Istres - Le Tubé (BA125)

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Last Validated Mar 2012
City Istres
Position 43°31'22"N 004°55'26"E
Runway(s) 15/33
Elevation 82 ft


Istres is a large base in the south of France which houses several interesting units with equally interesting aircraft. The airfield of Istres is used by the factories of Dassault, as an operational base for the Armée de l'Air and as a test base. The military part and the factories of Dassault are two separate parts of the airfield. Although you will be able to drive around the field, it will be done via long dirt roads, so be aware of some possible damage to your own or your rental car.


The airfield is located close to the Méditerranée, next to the village of Istres. The runway is southeast - northwest orientated and all aprons are at the east side. Going from north to south, the first apron is used by the C-135FRs, the second large apron is used by Dassault and the most eastern apron is used by the French Navy. The apron at the southeast is used by CEV/EPNER and the apron at the opposite, in the southwest corner, is used by the Mirage 2000s.

Getting There

Istres is south of the highway E80/A54 from Arles to Salon-de-Provence. Take exit 13 to follow the N569/N1569 towards Miramar and Istres to arrive at the east side, for spot 1, 2 and 3. Take exit 9 onto the N568 towards Fos-sur-Mer for spot 4 and 5.

Around the Airport

1Dump and view between buildings

This spot leads to spot 2 and will give you the possibility to photograph on the taxiway and see the C-135FR apron. From the crossing of the N569 and N568, go towards Istres and Miramar. When the roads turns left to the north, it will change into the N1569, and later on you will pass the French main gate. At the next roundabout, take the road to the left. You will drive along the fence now. After the cross road you will see the dump on the left hand side and can see part of the ramp between the buildings.
If you head back to the cross roads and go left, away from the base, you will encounter a preserved Mirage.

2East side taxiway

Proceed on the road from spot 1, it bends right to the former USAF gate. When facing this gate, take the dirt road to the right and drive along the fence to the north. After a while you will be next to an orchard. Park the car and walk towards the fence. You are next to the hangar close to the taxiway. You can photograph the Mirage 2000 with 300 mm on the taxiway.

3South side approach

This spot is rather difficult to describe. From spot 1 and 2, the north, head back south on the N1569 towards Istres. After passing the airfield entrance, you will reach a roundabout. Go left, the third exit, into Istres on the Avenue de Radolphzell. Go straight at the first roundabout, then over the railroad tracks, and right at the next roundabout. This will be the N569/Route de Rassuen towards Fos-sur-Mer. Follow it along the railroad, it will now be called Route de Fos. You will pass the N1569. It does not have a southerly exit, that is why the detour described above is necessary when coming from the north. After underpassing the N1569, the road is called Route de Fanfarigoule, take the first track on your right. Follow this to the fence. Alternatively, go left and right to take a parallel track that takes you more south of the approach.

When you come from the south, follow the N569 to Istres. Go past the sports fields, over the railroad and past the lake (Etang de Lavalduc). At the point were the N569 becomes N1569, exit it staying on the N569 but go left immediately while still on the exit. You will now track back underneath N1569 and be on the Route de Fanfarigoule also.

4Southwest side

From the roundabout at the N568 where the N268 starts, the Carrefour de la Fossette, take a dirt road which goes in a north-easterly direction. Eventually, you will reach the fence near a crash gate opposite the platforms where the French C-135FRs are parked. You can move further north from here, past the Mirage 2000 shelters.

5North side approach

From the crossing of the N569 and the N568, take the N568 to Arles. After a while you will see two farms. At this position there will be a small dirt road to the right. Follow this road and drive along some trees. After passing this wooded area, you will see the ATC on the base. Follow the road until you see a small farm. Near this farm there is an even smaller road at your left, recognizable by to the small white poles with white caps. Follow this road for about 15 minutes and a small square building with a surrounding fence will appear. Take a dirt road to the right, towards another farm. At this farm, you are at the spot to photograph all landing traffic with about 400mm.

Taken from spot 5, this is an Indian Su-30 on deployment. (Frank Noort, June 2005)

Taking pics from spot 3 is possible, like shown by this French Mirage 2000. Aircraft are fairly high though. (Fred Willemsen, February 2007)


279.175 / 121.850Ground
240.500 / 123.600Tower
257.800 / 122.100Tower
278.675 / 120.350Approach
372.150 / 119.475Approach, Rhône Control


1101/ARAlouette 3, with EPNER
A133/7-HBJaguar A, with EC03.004
234Mirage 3B, with EPNER
--Mirage 3B at depot outside base, just north of spot 1
36/BIMirage 4P, at HQ
147/CMMystère 2C, preserved at gate

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