July 14: The first of three C-17A Globemaster IIIs for NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) component was unveiled at Boeing’s plant in Long Beach, California.
“I salute the 12 nations that have joined together to form the Strategic Airlift Capability,” said US Air Force Colonel John Zazworsky, the first commander of SAC’s Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW), based at Pápa Air Base in Hungary. The HAW is the operational unit responsible for conducting airlift missions in support of national requirements. “This aircraft, along with the two that will follow, is a direct result of their commitment to giving SAC advanced airlift capabilities that will save lives around the world. We look forward to our first mission,” added Colonel Zazworsky. The aircraft is expected to be delivered to Pápa by the end of the month with deliveries of the second and third aircraft in the autumn.
The aircraft have been acquired on behalf of NATO by the NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA). General Manager Gunnar Borch said “We’ve dreamed about this day for many years, and now it’s here.” NAMA will be responsible for the day-to-day management and support of the C-17 fleet. It began operations in October 2008 working from Capellen in Luxembourg, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Ohio USA, and Pápa.
Pápa Air Base was established on July 1, 2001 as a part of the NATO Infrastructure Development Program. It serves as a reserve airfield for both Hungarian and NATO aircraft and hosts Hungarian Air Force Search and Rescue helicopters. The Airbase was selected as the Main Operating Base for the multinational Heavy Airlift Wing and its C-17 fleet in 2007.
Ten NATO nations make up the SAC: Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States. Partnership for Peace members Sweden and Finland are also affiliated to the programme, although they are not full NATO members. The HAW will be operated by multinational crews from all 12 participating nations.