Nations Sign C-17 Accord

The US earlier this month signed the memorandum of understanding establishing the NATO strategic airlift capability program, the Air Force announced yesterday. Under this program, 15 nations, including 13 NATO countries and partners Finland and Sweden, will jointly operate three C-17s transports out of Papa AB, Hungary, starting with the first aircraft late this year. According to a June 26 statement from Bruce Lemkin, who runs USAF’s international affairs office, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed the document on behalf of the US on June 11 during a meeting of alliance defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The US joins Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Sweden on the list of signatories, according to a NATO release from the event. Lemkin said the remaining eight nations (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Romania) are expected to sign the MOU within the next month. The US is providing one C-17 and the partner nations are purchasing the two remaining aircraft under a proposed foreign military sales arrangement that the Pentagon informed the Congress of in May. Current planning calls for delivery of the first C-17 in November and for having the second aircraft and third aircraft in place in early and mid 2009, respectively. SAC members will employ the C-17s to support national, NATO, European Union, or United Nations military operations as well as humanitarian relief.