We never hear enough about the success stories of our allies, but a recent European visit by the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael Donley, drew some attention to a highly successful partnership between the U.S. and a number of allied military services.
• Secretary Donley visited the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability consortium, based at Papa Airbase in Hungary, located about two hours from Budapest.
• This unique program of sharing heavy cargo aircraft involves both NATO and non-NATO allies - there are 12 countries as partners in this cooperative agreement.
• Two of the partners, Sweden and Finland, are not NATO allies though others such as Norway and Lithuania are members of NATO.
• Two of the aircraft are owned by the NATO Airlift Management Organization (NAMO), and they were paid for by the European nations who are a part of the Organization.
• Many of these countries could not purchase this size aircraft by themselves, by pooling their resources they can afford to use the best equipment available.
• Purchasing those two aircraft is the first major joint defense purchase for NATO in 30 years.
• This consortium has been working smoothly together since 2008, showing that the countries realize that they can reach their goals by working cooperatively.
• Owning these aircraft means that contributing countries will have to contract for fewer heavy lift aircraft.
• The aircraft are used for European Union airlift missions as well as NATO; they are used both for sovereign and multinational missions.
• The U.S. Air Force also contributes a third C-17, which can be used by the NAMO.
• Joint operations like this train the militaries to be ready to work together in whatever situations come up in the future.
• The relationships developed by the militaries will lead to better understanding, and the militaries can share best practices.
• The Consortium countries contribute aircrew to the unit, the U.S. Air Force has about 40 people stationed at Papa Airbase alongside military members from most of the partners.
• This joint operation could provide a model for future joint efforts in aircraft or in other systems.
• By flying a world class standard of aircraft (the C-17 is also flown by Qatar, India, and Australia among other countries) the participants gain interoperability with many other militaries.
Charles Phillips was an Air Force officer from 1978 until he retired in 2005 (working in space, communications, and maintenance), first in the Active Duty for 10 years, then in the Texas Air National Guard for 10 years, and last in the Air Force Reserve for eight years. He has been a writer all of that time. Now he finds the stories that people are interested in but might have been missed by other reporters.
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