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NATO opens first western Balkan airbase as Albania showcases Bayraktar UCAV

Albania used the occasion of the opening of the Kuçovë Air Base to showcase its newly acquired Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs. (Albanian MoD)

The Kuçovë Air Base (Baza Ajrore Kuçovë) in Albania was officially inaugurated as NATO's first tactical airbase in the western Balkans, with an opening ceremony on 4 March.

The work for transforming the Warsaw Pact-era MiG base into a modern facility to support NATO air transport, logistical support, and air policing missions across southeast Europe was first announced by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in August 2018.

Reconstruction of the base's security parameter, runway, aprons, and connecting roads, as well as building new ammunition storage and continuous power supply infrastructure began in January 2022, with most of the planned work being completed by the end of 2023.

The total cost of modernisation saw approximately EUR50 million (USD54 million) funded by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), with an additional EUR5 million being invested by the Albanian government.

The Kuçovë opening ceremony was used by Albania to showcase one of its three newly acquired Baykar Bayraktar TB2 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) acquired in February 2024 under a contract signed with Turkey in December 2022.

The Bayraktar acquisition saw Albania become the third NATO country to operate the Bayraktar TB2 UCAV after Turkey and Poland, and comes less than eight months after neighbouring Kosovo unveiled its first combat aerial asset of the same type on 17 July 2023. The Bayraktar also marks a technological and capability leap for the Albanian Armed Forces (Forcat e Armatosura të Republikës së Shqipërisë: FARSH), re-introducing fixed-wing aircraft into the force structure.

For more information on the Albanian Air Force, please seeAlbania – Air Force .

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