Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC)
In 2008, ten NATO member countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States) and two Partnership for Peace nations (Finland and Sweden) established SAC by signing the SAC Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The successful establishment of the SAC can be largely explained by its concept, consisting of pooling resources in order to acquire maximum airlift capability for many nations, in a restrictive budgetary environment. The sound concept on which the SAC has been founded matches perfectly the new NATO strategy, investing in more flexible and mobile armed forces, while capitalizing on collaborative defense projects and avoiding capabilities duplication.
Each participating nation owns a share of the available flight hours that can be used for missions without the prerequisite to consult with the other SAC member nations. The personnel contributed to the Heavy Airlift Wing, the operational arm of the SAC, correspond to the participating nation’s share of flight hours and are assigned to various missions, not only those requested by their nation. Nevertheless, a country can withdraw its airmen from a particular mission for national limitations.
One of the features of SAC is the commitment of the member nations to jointly own and operate the C-17’s for – at least - 30 years. As strategic airlift is a key capability for NATO, confirmed by the Readiness Action Plan, the SAC nations, together with SHAPE, have explored the options to provide sufficient and responsive strategic airlift for NATO as an entity. Increased cooperation and exchanges of services with other organizations, like MCCE, EATC and EDA, should result in optimization of the use of existing airlift assets.
From day one, the SAC nations requested missions in order to meet their obligations to employ/deploy/redeploy forces and equipment in support of national, UN, EU and NATO obligations, including operations, exercises, training and humanitarian relief. Mission execution has been successful, safe and cost-effective. Since 2009, 12 nations have demonstrated what can be accomplished when resources and expertise are pooled and shared. Costs of the SAC program have remained well below the target level set by the member nations in the SAC Memorandum of Understanding. Sharing of all life-cycle costs makes membership in the SAC affordable also to smaller nations.
The Strategic Airlift Capability remains open for expansion; the more nations join, the more efficient we can organize our cooperation.