NATO C-17 Plan Moves Forward

The long-talked-about plan for NATO members to purchase several Boeing C-17s transports and jointly operate them took an important step forward May 9 with the Pentagon’s notification to Congress of the pending foreign military sale of two C-17s to the alliance’s Strategic Airlift Capability consortium. If all options are exercised, the value of this deal, which includes associated equipment and support services, could be as high as $700 million, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s statement. The 17-nation SAC consortium comprises 15 NATO members and Finland and Sweden. The newly established NATO Airlift Management Organization will purchase, own, and manage the aircraft for the consortium. A multinational heavy airlift wing will operate the aircraft, which will be based at Papa AB, Hungary. This purchase touches upon, but does not satisfy the alliance’s requirement for eight C-17 equivalents to support the NATO Response Force in peacekeeping and stability operations, as well as members’ disaster-relief efforts around the globe. Boeing has been using its own funds to maintain the flow of production for several C-17s for NATO in anticipation of a NATO contract. In the past, the alliance announced its intent to acquire three to four C-17s and begin operating them before the end of the decade.