MiG-21, some wear-and-tear, original paint, never used in combat.
It’s tough to find a good deal on a fighter jet these days. But if you’re willing to put a little time and money into a restoration project, the formerly communist republic of Albania has a deal for you.
In an effort to modernize its decidedly not-modern military, Albania is preparing to auction off a few dozen early Cold War, vintage fighter jets—most of which date back to the late 1940s or 1950s—at prices starting at just around $8,600.
A rush of interest surrounding the auction has already pushed Albanian authorities to push back the event once as well as to consider raising the starting bids for the 40 aircraft up for grabs. It turns out museums and collectors of Cold War and aviation memorabilia from across Europe and the United States have expressed overwhelming interest in the ancient fleet of fighter jets in particular—some of which Albania kept flying up until 2005.
Those aircraft include MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21 fighter jets as well as Yak-18 trainer aircraft and four Mi-4 transport helicopters. Some were procured from the Soviet Union until Albania broke ties with the USSR in 1962. After that, Albania’s communist (and increasingly paranoid) regime continued to procure Soviet aircraft and spare parts from China for another 15 years or so, when relations with that country also deteriorated.
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Increasingly friendless and isolated during the remainder of the Cold War, Albania’s regime continued to keep its aging fleet in the air as concerns of invasion by an encroaching Soviet Union continually rattled Balkan States throughout the 1970s and 1980s. At the end of the Cold War, Albania had something like 200 jets and 40 helicopters on hand, not to mention very little money with which to maintain them.
Twenty-five years on, Albania—now a NATO member and an official candidate for EU membership—is still trying to modernize its military. Its aerial defenses have already been bolstered by the purchase of several far more fuel-efficient, Western-built helicopters. The sale of its antique, fixed-wing fleet will fund further improvements to its armed forces.
Albanian Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli tells the Associated Press that the auction—the date of which has not yet been set—will be something of a market test. If it does well, Albania has another 100 ancient aircraft it plans to unload at some point in the future.