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Hardened aircraft shelter at RAF Bruggen, 1981

A hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) or protective aircraft shelter (PAS) is a reinforced hangar to house and protect military aircraft from enemy attack. Cost considerations and building practicalities limit their use to fighter size aircraft.


HASs are a passive defence measure (i.e., they limit the effect of an attack, as opposed to active defences; e.g., surface-to-air missiles) which aim to prevent or at least degrade enemy attacks. The widespread adoption of hardened aircraft shelters can be traced back to lessons learned from Operation Focus; in the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War when the Israeli Air Force destroyed the unprotected Egyptian Air Force, at the time the largest and most advanced air force in the Arab world, at its airbases.

An F-16 being towed into a HAS at Volkel Air Base

As with many military items, whether structures, tanks or aircraft, its most prolific use was during the Cold War. NATO and Warsaw Pact countries built hundreds of HASs across Europe. In this context hardened aircraft shelters were built to protect aircraft from conventional attacks as well as nuclear, chemical and biological strikes. NATO shelters, built to standard designs across the continent, were designed to withstand a direct hit by a 500 lb (226 kg) bomb, or a near miss by a larger one (i.e., 1,000 lb+). In theory HASs were also built to protect aircraft in a nuclear strike; however, the effect of such an attack on airfield taxiways, runways, support facilities and personnel would have made any retaliatory mission extremely difficult and subsequent return and rearming almost impossible.

In the post-cold war era, the value of the HAS concept was further eroded by the introduction of precision-guided munitions. Iraq's HAS hangars were built to a standard somewhat higher than NATO or Warsaw Pact shelters, but nevertheless proved almost useless during the Gulf War. Early attempts to defeat them typically used a "one-two punch" using a TV-guided missile to blast open the doors, followed by bombs tossed in the front. US efforts soon turned to simply dropping a 2,000 lb laser guided bomb on the top, which would easily penetrate the roof and explode within. With that being said, however, NATO hangars would still remain useful against the forces of any enemy as might conceivably engage Europe in an armed conflict in the short term (whose capabilities generally lack precision guidance systems needed to defeat the defensive shield such hangars offer).


Inside a PAS, showing a Weapons Storage and Security System vault in raised position holding a B61 nuclear bomb
  • Reduces vulnerability of aircraft to all but the most accurate precision weaponry
  • Combined with active airfield defences increases survivability of defender's aircraft and cost to enemy's forces.
  • An alternative option, dispersal of aircraft to many different bases, reduces the efficiency of aircraft at both squadron and air force level.
  • Nuclear weapons can be stored in the HAS near the aircraft, in a vault; e.g., the United States Air Force Weapons Storage and Security System (WS3).


Two reinforced hangars showing the effects of Coalition bombing during Operation Desert Storm, 1991. These Kuwaiti shelters were built by the French and used by Iraqi forces during the conflict. Picture is of Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base - Kuwait.
  • They are in a fixed known position.
  • Hardened shelters are expensive.
  • Hardened shelters are usually too small to easily accommodate large aircraft such as strategic transport aircraft and large surveillance aircraft.
  • Time taken for construction requires forward planning regarding most likely combat zones. If a conflict flares up quickly aircraft may be afforded no protection; e.g., in both the Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War many coalition aircraft had only sun shelters, not hardened facilities.
  • When first developed, the likelihood of a direct hit was minimal. Today, with precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and adequate training, delivering a direct hit on a HAS is trivial. Coalition aircraft destroyed over half of Iraq's HASs during the Gulf War.
  • The German Air Force has conducted tests to establish the effect of humidity inside a shelter on its aircraft's avionics. Results suggested the higher relative humidity has a higher corrosive effect than outside its shelters. Supply of dry air to avionics compartments has decreased corrosion and increased serviceability.[citation needed]


Deployable shelters
Kevlar lined deployable shelters could protect aircraft from bomblets (a common anti-airfield weapon). However this would provide no protection from PGMs.
Dispersal at bases
Wider dispersal (distance between aircraft) at airfields would decrease the vulnerability of aircraft. This would also force an enemy to increase the number of attacking aircraft greatly, or spend more time over the target. Either way the effect of airfield defences would take a heavy toll on the aggressor. However like HAS, dispersal can be expensive, requiring massive construction of hardstanding. Defense against enemy special forces is also more difficult.
Dispersal between bases
Dispersing aircraft between many bases greatly increases the cost of attacking a given number of aircraft, as measured by the number of attack aircraft required. However, this option similarly increases the defenders' cost of operation and degrades their efficiency.
Dispersal to highway strips
Dispersal of aircraft to highway strips will present the attacker with a multitude of targets which cannot be simultaneously attacked. Survivability is enhanced if the defender also chooses to use mobile tactics, using each highway strip for a limited number of sorties before moving on to another. With penny packets of two to four aircraft at each location, such a tactic increases the difficulty of effective co-ordination, and command and control, it also increases vulnerability to attack from the ground. However, with adequate planning these are not insurmountable problems; for example Sweden, one of the main subscribers to the highway strip doctrine, has a special forces unit, the Flygbasjägare, raised especially to counter the threat of attack by enemy special forces.
Underground hangars
Several air forces have used tunnels dug into a mountainside as underground hangars.

See also[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardened_aircraft_shelter — Please support Wikipedia.
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446 videos foundNext > 

Hardened Aircraft Shelter Door Opening

Video of a F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft being parked into a hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) at Keflavik, Iceland. A hardened aircraft shelter is a reinforced hangar ...

Opening the doors of a Hardened Aircraft Shelter (HAS 25) at Wattisham

Part of the Wattisham Airfield Museum. Doors opening on the evening of 2 April 2014. Inside is a McDonnell Douglas Phantom, Hawker Hunter and a cockpit of ...

Airmen manually taxiing the jets into hardened aircraft shelter

Airmen wearing MOPP gear receive F-16s. This B-roll shows them manually taxiing the jets into hardened aircraft shelter and doing post-flight inspections and ...

KT-1T in hardened aircraft shelter

A Turkish Air Force KT-1T trainer preparing to shut down its engine after arrival in a hardened aircraft shelter.

HAS - Hardened Aircraft Shelter 3D Model

Download HAS - Hardened Aircraft Shelter 3D Model at http://www.3dcb.com/20646.

F-15戦闘機スクランブル・強化航空機シェルター(耐爆格納庫) - F-15 Eagle Scramble - Hardened Aircraft Shelter

アイスランドのケプラヴィーク国際空港に隣接するケプラヴィーク海軍航空基地でのF-15イーグル戦闘機のスクランブル訓練。 冷戦時代の重要拠点...

Airmen receive F-16s, taxiing the jets into hardened aircraft shelter

Airmen wearing MOPP gear receive F-16s. This B-roll shows them manually taxiing the jets into hardened aircraft shelter and doing post-flight inspections and ...

F-16s night time taxiing into shelter and post-flight inspections and maintenance | AiirSource

Airmen wearing MOPP gear receive F-16s. This video shows them manually taxiing the jets into hardened aircraft shelter and doing post-flight inspections and ...

Aircraft Return

The Wattisham Station Heritage Museum aircraft are returned to their Hardened Aircraft Shelter. http://www.wattishamstationheritage.org.

First look over our Phantom FG.1 XT864

The UAS Phantom working party travelled from Belfast to Leuchars to look over our latest acquisition. Whilst there we were informed that we had ITAR approval ...

446 videos foundNext > 

36 news items


Mon, 15 Feb 2016 02:52:30 -0800

This wonderful collection of classic commercial and fighter aircraft, housed in a former RAF Hardened Aircraft Shelter at Newquay Airport, opened its doors to the public a few months ago. Visitors can climb into the cockpits of Hawker Hunters, a ...


Tue, 02 Feb 2016 08:18:45 -0800

"Rather than scramble Typhoons at the first hint of something abnormal, a controller has the option to put them on a higher level of alert, 'a call to cockpit'. "In this scenario the pilot races to the hardened aircraft shelter and does everything ...

War on the Rocks

War on the Rocks
Tue, 22 Sep 2015 00:54:46 -0700

Figure 1: An F-15E from the 494th Fighter Squadron taxis by a hardened aircraft shelter at Incirlik AB on its way to a NORTHERN WATCH mission in 1998 (USAF). Our experience with airpower makes a solid case for moving back towards an airpower-centric ...

The Aviationist (blog)

The Aviationist (blog)
Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:08:02 -0700

An F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft assigned to the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., sits outside a hardened aircraft shelter at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Aug. 28, 2015. The U.S. Air Force deployed four F-22 Raptors, one C-17 ...
Fri, 08 May 2015 02:45:00 -0700

Therefore some New Generation Hardened Aircraft Shelter (NGHAS) has to be made in which not only a SU-30 can fit but also servicing, loading of weapons and maintenance activities can be done inside the shelter,” Indian Air Force had informed the ...

The Indian Express

The Indian Express
Wed, 06 May 2015 09:20:01 -0700

Therefore some New Generation Hardened Aircraft Shelter (NGHAS) has to be made in which not only a SU-30 can fit but also servicing, loading of weapons and maintenance activities can be done inside the shelter,” the committee was informed.

Military Modelling

Military Modelling
Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:03:39 -0700

The one other inclusion in the kit which I really liked to see Trumpeter have included, is a well detailed aircraft tow bar so this would be ideal for a diorama showing the MiG at an airshow perhaps, or outside an HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter). All ...


Fri, 16 Jan 2015 04:23:02 -0800

But as Kshesh is littered with around sixty plane wrecks, it is highly unlikely the SyAAF ever managed to find or hit the aircaft, which spend most of their time hidden in a Hardened Aircraft Shelter anyway. While the presence of two operational L-39s ...

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