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SAC Future Developments

The Strategic Airlift Capability has a lifespan of a minimum of 30 years and its member nations have committed to its constant development end enhancement. It is also open for new forms of cooperation and expansion.


The 12 nations have committed to SAC for a minimum of 30 years. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

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Towards a Sustainable Organization

SAC Infrastructure Developments at Pápa Air Base

Program Enhancement and Expansion

After achieving the Full Operational Capability in 2012, the key tasks of the Strategic Airlift Capability have included consolidation, process improvement and transition towards a sustainable organization that will serve its participants for many years to come.

The Strategic Airlift Capability Memorandum of Understanding creates a solid foundation for this work as the member nations have committed themselves to SAC for a minimum of 30 years. Therefore, SAC organizations work constantly to optimize the use of the versatile C-17 platform to respond to the airlift needs of the 12 member nations in the best way possible.

SAC Infrastructure Developments at Pápa Air Base

Since the establishment of the Strategic Airlift Capability in 2008, SAC has initiated multiple construction projects at Pápa Air Base that have contributed to the successful and efficient execution of the C-17 operations. The projects can be divided into two stages:

In the First Stage urgent infrastructure works were required to reach the Initial Operation Capability, to start the SAC flight operations in 2009 and to achieve Full Operational Capability in 2012. This group of works, completed between 2008 and 2012, mainly included renovation and modification of the existing base infrastructure.

In the Second Stage the infrastructure works that provide SAC with Permanent Facilities at Pápa Air Base for the entire lifetime of the initiative.

The SAC Hangar Complex that was completed in 2016 is a campus style facility that houses all Heavy Airlift Wing and NAM Programme Office functions in Pápa and provide hangar space for maintenance work on one C-17 aircraft at a time. Photo: NAM Programme Office

After the settlement of the program at Pápa and the achievement of the Full Operational Capability the preparations for providing permanent Strategic Airlift Capability infrastructure started in the Infrastructure Development Project (IDP) approved by the SAC Nations in 2013. The IDP was a comprehensive development project that included multiple items implemented during the period from 2013 to 2016.

As a part of the IDP the following facilities have been constructed at Pápa Air Base:

  • An Aircraft Maintenance Hangar for intermediate level aircraft maintenance (Completed in November 2016, part of the SAC Hangar Complex)
  • Back shops, offices and a storage area to support aircraft maintenance activities (Completed in November 2016, part of the SAC Hangar Complex)
  • Facilities to store and maintain NAM Progamme owned equipment and vehicles (Completed in May 2016, part of the SAC Hangar Complex)
  • An office area for NAM Programme Office and HAW (Completed in May 2016, part of the SAC Hangar Complex)
  • Extension of the existing Base Gym Facility (Completed in 2015)
  • An Interim Cargo Facility for cargo and storage and handling (Completed in 2014)


The SAC Hangar Complex buildings, the new office building in the forefront. HAW and NAM PO relocated to the new office building in May 2016. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.

The most significant element of the Infrastructure Development Project was the construction of the SAC Hangar Complex. This campus style facility that includes multiple buildings was implemented in three phases:

Phase 1 included the demolition of the old Pápa Air Base Hardened Aircraft Shelters that used to be used for fighter operations and the existing fire protection water reservoir. This phase of the work was completed during 2014.

In Phase 2 the Workshop and Storage Building, the HAW / NAM Office Building and the Public Utility Building were built. These buildings were completed in May 2016.

Phase 3 consisted of the construction of the Hangar building that was opened in November 2016. The SAC Hangar Complex houses the functions of the Heavy Airlift Wing and NAM Programme Office in Pápa and provide space for one C-17 for maintenance and repair work. This development have translated into reduced maintenance costs and more aircraft availability for the SAC member nations.

The next major infrastructure development will be the construction of the C-17 specific simulator that was acquired in August 2017.

Alongside with SAC, also the Government of Hungary is developing the infrastructure of the Pápa Air Base constantly.


The Strategic Airlift Capability Interim Cargo Facility completed in 2014 was the first finished part of the SAC Infrastructure Development project at the Pápa Air Base. The facility, intended for storage and handling of cargo transported by SAC via Pápa consists of a 1800 square meter heated tent building with aluminum support structure, fencing, a vehicle maneuvering area and roads connecting the facility to the taxiways of the base. Photo: NAM PO

LEARN MORE: NATO Airlift Management Progamme Office, Project Manager of the IDP


Possibilities for Program Enhancement and Expansion

Ever since its establishment the Strategic Airlift Capability has also open for new NATO member and Partnership for Peace nations to join and opportunities for enhancement of its performance and development have been and will be sought in cooperation with its member nations.

The already existing SAC structure currently serves the needs of the operations of three C-17 aircraft but it could be expanded to operating or coordinating the use of the existing and additional capabilities with cost-effective sharing of the airlift platforms, SAC command and control structure, logistics support functions and the infrastructure of the Pápa Air Base.

At the moment, there are no specific plans to expand the program. However, the SAC sees the following options viable for program expansion, development and optimization:

  • Expansion could be achieved through reallocation of the current SAC C-17 flight hours. According to the SAC Memorandum of Understanding, the program has the option to produce an additional amount of approximately 10 % undeclared flight hours. This share can used by current SAC member nations for missions that exceed their annual pre-agreed share of hours, but it could also form a basis for a new joining nation's share in SAC.
  • SAC's current capability of three Boeing C-17s could be expanded with additional C-17 aircraft
  • Additional temporary capability could be received from other C-17 operators. This arrangement would be used to fill in gaps of capability that arise during the periods of scheduled maintenance work of the SAC C-17 fleet and to increase the capability in times of seasonal high demand.
  • Nations and / or organizations owning or in the process of acquiring modern military transport or Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft could become SAC's cooperative partners with MRTT adding an air refueling capability to the program.
  • Expanding cooperation with organizations that coordinate the joint use of military airlift capability in Europe is currently being examined. SAC already exercises cooperation with the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE).


The Strategic Airlift Capability is open for new nations to join and different forms of expansion including expanding the use of the SAC-built facilities at the HDF Pápa Air Base from supporting SAC C-17 operations to other airlift platforms. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

LEARN MORE: News on SAC Support Activities