The head of a 12-nation partnership that shares three Boeing C-17s based in Hungary confirms that Croatia is in talks about joining as a junior member.

Adding a thirteenth member would help alleviate the financial pressure on the C-17 Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) fleet, says Gunnar Borch, general manager of the NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA).

The three C-17s, based at Papa airbase since last year, have now flown a combined 1,600h, Borch says, with each hour having been purchased by one of the current members of the SAC framework.

NATO C-17 - Boeing
 © Boeing

NATO formed the SAC in September 2008 with 10 member nations and two Partnership for Peace nations: Finland and Sweden. Each has access to a certain number of flying hours in the programme under the arrangement.

The minimum number of hours required to participate in the multinational programme is 45h a year. The US Air Force has purchased access to 1,000h, and furnishes the crews. Pilots and flightcrews from SAC member countries are now being trained to take over operations.

Croatia is in talks about participating in the SAC fleet at a minimum level of between 45h and 60h a year, Borch says.

The addition would be helpful, but will not make up for the last-minute withdrawal by Italy, he adds. Rome had planned to sign up as one of the most active participants in the programme, but withdrew its interest in June 2009.

That decision forced NAMA to restructure the programme within a month of starting operations, Borch says. The organisation slashed the construction of one hangar and provisions for a certain number of cargo pallets from the SAC budget, he says.

NAMA still hopes that Italy will rejoin the programme, Borch says, although he acknowledges that no discussions are taking place.

Source: Flight International