On a barren hillside in northern Albania lies a massive steel door creaks open to reveal a hidden former air base burrowed into the heart of the mountain. Made up of 600 meters (1,980 feet) of tunnels the secret Gjader air base is now a depot for dozens of hulking communist-era MiG fighter jets
Three decades after shedding communism, Albanian authorities are still trying to sell off the Soviet and Chinese-made aircraft, of which there are dozens more in another nearby air base.
The communist-era jets, which include MiG-19, MiG-17 and MiG-21 models among others, have been out of commission for well over a decade.
Museums, collectors and other aviation aficionados have already expressed interest in giving the relics a new home.
When Albania first discussed selling the MiGs in 2016, requests came in from the Air and Space Museum in France, as well as a flight school in Germany.
Yet no sales have been completed to date, with legal paperwork holding up the process.
Individuals are also on the waiting list, including Albania-based French businessman Julien Roche, who plans to install the plane in his garden.
“It’s not so easy to get this kind of aircraft now, because all of them have been mainly destroyed, not stored like they are in Albania,”
He has put his name down for one of the oldest models, a Chinese-made MiG-15 with a price tag of around 10,000 euros ($11,000), which was used by North Koreans before being gifted to Albania.
More than 600 military personnel used to work inside the maze of tunnels that were shuttered in 2000 and remain off-limits to the public.
Jets flown after 2000 used a different military base, until the last of the planes were taken out of service following an accident in 2004.
That backfired spectacularly in 1997, seven years after the fall of communism when the country was swept up by an armed rebellion that saw citizens raid armories and military bases for weapons.
Gjader was also breached, with people looting weapons and selling parts of some MiGs as scrap metal.
Today the Albanian airforce has only a small fleet of helicopters and its air space is protected by NATO.