Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS)
NATO member countries have pooled their resources to charter special aircraft that give the Alliance the capability to transport heavy equipment across the globe by air.
The multinational airlift consortium is chartering six Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft, which are capable of handling ‘outsize’ (unusually large) cargo.
The Russian and Ukrainian Antonov aircraft are being used as an interim solution to meet shortfalls in the Alliance’s strategic airlift capabilities, pending deliveries of Airbus A400M aircraft. This is why the project is called Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS).
The consortium includes 12 NATO nations (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden).
This is one of two complementary initiatives aimed at providing NATO with strategic airlift capabilities. The other is the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), under which ten NATO countries plus two partner countries have purchased three Boeing C-17 transport aircraft.
The SALIS contract provides two Antonov An-124-100 aircraft on part-time charter, two more on six days’ notice and another two on nine days’ notice. The countries have committed to using the aircraft for a minimum of 2000 flying hours per year for 2013 and for a minimum of 2450 flying hours for 2014. Additional aircraft types i.e. IL-76 and AN-225 are included in the contract but it use is subject to availability.
A single Antonov An-124-100 can carry up to 120 tons of cargo. NATO has used Antonovs in the past to transport equipment to and from Afghanistan, deliver aid to the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and airlift African Union peacekeepers in and out of Darfur.
During their annual spring meeting in Brussels in June 2003, NATO Ministers of Defence signed letters of intent on strategic air- and sealift. Eleven nations signed the letter of intent on airlift: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Turkey. At the June 2004 Istanbul Summit, Defence Ministers of 15 countries signed a memorandum of understanding to achieve an operational airlift capacity for outsize cargo by 2005, using up to six Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft. In addition, the Defence Ministers of Bulgaria and Romania signed a letter of intent to join the consortium.
In January 2006, the 15 countries signed a contract with Ruslan SALIS GmbH, a subsidiary of the Russian company Volga Dnepr, based in Leipzig.
In March 2006, the 15 original signatories were joined by Sweden at a special ceremony in Leipzig to mark the entry into force of the multinational contract. The contract’s initial duration was for three years but this has now been extended until the end of 2014. Finland and Poland have also now joined the SALIS programme. The SALIS contract was re-competed in 2012 and Ruslan SALIS GmbH was rewarded a new two-year contract (2013/2014) with options to extend until December 2017.
Volga-Dnepr and Ukraine’s ADB provide the SALIS aircraft and also provide AN-124-100 aircraft to support the Afghanistan mission, with weekly sorties from Europe to Afghanistan and back, under contractual arrangements with NATO Support Agency (NSPA).
The capabilities of SALIS will play a big role in on-going Afghanistan re-deployment.
Strategic airlift co-ordination is carried out by the SALIS Co-ordination Cell collocated with but not part of the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.