Monday, September 11, 2017

Europe's largest abandoned underground military air base

It used to be one of the largest military complexes in Europe but it was destructed to keep it from falling into the enemy's hands. Ċ½eljava Air Base was built by Yugoslavia's communist government starting in 1948 just on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Known by the code name 'Objekat 505', construction took about 20 years and cost approximately $6 billion, making it one of the largest and most expensive military construction projects in Europe. Yugoslavia's communist government chose the site, below Mount Pljesevica, for its strategic location. The role of the facility was to establish, integrate, and coordinate a nationwide early warning radar network for Yugoslavia, similar to the American NORAD. With radars on top of the mountain, the base was built in an ideal location.

The facility had 5 runways and within the immediate vicinity of the base, there were numerous short-range mobile tracking and targeting radars, surface to air missile sites, mobile surface-to-air missile interceptor systems, and various other supporting facilities. 

What made this base special though were its underground facilities. The tunnels ran a total length of 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) and the bunker had four entrances protected by 100-ton pressurized doors, three of which were customized for use by fixed-wing aircraft. The complex included an underground water source, power generators, crew quarters and other strategic military facilities. It also housed a mess hall that could feed 1,000 people simultaneously, along with enough food, fuel, and arms to last 30 days without resupply. Fuel was supplied by a 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) underground pipe network.

The airbase was last used extensively during the Yugoslav Wars. In 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army destroyed the runways during its withdrawal by filling pre-built spaces for this purpose with explosives and detonating them. The destruction was completed the following year by the forces of the Military of Serbian Krajina which detonated an additional 56 tons of explosives, to make the facilities unusable by the enemies.

The destruction of the base caused serious environmental damage in the area. It is said that there are still undetonated explosives in the vicinity of the base and accidents have occurred periodically. Today the former military base serves as a waypoint for illegal immigrants while the local government has launched an initiative to use one of the runways as an airport.

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