Albanian Air Force
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Albania
Air Force

Shenyang F-6 serial 3-83
(photo, Andy Cela)


Current Title: Forcat Ushtarake Ajore Shqipetare
Title in English: Albanian Air Force
Abbreviation: FUAS

History

Narrative Summary:
Due to the Balkan Wars, no Albanians served in the Ottoman air arm prior to independence. Military aviation in Albania therefore had to start from scratch. An initial order for three Lohner-Daimler aircraft was placed with Austria early in 1914, with a view to forming an Albanian Air Corps, but the aircraft were taken over by Austria before delivery upon the outbreak of World War I. National financial difficulties foiled inter-war attempts to form an air force.

During it's occupation of Albania during World War Two, Italy built at least one airfield to assist with combat operations over Greece and Yugoslavia.

On 24 April 1951, an Albanian Air Force was finally formed with Soviet help. This force was formally titled Forcat Ushtarake Ajore Shqipetare, (known in the west as the Albanian People's Army Air Force - APAAF). The initial equipment was a squadron of Yak-9 fighters donated by the Soviet Union. Prior to it's formation, a number of cadet pilots had undergone initial pilot training on Yak-18s in the USSR and then transferred to Yugoslavia for conversion and advanced flying training on Yak-3 fighters, before returning to Albania. These pilot formed the nucleus of the FUAS. The first pilot fly in an Albanian Air Force plane was Lt. Petraq Polena, born in Korca, Albania, who first took to the air on 24 April 1951.

In 1955, the Soviet Union supplied two squadrons of MiG-15bis jet fighters, together with MiG-15UTI trainers. Some of these aircraft remain in service with the Albanian Air Force in 2002.

The break-down in relations with the USSR in the early 1960s forced rapid switch to Chinese supplied equipment. With the fall of the communist regime in 1990?, a reorganisation of Air Force was initiated. It was renamed to its present title, and all the units were renumbered and reduced in strength. The air force took no part in the Kosovo War. During the civil unrest in 1997, some aviation facilities at Vlorë air base were destroyed, along with several Nanchang CJ-6 trainers. In 2000 an Italian training mission, the Grupo Autonomo AM was formed at Vlorë and Pushporo, to train Albanian aircrew.

Key Dates:
early 1914    Order placed with Austria for 3 aircraft to equip planned Albanian Air Corps. Not delivered.
1939    First airfield in Albania, built by the Italians near Tirane
24 April 1951    Albanian Air Force established
31 January 1955    First jet aircraft (MiG-15bis) delivered
1956    First Chinese aircraft (F-2) delivered
1957    First helicopters received
11 May 1962    Air Academy at Vlora established
1990    Official title changed to 'Aviacioni Ushtarak Shqipetare'
1991    First Western-built type (Bell 222) received
199?    Official title changed back to 'Forcat Ushtarake Ajore Shqipetare'
29 March 1999    Albanian air bases are made available to NATO during the Kosovo crisis
2000    Italian Military Mission formed

Current Status:
The air force is currently equipped with a variety of elderly aircraft, and defence expenditure remains a low priority. However, the force has achieved a very high level of self-sufficiency, and aircraft availability is surprisingly high. About one-fifth of the personnel are conscripts, on a 3 year term.

Future Plans:
Reduce the current number of manpower of the Air Force to just 400. All current fixed-wing aircraft will be withdrawn from service by 2010. The number of bases will be reduced from six to two. The eventual aim is for Albania to join NATO. Acquisition of a VIP transport aircraft superior to the Y-5 is being considered. Thirteen additional UH-1 helicopters will be acquired, probably UH-1Ns. Two dedicated SAR helicopters will be ordered. A third helicopter squadron, operating a dozen attack helicopters is planned.

F-6 4-38 stored at Kucove in May 2006.
(photo, Chris Lofting)
Markings

National Insignia:
Current --- Historical

Aircraft Serial Numbering System(s):
Until the 1970s, aircraft wore Soviet/Chinese style identity numbers of between two and four digits, eg: 234. Subsequently, a new numbering system was introduced which included an indication of the parent unit of the aircraft. For example, 4-22, where the 4 indicates 4030 Regiment, and the -22 may be the 22nd example of the type delivered. The regiment codes are:
1 = 4050 Regt (not worn)
3 = 4020 Regt
4 = 4030 Regt
5 = 4004 Regt
6 = 4040 Regt
8 = 4010 Regt

The F-7As don't use this system, but wear 4 digit codes, possibly based on the last 4 of the construciton number. Aircraft operated on behalf of the Government carry civil registrations.

Unit/Base Aircraft Code System(s):
See aircraft serial numbering system above

Chengdu F-7 0204 being towed out.
(photo, Andy Cela)

Aircraft

Aircraft Designation System(s):
The Albanian Air Force apparently uses the equivalent Russian designations for Chinese supplied aircraft, even when no similar Russian aircraft exists - such as MiG-17UTI for FT-5.

Current Aircraft Inventory:
Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List:
Alphabetical Order --- Chronological Order

Aircraft NOT Used:
False reports of aircraft on order or in service

Aircraft Losses and Incidents:
Aircraft Accidents

Chengdu F-7A 0304 stored at Gjader in May 2006.
(photo, Chris Lofting)

Organisation


Main Headquarters:
Tiranë.

Current Organisational Structure:
The Air Force is administered by the army, with an Aviation Command reporting directly to the Ministry of Defence in Tiranë. Below the Aviation Command, the air force was run along Soviet/Chinese lines, with flying units being organised into Aviation Regiments with two or three Squadrons (Skuadrilja) each, comprising up to 12 aircraft each. In the early 1990s all the regiments were renumbered and reduced to two squadrons each, with the exception of 4010 Regiment. In 1995 further restucturing meant that the designation 'regiment' disappeared and the main flying units redesignated Repart i Ushtarak (Military Unit). A new plan called "Force's Objective 2010" has seen many units disbanded and the remainder become more role specific - leaving a Krahu Ajror (Air Wing) for air defence [formerly Repart i Ushtarak 4020], Regimenti i Transporti Ajror (Air Transport Regiment) for transport and SAR [formerly Repart i Ushtarak 4040] and the Akademie e Forcave Ajrore (Air Force Academy) for aircrew training [formerly Repart i Ushtarak 4030].

Current Order of Battle:
Table of Current Order of Battle

Historical Orders of Battle:
Table of Orders of Battle

All-Time Flying Units List:
4004 Regt   1875 Regt
4010 Regt   3780 Regt
4020 Regt   5646 Regt
4030 Regt   5818 Regt
4040 Regt   7594 Regt
4050 Regt   9011 Regt

Air Bases

Current Air Bases:
The Albanian Air Force operates from six main bases, of which three house front-line units. See listing below for details.

All-Time Air Bases Used List:
Apart from the main six air bases, there are also a number of smaller airports and airfields around the country which are sometimes used by the Air Force.
Military Air Bases Listing

More Information

Books:

Albania Aviation Bibliography - to be added

Magazines:

Air International December 1992
World Air Power Journal No.5 p.140
World Air Power Journal No.40 Spring 2000 p.16 Air Forces Research No.12 March 1996
Scramble 204 (May 1996)
Insignia Issue 15 Winter 2000
Air Forces Monthly April 2004
Combat Aircraft Vol.6 No.1

Websites:

Official Albanian Ministry of Defence Website

wikipedia: Military of Albania

wikipedia: Albanian Air Force
Albanian Air Force - Albanian Pilot Online

Scramble Messageboard


Thanks to Andy Cela for updating this information.

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First Created: 1 March 1997 - Last Revised: 8 June 2006
Copyright 2002 John Hayles.    e-mail: john@aeroflight.co.uk