NATO begins work to modernize communist-era Albanian air base
NATO on Thursday began upgrading Albania’s communist-era Kucova airbase, which will allow it to be used for alliance operations.
The 45.8 million euro ($52 million) upgrade will include renovations to the runway, taxiways and storage facilities and is designed to increase NATO interoperability and support missions early warning aircraft over the Western Balkan country.
The Kucova base, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital Tirana, will serve Albania and also support NATO air supply operations, logistics support, air policing, training and exercises .
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said NATO’s choice to use the facility as a tactical base “confirms the fact that small Albania is, nevertheless, an added value to this alliance”.
The upgrade is expected to be completed by fall 2023, according to the Department of Defense.
Kucova Air Base was built in the 1950s when Albania was a close ally of the Soviet Union. The first Soviet Ilyushin Il-28 bomber landed there in 1957, and Mig-17 jets were deployed later. The Albanian communist regime collapsed in 1990.
Kucova remained a military airbase, although its old Russian- and Chinese-made jets ceased flying in the late 1990s.
Albania has been a member of NATO since 2009. Last year, the country hosted Defender-Europe 21 multinational military exercises led by the US military.