Allies agree on strategic airlift initiative
NATO Allies agreed today to set up a new NATO agency to acquire and manage C-17 strategic transport aircraft on behalf of a group of 15 NATO nations and two Partnership for Peace countries.
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer welcomed the decision. “The Strategic Airlift Capability initiative will help address NATO’s -- and Europe’s -- critical shortfall in strategic airlift. This capability will support our current operations, including in Afghanistan, and will be a pillar of the Alliance’s long-term transformation.”
The Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative was first announced in September 2006, and hailed at the November 2006 NATO Summit in Riga.
Strategic airlift has been a long-standing critical shortfall for the NATO Alliance. At the Riga summit, NATO Heads of State and Governments noted the need for “forces that are fully deployable, sustainable and interoperable and the means to deploy them.” They also endorsed several initiatives to increase strategic airlift, including the SAC, the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS), and offers to coordinate support structures for A-400M strategic airlift, which 7 Allies are planning to acquire beginning in 2010.
SAC aircraft will be flown by multinational aircrews; a multinational military structure will be created to command and control the aircraft. The 17 SAC nations will fly the planes based on their national requirements, which may include national, NATO, or EU operations, as well as other international purposes such as humanitarian airlift or disaster relief for the UN.
In today’s decision, the Alliance formally approved the establishment of a NATO Airlift Management Organization (NAMO) and NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire and support the aircraft. The SAC plans to acquire 3-4 C-17s; the first is expected to be delivered in mid-2008.
The SAC planes will be configured in a similar way as the C-17s flown by the US Air Force, Canadian Air Force and the UK Royal Air Force. The air crews will be trained to the same basic standards, including air-to-air refueling and night vision operations.
The following NATO nations are members of the Strategic Airlift Capability initiative: Bulgaria , Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States, Sweden and Finland, both Partnership for Peace Countries, are also SAC Members.
Membership in the airlift fleet remains open to other nations.