Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
SAC Website

Skip Navigation LinksStrategic-Airlift-Capability-Celebrates-5-Years-of-Flight-Operations

8/29/2014 12:00 AM
Strategic Airlift Capability Celebrates 5 Years of Flight Operations
8/29/2014 – PÁPA – – The Strategic Airlift Capability program was established in 2008 as an initiative of 12 nations aiming at creating a groundbreaking way of owning and operating together C-17 cargo jets to serve their military and humanitarian airlift needs. After a short standing-up phase, the first SAC airlift mission took on its wings in the summer of 2009. Now, a half decade later, SAC celebrates five years of successful flight operations as the world’s first any only operational multinational airlift program.

SAC 5th Anniversary Patch designed by 1Lt Géza Marton serving at HDF Pápa Air Base.

SAC community celebrated the important milestone of reaching five years of flight operations in an official ceremony held at the program home field, Hungarian Defence Forces Pápa Air Base on 29 August 2014.

The event was attended by an audience of approximately 400 people consisting of the personnel and leadership of the SAC operational arm, the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW), its support organization NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO) and the C-17 manufacturer and maintenance and technical support provider Boeing.


SAC 5th Anniversary of Flight Operations Ceremony at Pápa Air Base was attended by approximately 400 guests and members of SAC organizations. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

Also the representatives of the SAC nations’ diplomatic missions in Hungary, members of the SAC Steering Board and representatives of the SAC host nation Hungary’s Ministry of Defence and the Hungarian Defence Forces were present.

10 NATO Member and 2 NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) nations signed the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the SAC program in September 2008 with a unique target: to create the first multinational operational military airlift program in the world to own and operate together strategic airlift aircraft following the principles of Smart Defense.

Less than nine months after the standing-up of the program, in July 2009, the SAC operational arm the Heavy Airlift Wing received the one first of its three Boeing C-17 Globemaster III long-range cargo jets and started operate it with multinational air crews.

The first SAC operational airlift mission took place on 13 August 2009 as SAC responded to a request from its member nation the United States and transported passengers from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to Pristina International Airport, Kosovo.

During the five years of operations the number of missions SAC has flown has risen to over 1,000. SAC C-17s flown by their multinational crews have achieved over 14,000 flight hours transporting approximately 44,000 tons of cargo and over 56,000 passengers in the service of the SAC nations’ national defense, EU, NATO and UN commitments and humanitarian missions.

As Colonel Frank Rombouts, the Commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing pointed out in his speech to the audience of the 29 August ceremony, SAC’s development from an idea to a successful operational airlift program has been fast – and it is a strong show of the potential of Smart Defense.

“The Heavy Airlift Wing and its support organization the NATO Airlift Management Program have proven their place in the world’s airlift community. During the 5 years of operation the SAC has shown that the concept of pooling and sharing defense assets can be turned into reality in a cost effective way.”

Colonel Rombouts also expressed his sincere thanks to the personnel of SAC who have enabled the program to become a success.

“I am very proud of the milestones you continue to achieve daily. Our HAW airmen make a difficult task look easy. They serve as a bright example of what we can do when we work together as a team.”

SAC program has achieved a lot during its existence, but further development potential is still to be realized. As Mr. Wiek Noldus, the Programme Manager of the NATO Airlift Management Programme reminded in his anniversary speech, the SAC nations are committed to the program for several decades to come which gives a good foundation for development.

“One of the strong features of SAC is the commitment of the member nations, written in the Memorandum of Understanding; to jointly own and operate the C-17’s for – at least – 30 years. This allows us to invest in the future and optimization of SAC.”

As an example of a development SAC is making in its host nation Hungary, Mr. Noldus mentioned the construction SAC campus and the C-17 hangar building that will be completed in 2016 at the Pápa Air Base funded by the member nations. When completed, the building will house the SAC functions in Pápa and be the first C-17 maintenance facility in Europe. The new facility will ensure high C-17 mission availability rate and excellent cost effectiveness of the SAC C-17 fleet maintenance.

According to Mr. Noldus, another path of development for SAC exists through expansion as the program is open for new NATO members and partner nations to join.

“The more nations join SAC the more efficient we can organize SAC and the stronger NATO and its partners demonstrate the vitality of the alliance by Smart Defence”.


SAC is a team effort of 12 nations and multiple organizations. The Commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing, Colonel Frank Rombouts, Program Manager of the NATO Airlift Management Programme Mr. Wiek Noldus, Mayor of the town of Pápa Mr. Tamás Áldozó, Brigadier General Zoltan Mihocza of the Hungarian Defence Forces and Boeing's Director of C-17 Flight Operations Mr. Bob McMahon cut the SAC 5 years of operations anniversary cake together during the 29 August ceremony at Pápa Air Base. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

SAC Team in Pápa was greeted in the 29 August ceremony by the cooperating partners of the program. One of them was Boeing’s Bob McMahon, Director of C-17 Field Operations who expressed his pride for the significantly high C-17 mission capability rate of almost 94 % achieved by cooperation of SAC and the Boeing team in Pápa maintaining and providing technical support to the SAC C-17s.

“The Boeing C-17 Field Operations team is proud to be part of directly supporting this 12 Nation capability from day one, providing on-site aircraft maintenance, engineering, and spares support. Together, SAC Operations and Boeing Support make this mission happen!”

On behalf of the SAC host nation Hungary the 5 year anniversary audience was greeted by Brigadier General Zoltan Mihocza, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces Joint Forces Command. He highlighted the importance of SAC and its development to its home region in Western Hungary.

“This capability is important not only for the military but for Pápa town as well. The constructive cooperation which we experience from the leadership and the residents of the town strongly supports us to turn our ideas for realized results.”

As Brigadier General Mihocza pointed out, also the Hungarian Ministry of Defence is working to develop Pápa Air Base into an important center of airlift logistics for NATO and its partners. Recent Hungarian-funded developments, such as the planned construction of a new control tower and a passenger terminal support this goal.

“All the developments of the base are contributing to the overall success. We hope that the achievements serve the attractiveness of Pápa and the will to transform Pápa Air Base to a modern hub.”


Read more about SAC Program Milestones 2006 – 2014


About the Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing



The Heavy Airlift Wing based in Pápa Air Base, Hungary is the operational arm of the multinational Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC). The HAW operates three C-17 Globemaster III long-range military cargo jets providing strategic airlift capability to meet the mission requirements of the 12 SAC partner nations. The HAW became operational in 2009 and its aircraft fleet has achieved over 14.000 flying hours. The unit reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2012.

The SAC Nations consist of the NATO members Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States and NATO Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden.

In its operations, SAC receives support from the NATO Airlift Management Program (NAMP) and the Boeing Company that provides technical support for the C-17 aircraft.