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The Czechs renounce the NATO C-17 aircraft pool. Too expensive !…

(BRUSSELS2) The Czech Republic will not participate in the joint purchase of three C-17 Globemaster aircraft by some of the Atlantic Alliance countries. The Ministry of Defense made its decision after lengthy discussions. Next week, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová is expected to officially confirm this, submitting this report to the country's Council of Ministers. He mentions that the country only very partially needs strategic transport aircraft and that this program would cost too much. Already in October, a spokesperson for the ministry had confided to me the lack of enthusiasm of the Czech army towards this participation, which it considered too expensive (especially in maintenance) compared to other equipment...

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Hard blow

It is the fourth country to have renounced – or postponed – any decision to participate in the project for financial reasons. Denmark, whose Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm cannot be suspected either (like the Czech Republic), withdrew in September 2007. Italy and Latvia are procrastinating. This project was born in July 2006 when the United States convinced its allies to jointly purchase three or four C17 Globemaster III aircraft. The letter of intent (LOI) initiating the purchase negotiations was published on September 12, 2006 and the management structures – NATO Airlift Management Organization (NAMO) and NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA) – established on June 19, 2007 .

Cost varies by country

Each State participates in the purchase and maintenance costs up to the number of hours it will have. For example, Lithuania finances the program for 3 million Litas, or about 870 euros, for 000 hours per year), the Netherlands between 45 and 10 million euros for about 15 flight hours per year.

Twelve countries signed, on October 9, 2008, in Budapest, an agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) authorizing the purchase and shared operation of three large aircraft, the Boeing C-17. Apart from Norway and the United States, most of the participating states are members of the EU (Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden).

Based in Hungary

The three Boeing C-17 planes – a four-jet capable of transporting nearly 80 tonnes of equipment – ​​should be based at Papa air base (Hungary). They will be certified and registered in this host country. The first device should arrive in spring 2009, the second and third are expected in summer 2009 (more than a year after the date initially planned). These aircraft will have the same configuration and equipment as those already equipping the US Air Force and other nations equipped with C-17s (Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom). This will further facilitate their interoperability.

An air command was created, headed by an American officer, assisted by a Swedish deputy, to manage the fleet. The planes will be manned by an international crew, designated by the participating States. They will be able to carry out the missions assigned to them by the participating States: NATO or EU operations, UN peace missions or other missions (humanitarian or disaster relief for example).

Usable for NATO as well as for the EU or national missions

As recalled, during the conclusion of the agreement, Barbara Victoria Nuland, US ambassador to NATO, the C-17s “can be used not only for NATO missions but also for those of the EU or national missions”. The objective is to reduce the chronic deficit in military air assets of the Western allies and, incidentally, to provide a contract to the American firm Boeing.

“Complementary” project to the EU

This project is an extension of the “Salis” contract for sharing between European countries of Antonov-124 civil transport aircraft leased to the Ukrainian company Volga-Dnepr, which expires in 2010. It complements – or competes with – of the EU's joint fleet project, centered around the future Airbus A400M.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

3 thoughts on “The Czechs renounce the NATO C-17 aircraft pool. Too expensive !…"

  • Frederic

    How does Sweden, outside of NATO, manage in this NATO body?

  • Four countries withdrew because the C-17, with a capacity of more or less 75 tons, costs more than $40,000 an hour to operate. In contrast, SALIS allows the rental of An-124s with a capacity of 120 or 150 tons, depending on the model, for less than $25,000 an hour.
    There is also on the civilian market a quantity of Ilyushin IL-76 with a capacity of 40 to 50 tons, which are rented for less than $15,000 per hour.
    What is the advantage for these small countries to commit to exploiting such expensive C-17s, if not to please Uncle Sam?

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