NATO Secretary General Visits Pápa Air Base

09 July 2013

As part of his official one-day visit to Hungary on July 1st, the NATO Secretary General, Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen, honoured the organizations working together on the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) with a visit to Pápa Air Base, the SAC home field.

During his time at Pápa, the Secretary General took part in the groundbreaking ceremony organized by the NAM Programme Office (PO) to mark the beginning of construction work on the SAC's permanent facilities. These include a C-17 hangar and will allow NAM PO, the Heavy Airlift Wing and Boeing maintenance to leave the current temporary facilities they have occupied since the start of operations in 2008 and transfer their activities to new, purpose-built premises. The construction work should be completed in 2016 and consists of an Aerial Port Facility, a C-17 hangar, a supply storage and maintenance building, an office and life support back shop building and areas for support equipment and vehicle staging and parking.

In his address to his Pápa hosts and the visiting party, Mr Rasmussen noted that the construction work is an important step in the SAC program: “When the work for the new hangar is finished, the aircraft maintenance will be done here which means cost savings will be achieved. Also aircraft availability will increase.” He furthermore pointed out the importance of the infrastructure improvements, stating: “You deserve the best accommodation possible to continue your important work for the Alliance and your nations.

Mr Rasmussen also recognized the SAC program as one of the key initiatives in the field of Smart Defence, a new cost-effective way of producing and sharing defense capabilities. “By sharing costs nations have gained access to a capability they couldn’t afford alone. It shows that you don’t need to be big to make a big difference. That is an excellent example of what we call Smart Defence -– and that is also the way for NATO.

The Secretary General was briefed by Col. László Gangler, the Pápa Air Base Commander, Mr Wiek Noldus, the NAM Programme Manager, and Col. Frank Rombouts, Commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing on the current status of the SAC Program and the support provided by NSPA and by the Host Nation.

From Pápa Mr Rasmussen and his party proceeded on a SAC C-17 aircraft to Budapest. While this was Mr Rasmussen's first visit to Pápa it was the occasion of his second flight on a SAC C-17. In November 2012, the Heavy Airlift Wing transported the Secretary General and the North Atlantic Council to Afghanistan for meetings with the Afghan leadership.

The visit also allowed senior figures in the NAM PO to meet with key NATO and Host Nation representatives.