Military bases and forgotten communist fighters looking for a place in the future of Albania

File Photo

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — At the foot of an arid hill in northern Albania lies a site that brings a visitor back to the Communist country’s history, opening a massive steel door to reveal an airbase buried in the heart of a mountain.

The secret base of the 600-meter-long underground airbase, which was once full of military life, became a storehouse for dozens of MiG-era fighter aircraft left behind in darkness and dust.

Three decades after its liberation from communism, the Albanian authorities are still trying to sell Soviet and Chinese-made aircraft, which also have dozens of them at a nearby air base.

“Keeping up with our equipment and weapons for NATO standards is part of the new chapter for Albania with the alliance it joined in 2009,” said Bardil Kulkaku, chief of staff of the Albanian army.

“For the Mig fighters,” Kulakaku told AFP, “Apart from the nostalgia that keeps us in our museum … the rest will be dealt with under domestic law for sale and other uses.”

The MiG-19, MiG-17, MIG-21 and other fighters have been out of service for more than a decade.

But museums and collectors of arms and aviation have expressed interest in acquiring these pieces, which are now archaeological.

While Albania debated the first sale of MiG fighter jets in 2016, it received requests for purchase from the French Air and Space Museum as well as an aviation school in Germany.

But no sale has yet been completed due to administrative hurdles.

There are also people on the waiting list, including the French businessman who lives in Albania Julian Roach, who plans to show the plane in his garden.

“It is not easy to get this kind of aircraft now, almost all of them destroyed and not stored as in Albania,” he told AFP from a house full of exotic property.

He applied for the purchase of one of the oldest models, a Chinese-made “MiG-15” priced at about 10 thousand euros (11 thousand dollars), which was used by North Koreans before being granted to Albania.

– Closed to the public –

Like 7,000 concrete security caches along rural areas, Jader’s secret base was part of former communist dictator Anwar Khoja’s plan to shield the isolated state from any foreign incursions that it never got.

More than 600 soldiers were working in the labyrinth of tunnels, which were shut down in 2000 and are still blocked by the general public.

The fighters, which flew after 2000, used another military base, until the last aircraft departed from service following an incident in 2004.

After the dark, damp tunnels opened in front of Agence France-Presse, al-Qaeda official Vtemir Dannage, 52, admitted that the old planes were causing an unexpected nostalgia for the past.

“The pleasure of flying and working at this base is unimaginable,” he said as he lightened his exposure on a row of silver fighters he was landing on when he was a young pilot on the runway to the mountain.

Today there are dozens of rooms inside, including a coffee shop, houses and a group of empty offices, unlike the scattered rubble and the faint signs on the doors.

In one empty office, there is still a sign on the wall reading “Attention! Please leave the documents in their files and submit them to the secret office before leaving the workplace.”

– Atlantic can revive Jadir –

Over a 40-year-old wisdom, Albania’s wife became the most militarized country in the Balkans.

This came in stark contrast in 1997, seven years after the fall of communism when an armed insurgency swept through the country, where citizens broke into arms depots and military bases to obtain weapons.

There was no escape as people looted weapons and sold some of the fighters as scrap metal.

Today, the Albanian Air Force has only a small fleet of helicopters while NATO is protecting its airspace.

In a sign of changing times, the first NATO base in the Balkans will be built in the Albanian Kucova, known as the “City of Stalin” as a symbol of friendship between Albania and the Soviet Union.

But Dannage still dreams of seeing Gader regain her old glory. “Al Qaeda can turn into a museum, but given its modern infrastructure and network of tunnels, it can go back to work and serve NATO,” he said.

This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.

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