In order to perform an initial trial on the aircraft, a US C-17 landed at Luleå Kallax airport on Wednesday morning. The plane was loaded with material from the final NBG exercise, before taking off for Västerås in central Sweden.
“The C-17 enables airlifts to and from mission areas in a way that is both safer and faster than our current resources permit. We are looking at ways of cooperating internationally in a number of areas, which is why this opportunity to field test this resource is invaluable,” says Colonel Fredrik Hedén at Headquarters.
Along with 16 other countries, Sweden has been engaged in negotiations for some time on entering into a partnership whereby the countries can jointly utilise three C-17s. Sweden wishes to charter 550 flying hours a year, time that would be used to airlift equipment and personnel to and from international missions.
The C-17 Globemaster is a tactical transport aircraft frequently used by the US Armed Forces, that has a large fleet of the aircraft. It's also used in Great Britain, Canada and Austraila. The aircraft, which is 53 metres long, is capable of carrying two 10 helicopters or two 15 helicopters, one assault craft or two combat vehicle 90s.
It is designed to be able to land on poor surfaces, such as desert sand and on short landing strips. The plane is also equipped with countermeasures to be able to operate in high-risk areas. For instance it can release chaff to confuse heat-seeking missiles. It can also be refuelled in flight giving the plane a tremendous range.
The partnership now planned, the so-called Strategic Airlift Capability, SAC, means that member countries will be able to utilise three C-17 aircraft. The participating countries have chosen to create a structure for this multilateral resource whereby formal ownership of the aircraft will reside with a NATO organ. 15 of the countries negotiating the SAC partnership are members of NATO along with non-NATO nations Sweden and Finland.
“NATO will actually own the aircraft but have no operative involvement. NATO cannot tell us how we are to use our flying hours” says Hedén.
The SAC countries are at the final negotiating stage now, and if things go to plan, the countries will all have approved the agreement by the end of March next year. In which case the first aircraft could be available for use by the end of 2008.