What was once one of the most modern military bases and airports in Europe, Zeljava, is now abandoned, forgotten and falling apart, looking like a set for filming a movie about the apocalypse.
Its official name is Object 505, and it is also known as the “Bihac airport.” It has five strips, underground facilities for three air force squadrons and three underground galleries with 3.5 kilometers-long tunnels.
What could practically be called a small town was built to serve as a nuclear shelter that offered all the conditions necessary for living one month with no contact with the outside world.
It was destroyed by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) while it was retreating from the area at the beginning of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia in 1992.
The last airplane landed in Zeljava in 1992 and it remains there today as a monument and witness to the most modern and largest airport. The most advanced rocket systems, protected communication lines, meteorological instruments, and energy facilities for the time were installed there, and now they are slowly rotting away as Croatia and Bosnia are trying to agree on what to do with Zeljava.
One of nearly 1,000 people who served at the military complex is former JNA pilot Sanudin Jasarevic, who recently visited Zeljava for the first time since 1991.
“The construction of the military base began during the Cold War, in 1957, and it lasted until 1968, when the airport became operational. The construction lasted for 11 years, and it is said that a huge amount of money was poured into it,” Jasarevic said.
It was a time when the Warsaw Pact and NATO were clinging to power, he said.
“The power of Yugoslavia was well known. We were the fourth strongest army in Europe,” he said, adding that the number of planes, arms and equipment of the soldiers within the base was a strictly kept secret.
Various sources say the construction of the Object 505 cost between five and 11 million US Dollars, but today the site is only ridden with ruins, minefields, overgrown runways and rocks in front of the entrance.