviet Red Air Force (1970), Libyan Air Force (1970-1995), Libyan civil aviation board (1995-2011) and the USAF\Libyan civil aviation board (2011 - to date).
Owned by. Regia Aeronautica (1923-1943), British MoD (acting during 1943) US DoD (1943-1969), Libyan Air Force\US DoD (1954-1969), Libyan MoD (1969-1995), Libyan civil aviation board (1995-2011) and the USAF\Libyan civil aviation board (2011 - to date).
Outside links. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitiga_International_Airport, http://www.mace-b.com/38TMW/Wheelus/Wheelus.htm, http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/wheelus-air-base, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/facility/wheelus.htm, http://www.circuitsofthepast.nl/en-US/tripoli and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheelus_Air_Base.



Wheelus AFB - Tripoli, Libya 1964

F-100's and old Beetles! :) film by Mike Holland, then-A2C at MATS-Wheelus, the summer of '64, with a USN P2V, 7272nd F-100s taxiing out, MATS C-54 aerovac bird (probably outta Rhein-Main).

Prior to the war, the airbase was constructed in 1923 and used by the Italian Air Force. In 1933 the roads around the air base and the neighboring Mellaha Lake became the new home for the popular Tripoli Grand Prix motor race. 

The airport has a diverse international history and has been known by a variety of names. It was originally built in 1923 as an Italian air force base called l'aeroporto militare di Mellaha. It became a German air base during World War II. Mellaha was used by the German Luftwaffe during the North African Campaign, with the Germans using it for short range recon units, as well as coastal and naval recon units. Special weather recon units also existed at Mehalla.

The main Luftwaffe unit stationed at the base was the 2nd Staffel of the Aufklärungsgruppe (H) 14 or 2.(H)/14. The airbase was captured by the British 8th Army in January 1943 and transferred to the control of the US Army Air Forces, who called it Mellaha AAF until 1945, when they renamed it Wheelus Air Base for a US airman killed that year. Anglo-American fighters and American bombers operated from it.

On 15 April 1945 Mellaha AAF was taken over by USAAF’s Air Training Command. It was renamed Wheelus Army Air Field (AAF) on 17 May 1945 in honor of USAAF Lieutenant Richard Wheelus who had died earlier that year in a plane crash in Iran.

American use continued until the 1969 Libyan coup d'état. The Americans were expelled and the base was renamed Okba Ben Nafi Air Base (قاعدة عقبة بن نافع الجوية) after the Islamic general who conquered north Africa. It was used by both Libyan and Soviet air forces. The United States bombed the base in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon. In 1995, the air base was converted to a second civilian airport for Tripoli, and was given its current name.


Today the aeronautical facility is known as Mitiga International Airport.

Mitiga International Airport (IATA: MJI, ICAO: HLLM) (مطار معيتيقة الدولي) is an airport in Libya, located about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Tripoli's city center. Due to the closure of Tripoli International Airport in July 2014 as a result of the ongoing Second Libyan Civil War, Mitiga International is currently the only airport serving Tripoli.

It is a civil airport, but Libyan and American war planes still use it at times and the USAF has a minor facility there.

See also[]

  1. Noteworthy Air bases
  2. Airports