- A multinational consortium of 14 countries is chartering Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft as a Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS). SALIS provides assured access to up to six AN-124-100 aircraft (mission-ready within nine days in case of crisis) in support of NATO/EU operations.
- 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 SALIS initiative is planned to continue until the end of 2014. Nations already expressed a need for continuation of the initiative but will adjust their requirement as the Airbus A400m aircraft comes into service.
- 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 2800 flying hours per year for 2013 and for a minimum of 2450 flying hours for 2014. Additional aircraft types such as IL-76 and AN-225 are included in the contract, but its 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. Today, support missions for forces in Afghanistan are predominant.
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).
The capability is coordinated on a day-to-day basis by the Strategic Airlift Coordination Centre, which is collocated with the NATO Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The NATO Support Agency (NSPA) provides support by managing the SALIS contract and the SALIS partnership.
- In June 2003, NATO Ministers of Defence signed letters of intent on strategic air- and sealift.
- 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 tasked the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency to sign 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 awarded a new two-year contract (2013/2014) with options to extend until December 2017.
- Volga-Dnepr and Ukraine’s ADB airlines provide the SALIS aircraft and also provide Antonov 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 are playing a substantial role in ongoing Afghanistan re-deployment.