NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC)

A key capability for the Alliance

C17 NATO Markings Bldg 54 ramp, Long Beach, CA C-17 Production Images SAC-1

Ten NATO countries plus two partner countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding confirming their participation in Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative to acquire, manage, support and operate three Boeing C-17 strategic transport aircraft.

The aircraft operate out of Pápa Air Base in Hungary.  The first aircraft was delivered in July 2009 with the second and third aircraft following in September and October 2009, respectively.

The aircraft are operated by multinational aircrews under the command of a multinational military structure – the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW).  The HAW is manned by personnel from all participating nations.

This is one of two complementary initiatives aimed at providing NATO nations and participating partners with strategic airlift capabilities.  A second initiative is the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS), under which a multinational consortium of 18 countries has contracted a civilian company for the charter of Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft.  In addition, there are national procurement programmes in place to improve airlift capabilities, including the acquisition by seven NATO nations of 180 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 kilometers (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 Heavy Airlift Wing has flown missions in support of ISAF and KFOR operations, for humanitarian relief activities in Haiti and Pakistan and peacekeeping mission in Africa.


Following intense consultations, a Letter of Intent (LOI) to launch contract negotiations was publicly released by 13 NATO countries on 12 September 2006.  In the intervening period, two partners 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 authorizes 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 authorized 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 new NATO Support Agency, or NSPA.


The participants include ten NATO nations (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States) and two Partnership for Peace (PfP) nations (Finland and Sweden).

Membership in the airlift fleet remains open to other countries upon agreement by the consortium members.

Last updated: 08-Apr-2014 15:27

High resolution photos

Smart Defence - C17 27. Jul. 2009 The C-17 Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), based in Hungary, is a multinational initiative delivering a vital capability to the Alliance. It allows the ten participating NATO Allies and two partner nations to collectively own assets that would be prohibitively expensive to purchase individually. 
Smart Defence - C17 The multinational Strategic Airlift Capability Program was launched in 2008 in order to acquire three C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes, to meet the strategic airlift requirements of the participating nations. The SAC C-17 aircraft can be made available through the SAC nations for NATO, EU, UN missions, and for other international purposes. 
Smart Defence - C17 26. Jul. 2009 Twelve nations participate in the Strategic Airlift Capability. They include ten NATO nations (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Romania and the United States), and two partner countries (Finland and Sweden). 
Smart Defence - C17 27. Jan. 2010 These twelve nations have pooled resources and shared capital investment in order to acquire, manage and jointly operate a fleet of three Boeing manufactured C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The Main Operating Base for the Strategic Airlift Capability is located in Pápa, Hungary. 
Smart Defence - C17 19. Jan. 2010 Since the arrival of the first aircraft at Papa Air Base, in July 2009, the SAC Heavy Airlift Wing has flown over 5,000 flight hours and delivered more than 25,000 tons of cargo, as well as nearly 13,000 passengers for the nations, and this to six continents. SAC achievements to date include missions in support of ISAF and KFOR operations, for humanitarian relief activities in Haiti and Pakistan, and for peacekeeping efforts in Africa. 
Smart Defence - C17 07. Jan. 2010 With a payload of 170,000 pounds, the C-17 can take off from a 7,600-foot airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles, and land on a small, austere airfield in 3,000 feet or less. The C-17 is equipped with an externally blown flap system that allows a steep, low-speed final approach and low-landing speeds for routine short-field landings. 
Smart Defence - C17 24. Sep. 2010 Through the use of advanced digital avionics and a state of the art cargo system, a standard crew of two pilots and one loadmaster can safely operate the C-17. 
Smart Defence - C17 16. Sep. 2011 In the cargo compartment, the C-17 can carry wheeled military vehicles in two side-by-side rows. 
Smart Defence - C17 30. Sep. 2010 The NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA) is responsible for the acquisition and full life cycle management sustainment of the Strategic Airlift Capability C-17 aircraft and related assets.