The images paint a picture of precision: The first satellite imagery of the aftermath of the Iranian strike on Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq highlights Iran's improved ability to accurately strike distant targets with its extensive missile arsenal. The pictures, released by imaging company Planet Labs on Jan. 8, show that Iran can chalk up its strike as a success even without inflicting U.S. casualties. What's more, they also show how Iran sought to skirt a delicate line in exacting public retribution while also avoiding an escalation that would lead to outright war.
The Aftermath of a Strike
According to reports, Iran fired around 16 short-range ballistic missiles at two bases with a U.S. presence in Iraq, Ayn al-Asad and Arbil International Airport. Tehran appears to have launched several of its less reliable Qaim 1 missiles at Arbil, though many of them apparently failed to hit their target. Still, the brunt of Iran's attack was Ayn al-Asad, which was hit by about 10 of Iran's more reliable Fateh-110 missiles (and possibly its more modern Fateh-313 variant).
The images from the aftermath at Ayn al-Asad illustrate the significant potency of the missiles that hit the base. The pictures reveal at least eight impact sites, with most appearing to have caused considerable damage to hangars and soft aircraft shelters that might have contained American jets or other aircraft. One of the strikes, for instance, appears to have hit soft aircraft shelters that housed CV-22 Ospreys, almost certainly causing at least some damage to aircraft. A separate impact appears to have hit another row of soft aircraft shelters containing helicopters, while another seems to have struck a hangar or machine shop used to service American unmanned aerial vehicles — a highly symbolic target given that these were potentially the same drones that the United States used to kill senior Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani last week.
What the Pictures Mean