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Haapsalu Airfield, an abandoned fighter jet launch center now a haunting street racing course

2 min read

We are in Estonia, just next to the Ungru Manor, a ruin of dilapidated former grandeur, where an old military airfield for middle to long-haul aircrafts known as the Kiltsi or Haapsalu Airfield (Haapsalu lennuväli in Estonian) lies abandoned, marked by empty bunkers and a weedy runway.

Located 4 km southwest of Haapsalu, Its construction began in 1939 as a “Mutual Defense” airfield in Estonia. The Soviets annexed the country in August 1940. Estonia was (like the USSR) invaded by the German Wehrmacht in June 1941, who used the airfield designated as Fliegerhorst Kommandantur-E (V) 208/I. In the fall of 1944 Estonia was reconquered by the Soviets.
The airfield was used with few intermissions until the Soviet military finally left Estonia in the 1990s, after which the airfield fell into disrepair, leaving behind old airplane hangars, barracks, and runways.
During its operating life, the airfield was mainly used as a launch site for Interceptor fighter jets and covers an area of about 800 hectares. The concrete runways are 2,500 m long, and it once had 28 hangars for airplanes.
It saw an extensive rebuild between 1967 and 1969, a fact that meant the airfield became one of the most modern in the Baltic area, ranking 4th in capacity. The airfield was home to the Soviet 425 IAP (425th Interceptor Aviation Regiment) flying up to 38 MiG-23 jets in 1991.
Now it is longer in use, but its facilities are still standing for the most part, as a remnant of a darker time in Estonian history.
However, this is not to say that the place sees no more action, as some people still use the long paved stretch for Fast-and-Furious-style street races.
Surprisingly enough, these are often not even illegal, with event organizers coming together to host the races themselves, including drag races.

Despite the abandonment, most of the hangars seem to be in order, except that their metal doors are long gone and they act as haunting cement echo chambers that reflect the voices of visitors to the site.
Both the airfield and the destroyed Ungru Manor create a bleak, if fascinating monument to Soviet rule.
The territory of the airfield belongs to the Lääne district of the Defence League.

Images from web – Google Research