Albania: NATO airbase refurbishment begins

Five months after the announcement of the rebuilding of the Kuçovë Albanian air base to be used by NATO, the defense ministry of the country announced on 24 January 2019 the commencement of building operations on the abandoned base.

This announcement was made in the presence of NATO Air Force Commander General Tod D. Wolters, who made an official visit to Albania on that day. The construction of the base started in 1952 with Soviet help and was delivered to Albanian Air Force in 1955. In 1997 during the popular uprising in Albania the base was captured by the insurgent crowd and looted.

During 2002-2004, maintenance and upgrade work was carried out in accordance with NATO standards and a new control tower was built, new lighting was installed, and the corridor was rebuilt.

The base has an underground airplane car park dug into a hill with one entrance and one exit to the east of the landing runway and is connected to it on a 2.5 km drive. Inside this subterranean park, for many years,   old fighters Chinese Shenyang F-6 and Nanchang CJ-6 trainers were left to rust.

The cost of the first phase of the rebuilding of Kuçovë air base will reach 50 million euros and will be covered by the NATO budget, while work will be completed in 2024. The base is located 70 km south of Tirana in an area favorable to aviation with very good weather conditions. This investment is NATO’s first major development effort in the Western Balkans several years after Albania’s accession to NATO.

According to Serbian former director of the Kosovo office Dušan Proroković, the reconstruction of the Albanian base is aimed at completing NATO’s infrastructure in the western Balkans and believes that the Kuçovë base will be used by NATO to support operations if need arises, in the region and not a base with a NATOs permanent military presence, since both in Italy and in Greece NATO maintains more important military infrastructure.

In fact, the reconstructed base will be part of infrastructure for the development of NATO-led air forces that will cover the wider area south of Serbia.