Pleasant Options

Papa, Hungary—The NATO Airlift Management Agency, the international entity that “owns” three C-17s available for NATO and partner heavy-lift needs under the Strategic Airlift Capability consortium, is mulling what to do with its windfall of up to $90 million. It’s getting this money back from the purchase of its three C-17s since the aircraft’s ultimate price turned out to be lower than first thought. The Heavy Airlift Wing at Papa AB, Hungary, that operates the aircraft desperately needs a C-17-sized hangar at the base so that maintainers can fix the airplanes out of the weather. That would run about $44 million. However, one senior HAW official said here that building the hangar “would essentially ‘marry’ us to this base,” and that would preclude moving elsewhere. Italy was planning to participate in the SAC consortium, but withdrew. Now, it’s making noises like it wants back in, offering one of its own bases for the C-17s as the price of entry. The cash available would also be halfway to a fourth aircraft, a fact that one HAW official said “hasn’t escaped us. There’s a lot of talk about what to do at this juncture.”