iako ove avione nisu bile funkcionalni sad oficialno Albanija ostaje bez vazduhoplovstvo
TIRANA (*******) - Albania's antiquated air force of Soviet-designed MiG aircraft, which killed 35 Albanian pilots but no enemies, is finally on its way to the museum and the scrapheap, the armed forces chief said on Tuesday.
If anyone wants to buy them, they are welcome," General Pellumb Qazimi told *******. Some potential Western buyers "wanted to turn them into bars," he said.
A satellite of Soviet Union and China during the first decades of the Cold War, the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha was given a fleet that grew to 125 MiGs to repel what Qazimi called "a classic total aggression" from the West.
The first MiG-15 squadron arrived from the Soviet Union in 1951 and it had seen action in Korea, said Perikli Teta, Albania's air force engineer-in-chief for 17 years.
"You could still see where the bullet holes had been repaired," Teta told *******. The 15s were followed in the 1970s and 1980s by scores of MiG-17s, or Frescoes in NATO parlance, and MiG-19s, known to the alliance as Farmers.
All have the stubby swept-back wings, cigar shaped fuselage and nose intake of the iconic communist Cold War interceptor.
Albanian pilots were praised in the government-controlled press but had little glory to their credit other than flying low down Tirana's main boulevard, rattling windowpanes and startling citizens with their supersonic booms.
Qazimi said the planes were simply a deterrent, "a show of force" in a region bristling with arms. On one occasion they forced a landing by a retired U.S. airman who had lost direction on his way to a holiday in Rome.
Teta said MiG flights were curtailed after the fall of communism in 1991, because Albania, Europe's poorest country at that time, could not afford 1,000 litres of fuel per flight.
At the dawn of democracy, some sat forlorn under tattered canvas covers at Tirana's Rinas airport, their wheels deep in mud and their rusty wings tilted.
Qazimi some would be going to museums, a few would be kept for instruction and others sold for scrap. None would be sold for military purposes.
The Chinese-built versions were dangerous, Teta said.
"I think it was always the aircraft that was to blame (for the fatal accidents)," he said. "One accident last year was exactly the same as one that happened 20 years ago."
With the MiGs out of the sky, Teta now worries about Albania's creaking helicopters of Soviet make. "Whenever I hear their engine, I follow it until it lands," he said.