1 Oct. 2008

Strategic Airlift Capability moves to implementation

This week, the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) took a big step forward after the 12 SAC nations1 completed signature of the SAC Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).   The MOU brought into force the Charter of the NATO Airlift Management Organisation (NAMO). The NAMO will acquire three C-17 aircraft2 to meet strategic airlift requirements of the SAC member nations - 10 NATO members and two non-NATO countries, PfP and EU members Sweden and Finland.   

“The SAC will provide an important new capability to address the critical alliance need for strategic airlift to support operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as other national missions, including EU and UN missions,” said Peter Flory, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment.  “It can also provide a model for future capability development.” 

Creation of the NAMO caps two years of negotiations within NATO and among SAC participants covering issues related to establishing the NAMO and manning, equipping, basing and operating the fleet.  Launched in September 2006, the consortium has evolved to its current configuration of twelve participants, but remains open for other NATO and PfP nations to join in the future.

The C-17 fleet will be based at Papa Airbase in Hungary, and the planes will be certified and registered by the host nation.  SAC programme acquisition and sustainment will be managed by NAMO, a NATO Production and Logistics Organisation (NPLO) with a Board of Directors and the NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA). 

To operate the C-17s, a Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) will be created under the initial command of a US Air Force officer with a Swedish Deputy Commander.  The HAW will be manned by international crews assigned by the participating nations and will conduct missions based on national requirements.  These missions may be related to NATO-led operations, EU or UN missions, and other international purposes (e.g. humanitarian or disaster relief efforts).

The aircraft will be of the same configuration as those operated by the US Air Force and other C-17 nations (Australia, Canada and Great Britain), and crews will be trained to the same basic standards.  The first aircraft is anticipated to be delivered in Spring 2009, and the second and third aircraft are expected to arrive at Papa in Summer 2009.

The SAC is a significant step forward in the ability of NATO nations to respond to a critical shortfall in Alliance capabilities.  It has been made possible by nations working together, pooling resources and sharing costs to develop a collective capability beyond the reach of, or not practical for, many nations individually.  The participation of Sweden and Finland represents a tangible example of NATO-Partner cooperation.

For further information please contact Mr. Jim Lovell, Head of Air Defence and Airspace Management Directorate, Defence Investment Division of NATO HQ – tel. +32 2 707 4763 or NATO Press Service.

Tel: +32 (0)2 707 50 41 - Fax: +32 (0)2 707 50 57 -

  1. 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).
  2. The participating nations will procure two Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) through the NATO Airlift Management Agency, while the US will provide one aircraft as a US contribution.  NAMA will join the C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership, under which Boeing provides Contractor Logistics Support for C-17 customers.