The government cabinet has approved Belgium’s participation to the SALIS agreement with a German company which operates Antonov 124-100 heavy lift aircraft.
The SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) program is a partnership between 16 NATO member countries (Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom) intended to compensate for the shortfall of strategic transport aircraft in many European countries.
It is an interim solution pending the availability of the Airbus A-400M heavy transport aircraft, whose first delivery to Belgium is scheduled for 2018.
Participating countries have committed to leasing a minimum number of flight hours per year, which allows the German contractor to guarantee the permanent availability of two Antonov AN-124-100 heavy transport aircraft on very short notice. Two additional aircraft can be made available on six days’ notice.
By joining this partnership, Belgium becomes the 17th participating country, and gains a substantially larger transport capability to support its troops deployed in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Africa. It is to be noted that such a strategic airlift capability is also useful for Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO).
Membership is also advantageous for Belgium. The guaranteed availability of the Antonov-124s allows improved planning and better support for ongoing operations. And, if this agreement does carry fixed costs, these will be amortized after the 70th flight hour per year.