From the event


9 Oct 2008


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Strategic Airlift Capability programme
Recognition Ceremony

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to join in this celebration of the launch of the Strategic Airlift Capability programme.  This is a big step forward in the joint effort to obtain a capability which is sorely needed by our Alliance.  As we defend our security in new ways and in new places, it is absolutely vital that we are able to transport our forces over strategic distance, and to sustain them while they carry out their important work.

I remember giving a press conference, almost exactly two years ago, where we announced that thirteen NATO nations had signed Letters of Intent to negotiate the purchase of C-17 aircraft to meet national strategic airlift requirements.  It was a unique approach to solve the airlift shortfall – but far from certain to actually succeed.

Last week, I had the privilege to notify the North Atlantic Council that ten Alliance nations, together with two of our Partners -- Sweden and Finland -- had agreed to move forward with the project.  Today, we are able to celebrate that milestone with all participating nations, and together with the first General Manager of the NATO Airlift Management Agency and the Heavy Airlift Wing Commander.

Of course, while it is appropriate that we mark this milestone here today, much remains to be done before we actually have this new collective capability available.  I know that the General Manager and the Wing Commander are well aware of this.  I am confident that the participating nations will also do what is necessary to make sure that, next spring, we can have another meeting with the SAC's first aircraft as a backdrop for a group photo.

I want to thank Hungary for agreeing to base this important new capability, and for arranging this ceremony in the context of our Defence Ministers’ meeting.  And let me close by congratulating all participating nations, once again, for carrying forward this important project, and turning it into reality.