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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Iraqi aircraft 'buried in desert'
Iraqi MiG
The planes might never fly again
US forces in Iraq have discovered dozens of Iraqi fighter aircraft buried in the desert, US officials have said.

A Pentagon official told the Associated Press news agency that several MiG-25s and Su-25 attack planes were found hidden at al-Taqqadum air base west of Baghdad.

The planes were unearthed by teams hunting for alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The discovery comes as America's weapons inspector in Iraq say they are making solid progress in the search for banned weapons the US says Saddam Hussein was hiding.

Poking out of sand

"Our guys have found 30-something brand new aircraft buried in the sand to deny us access to them," said Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Porter Goss.

"These are craft we didn't know about," he said.

At least one of the MiGs was found with its tail fins poking out of the sand, the agency quoted the Pentagon official as saying.

It said many of the planes were buried with little protection and might never fly again.

The Iraqi air force, believed to have numbered around 300 fighter planes, was not mobilised during the US-led war with Iraq earlier this year.

It is thought Saddam Hussein believed the ageing aircraft would be no match for American firepower, and sought to conceal them instead.

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