|Updated: 27-Nov-2006||NATO Speeches|
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the demonstration of C-17 Strategic Airlift Capability
Tomorrow and Wednesday, NATO’s Heads of State and Government will assemble here in Riga. They will take decisions on NATO-led operations and direct the further political and defence transformation of NATO.
This continuing transformation is essential to ensure that the Alliance remains able to confront the demanding security challenges of the 21st century. And let me take this opportunity to express our gratitude to President Vike-Freiberga and to the Latvian people for hosting the NATO Summit in beautiful Riga.
As shown by our missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, our operations have become more expeditionary in nature. And this has increasingly underlined the requirement for enhanced strategic lift.
The Alliance recognised this need four years ago at our Summit in Prague, and we committed then to increase our strategic airlift capability.
We now have a number of iniatives underway, both multinationally and nationally, to increase our capability in this field. Last March, for example, we implemented the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS), which will give us additional strategic airlift until the A400M becomes available. The new project being highlighted today complements these initiatives.
So what is this new initiative about? Well, it is a commitment up until now by fifteen(1) Allied nations, and also one Partner nation, Sweden, to work together with the intention of acquiring initially three Boeing C-17 strategic airlift aircraft.
This new project on Airlift Capability draws its inspiration from the experience of the NATO AWACS force.
Individual nations have chosen to team up and procure and deliver a critically needed Alliance capability – to create added value in an efficient and economical way.
The C-17 before you represents real transformation of capability. It can fly long distances, be refueled in mid air, land on very short runways, and carry an enormous payload, whether it be conventional troops or special forces, equipment such as tanks and helicopters, or aid in disaster relief operations.
The use of such aircraft by the Alliance will represent a quantum leap in our strategic airlift capability.
Another key feature of this initiative is that the flying hours can be used in support of missions of other international organisations, such as the United Nations and the European Union.
Taken together, this new initiative represents not just an extremely welcome addition to our capabilities, it also epitomises the key features of our Summit here in Riga – a focus on operations; improved capabilites; new relationships with partners; and working in closer cooperation with other institutions. It is another reminder of how much can be achieved when the will to succeed is there.Thank you.