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Angela: “never without my Antonov”!

MerkelHolland@DE140403(BRUSSELS2) Angela Merkel did not proclaim it from the rooftops, nor François Hollande (during their joint conference yesterday on Africa), nor Catherine Ashton, nor any member of the European Union, nor any allied NATO by the way. But they can say in chorus: "Spasiba, спасибо Volga-Dnepr". The two German "planes" which will make it possible to transport the European soldiers and their equipment to the Central African Republic, for EUFOR RCA, are German only .... by their financing.

Antonovs in the Luftwaffe??

Both Antonov 124 do not really stand out, in fact, from the standard equipment of the Luftwaffe or any European force for that matter. They belong to a Russian company, Volga-Dnepr, which has a charter contract with NATO and its members. The States participating in this "Salis" contract thus have a credit of hours that they can use or exchange between themselves, but must ultimately pay. It is true that Volga-Dnieper is a little... German with a subsidiary based in Leipzig and that it employs 3000 people of various nationalities. It also has numerous contracts with all kinds of companies such as Airbus or Boeing which use its services to be able to transport aircraft or satellite parts and operates at several international airports, notably in London, Paris Vatry and the United States. . But its real base is in Ulyanovsk, at the confluence of the Volga. And his Russian attachment is beyond doubt. The clear majority of its top management is Russian.

Suspend: but you don't think about it!

While the suspension of military cooperation with Russia is the rule at Bd Leopold, the NATO headquarters, there is no question of suspending the Salis contract signed with the Volga-Dnieper company. On the contrary. It is a " commercial contract and which is not affected by the decisions of NATO in cooperation with Russia” assured a NATO official in response to our question. And, indeed, the current Salis contract, which was to end at the end of 2014, should be extended. According to our information, an option is currently being studied until the end of 2017.

A very useful contract, irreplaceable equipment

This contribution is, in fact, very useful to the Member States of the EU and NATO, in particular to ensure troop relief and repatriation from its operation in Afghanistan (ISAF). The company has planes — the Antonov 124-100s — which have a payload capacity (between 100 and 150 tonnes depending on the distance) that is significantly greater than most other planes (this represents 6 C-130s or 3-4 A400M) and which has no real equivalent (*). In addition to their carrying capacity, these planes above all make it possible to transfer equipment that is too large to fit into other planes.

Comment. We can only cross our fingers that the Russian air inspection does not dare to closely check all the flight conditions of these planes, a small routine inspection in a way, just to see...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) Only the Galaxy C5 plane can compete, which is a bit old since it was introduced in 1970, at the time of Vietnam and Yom Kippur (that dates back!), the cost of which appears to be much higher than after aeronautical sources and which is operated only by the US Air Force and the Airbus A380... whose Cargo version has not yet been released (2015?).

An antonov 124 photographed by Volga-Dnepr Grand Prix winner Stefanov
An antonov 124 photographed by Volga-Dnepr Grand Prix winner Stefanov

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).