The second initiative aimed at providing NATO nations and partners with access to strategic airlift is the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), which has procured several Boeing C-17 transport aircraft on behalf of a group of ten Allied and two partner nations.
The first C-17 was delivered in July 2009 with the second and third aircraft following in September and October 2009, respectively. Its operational arm, the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) at Pápa Airbase in Hungary operates the aircraft.
The HAW is manned by personnel from all participating nations and its missions support national requirements. Operations have included support to ISAF (Afghanistan), the Kosovo Force (KFOR), Operation Unified Protector in Libya, humanitarian relief in Haiti and Pakistan, African peacekeeping, and assistance to the Polish authorities following the air disaster in Russia.
In addition, there are national procurement programmes in place to improve airlift capabilities, including the acquisition by seven NATO nations of 180 Airbus A400M aircraft, and the purchase by Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of C-17s for national use.
The C-17 is a large strategic transport aircraft capable of carrying 77,000 kilograms (169,776 pounds) of cargo over 4,450 kilometres (2,400 nautical miles) and is able to operate in difficult environments and austere conditions.
The planes are configured and equipped to the same general standard as C-17s operated by the US Air Force. The crews and support personnel are trained for mission profiles and standards agreed by the countries.
These strategic lift aircraft are used to meet national requirements, but could also be allocated for NATO, UN or EU missions, or for other international purposes.
The participants include ten NATO nations (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden). Membership in the airlift fleet remains open to other countries upon agreement by the consortium members.
The Multinational SAC Steering Board has the overall responsibility for the guidance and oversight of the programme and formulates its requirements. The NATO Airlift Management Programme provides administrative support to the Heavy Airlift Wing at Pápa Airbase.
- On 12 September 2006, a Letter of Intent (LOI) to launch contract negotiations was publicly released by 13 NATO countries. In the intervening period, Finland and Sweden joined the consortium and NATO participation evolved to the current ten members.
- In June 2007, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) approved the Charter of a NATO Production and Logistics Organisation (NPLO), which authorises the establishment of the NATO Airlift Management Organisation (NAMO).
- The Charter came into effect upon signature to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and notification to the North Atlantic Council, in September 2008. The Charter authorised the establishment of the NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA), which acquired, manages and supports the airlift assets on behalf of the SAC nations.
- On 1 July 2012, in line with NATO Agencies Reform decisions, NAMO/NAMA became part of the NATO Support Agency.