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The Albanian Air Force (Albanian: Forca Ajrore e Republikës së Shqipërisë, lit. Air Force of [the] Republic of Albania) is the national air force of Albania. It is one of the branches of the Albanian military.

Albanian Air Force
Forca Ajrore
Albanian Air Forces.svg
Albanian Air Force badge
Founded1928; 91 years ago (1928)
CountryAlbania
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size3,100 personnel
Part ofAlbanian Armed Forces
Equipment42 aircraft
Commanders
Current
commander
Vladimir Avdiaj
Insignia
RoundelRoundel of Albania.svg
Aircraft flown
HelicopterAS532 Cougar, EC145, BO-105
AW109, Bell 205, Bell 206

Contents

HistoryEdit

Early historyEdit

 
An Albanian air force PT-6

In 1914 the Albanian government ordered three Lohner Daimler aircraft from Austria to form an air force. As a result of the outbreak of World War I, the order was cancelled. Albania did not have the resources to start the development of a proper Air Force during the 1920s and 1930s. After the establishment of the Albanian Kingdom in 1928, King Zog formed the Royal Albanian Air Corps under the direction of the Royal Albanian Army.

The Royal Air Force, and the rest of Albanian armed forces, were abolished following the Italian invasion of Albania during the Second World War.[1]

Socialist AlbaniaEdit

On 24 April 1951, following the end of the Second World War, Albania re-established its air force.[2]

An academy was founded in Vlorë in 1962.[2] Albania cut diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in 1962, leading to a shift to China for the supply of necessary parts to maintain its MiGs.[3]

After World War II, the Albanian Air Force finally came into existence when Albania was equipped with Soviet aircraft. The first squadron was equipped with Yakovlev Yak-9s. The first jet fighter to enter service was the MiG-15, dating officially 15 May 1955, followed by the MiG-17. Some of the MiG-15s were Soviet fighters used and then withdrawn from the North Korean Air Force. The backbone of the Albanian Air Force jet fighters became MiG-19 (NATO code "Farmer"). 12 MiG-19PM were delivered by the USSR in October 1959 and on the same year pilots and specialists were sent in USSR to train with the all-weather interceptor MiG-19 PM. After the collapse of USSR-Albanian relations, significant numbers of Shenyang J-6 fighters (Chinese copy of the MiG-19S), were acquired from China. In the early 1970s, Albania exchanged its lot of Soviet-made MiG-19PM (NATO code "Farmer-E") fighters equipped for beam-riding missiles, with 12, more advanced, Chengdu J-7A fighters (Chinese copy of the Soviet-built MiG-21). Two of them were lost in incidents in the early 1970s, eight had problems with lack of batteries in the early 1980s.[citation needed]

In total, during the 70s and early 80s, the Albanian Air Force was able to deploy 142 aircraft, between Shenyang J-6Cs, 12 Chengdu J-7As, a fighter squadron equipped with MiG-17s, a considerable number of MiG-15 (both BIS and UTI versions), and 4 Soviet-made Il-14 transport aircraft. A squadron of Shijiazhuang Y-5 was deployed in Tirana and the Air Force Academy in Vlora had 2 squadrons of Yak-18 for basic pilot training purposes. The helicopter component consisted in 18 Harbin Z-5 (Chinese copy of Mil Mi-4) helicopters based in Farka Tirana, meanwhile there was a single prototype of a light H-5 bomber based in Rinas.[citation needed]

Due to the collapse of relations between Albania and the Chinese, maintenance became extremely difficult and the number of deadly incidents involving Mikoyan fighters increased. Despite Albanian efforts and some initial success in repairing the engines of the MiGs, the lack of specific jet fuel forced authorities to start production locally, resulting in low-quality production (the first attempt was in 1961, when the Kuçova factory produced the special jet kerosene called TSI). The fuel shortened the lifespan of the jet engines and was often blamed as the main reason for several deadly incidents. 35 Albanian pilots lost their lives from 1955 to 2005, mainly due to MiG mechanical failures.[citation needed]

Recent historyEdit

Following the fall of communism in Albania in 1990, the air force had 200 jets and 40 helicopters, and four Il-14 transport planes.[3] The fall of communism took a heavy toll on the Albanian air force and left it underfunded and short of equipment. At the time, the Albanian air force had gone 20 years without receiving spare parts nor engaging in modernisation programs. Pilots throughout this period engaged in only 15 hours of flying time each year, a direct result of fuel and maintenance issues with their ageing fleet.[4] According to a CIA report in 1994, Albania sought assistance from the USA in order to modernise their aircraft to F-16 fighter jets and implement modern Command and control systems for their air force.[4] Although Albania signed a Partnership for Peace program with NATO and also, allowed the Gjadër Air Base to be utilised by the CIA to fly unmanned spy missions over Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1994, the Albanian air force did not achieve their modernisation goals.[5][6]

During the 1997 uprising in Albania, seven MiGs were destroyed and their parts were stolen.[3]

In the early 90s, in an effort to keep the MiGs flying, the Albanian Air Force received spare parts from Bulgaria and engines from the ex-GDR. By 2004, Albania still had 117 J-6C aircraft, although mostly were not operational and only 12 Chengdu J-7A.[citation needed] The Albanian fighter jets were finally withdrawn from active service in late 2004 after the last deadly incident involving a J-6C during take-off from the military area at Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana.[citation needed]

By 2006, Albania had scrapped over half of its Z-5s and had signed a contract for the delivery of six Bolkow 105s over three years.[7] This acquisition allowed air force to operate with 4 Y-5s, 7 B206s, 3 B205s, 6 Bolkow 105s.[7]

Currently, the Albanian Air Brigade does not operate any Soviet-era aircraft. Since 2011, 9 Shijiazhuang Y-5 have been retired from service.[citation needed] In 2011, the air force sold four Il-14 transport planes for scrap.[3]

In 2016, 40 retired Albanian military aircraft were prepared for auction at a future date. The aircraft for sale include a military trainer aircraft, the Yak-18, and four types of military jets – MiG-15s, MiG-17s, MiG-19s, and MiG-21s – and four Mi-4 transport helicopters. The government said there has been interest from collectors and museums, and that it will sell another 100 jets if the auction is successful. The funds generated will be used to further modernise the Air Force.[3]

Air BasesEdit

Albanian Air Force locations in operation 2019
  Kuçovë Air Base is the sole stand alone air base in operation.
  Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza combined civil and military airport.
  Helipad.

The air force's headquarters is located in Tirana and it operates three airbases: Tirana Air Base with the national Control and Reporting Centre, which reports to NATO's Integrated Air Defense System CAOC Torrejón in Spain, Kuçovë Air Base, and Lapraka Air Base, home to the government's transport helicopters.[8]

AircraftEdit

Current inventoryEdit

The Albanian Air Force has retired all its fixed wing aircraft and now operates several types of helicopters. Also, close NATO integrated air defence is no longer a priority for the Albanian military.

 
An Albanian Agusta AB-205A-1
 
Albanian Air Force AS532
 
A retired F6 at Kuçovë Air Base
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Helicopters
Bell UH-1 Italy utility 7[9] licensed built by AgustaWestland
Bell 206 Italy utility 7[9]
MBB Bo 105 Germany light utility 12[9]
Eurocopter EC145 France liaison 3[9]
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk United States Utility 3[10]
Eurocopter AS532 France transport 6[9]
AgustaWestland AW109 Italy light utility 4[9]

Retired aircraftEdit

All Albanian fixed-wing aircraft were withdrawn from active service in 2005.

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Chengdu F-7 People's Republic of China fighter / interceptor F-7A 11[11] grounded (lack of parts)
Shenyang J-6 People's Republic of China fighter F-6 / FT-6 65[11] grounded (lack of parts)
Shenyang J-5 People's Republic of China fighter F-5 / FT-5 21[11] grounded (lack of parts)
Transport
Harbin Y-5 People's Republic of China transport 3[11] placed in storage
An-2 Soviet Union transport 11[11] placed in storage
Il-14 Soviet Union heavy transport 4[11] placed in storage
Helicopters
Bell 222 United States VIP 222UT 3[11] written off in a crash[12]
AS350B France utility 4[11] retired from service
Harbin Z-5 People's Republic of China utility 31[11] licensed built Mil Mi-4
Alouette III France liaison 4[11] retired from service
Trainer Aircraft
Nanchang CJ-6 People's Republic of China trainer 8[11]
Shenyang FT-2 People's Republic of China trainer 24[11] licensed built MiG-15UTI

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "History of the General Staff of the Armed Forces". Albanian Armed Forces. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Air Force History". Albanian Armed Forces. Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Semini, Llazar (6 March 2016). "Albania, once Europe's most isolated country under a 50-year Communist regime, is selling dozens of obsolete Eastern Bloc military jets". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The Albanian Armed Forces" (PDF). CIA. 7 July 1994. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  5. ^ Sabrina P. Ramet, The three Yugoslavias: state-building and legitimation, 1918-2005 (2006) p. 454.
  6. ^ "Signatures of Partnership for Peace Framework Document". North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 5 October 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2006.
  7. ^ a b Lofting, Chris; Coupland, John. "Albania 2006". baes.org.uk/. British Aviation Enthusiasts Society. Archived from the original on 28 May 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  8. ^ Komanda Forcave Ajrore Shqiptare Archived 13 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c d e f "World Air Forces 2017". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  10. ^ https://qconline.com/news/world/us-gives-black-hawk-helicopters-to-albania-military/article_5537478f-e872-5e9f-bc7c-4f630860edcc.html
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "World Air Forces 2004 pg, 42". Flightglobal I. 2004. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Albanian Government ZA-HOV". airport-data.com. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.

External linksEdit