Fight for NATO’s SALIS: The „Two-Treaty-Solution“ should end it

The Strategic Airlift Interim Solution, in short SALIS, is essential for NATO’s logistic. Alone the German Bundeswehr used it for half of its civil airlift cargo. With SALIS, twelve European NATO member states as well as Finland and Sweden are chartering airlift cargo from a private company. Till the end of 2016 the contractor is the Ruslan SALIS GmbH, a joint venture between the Russian company Volga Dnepr and Antonov from the Ukraine with their fleets of Antonow An-124 planes. Because of the Ukrainian conflict, the partners turned into adversaries for the upcoming SALIS contract in 2017. Recently, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) which organized SALIS for the partner nations rejected the SALIS offers of both companies.

A Russian Volga-Dnepr AN-124 long-range heavy transport aircraft is parked April 20 at Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif. The contracted AN-124 transported 129th Rescue Wing deployment cargo to Afghanistan because the high operations tempos of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have kept C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft fully engaged. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Hartman)

Loading of a Volga-Dnepr AN-124 with 129th Rescue Wing for Afghanistan – Photo: U.S. Air Force / Wikipedia / Public Domain

Antonov’s offer was too expensive as well as „technically non compliant“. The bulk of spares for Antonov’s An-124 fleet are still from Russia. The deficit of the Volga Dnepr proposal: Overflight rights in the Ukraine and Georgia are not certain so there is no full operational capability especially for transports to NATO’s south-eastern flank. Now the NSPA wants to split the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution services between both rivals which mean two separate SALIS contracts. Prior of that, an attempt of the SALIS member nations failed to revive the joint venture between Antonov and Volga Dnepr. This state of affairs appears from information of Germanys Ministry of Defense which obtained the author. Both companies have now time till the end of August to present their offers for the „Two-Treaty-Solution“.

Germany’s Ministry of Defense already prepares for a complete failure of SALIS. A task force named „Prospect Airlift“, inspects emergency solutions, should the negotiation colapse. One considered potential: Germany could join the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), within the NATO, the second network for strategic airlift. SAC runs with C-17 planes from Boeing. For the Bundeswehr planners, joining the SAC is not a reliable option. The C-17 is out of production and its transport capability is lower than those of the An-124. For the German Armed Forces the end of SALIS would be a mess. The Bundeswehr’s next generation transport plane, the A400M from Airbus, is an imposition. The plane is afflicted with a range of technical deficits. The intake of new A400M is running late permanently. To balance the lack of airlift resources, the Bundeswehr wants to lift its amount of currently 800 SALIS flight hours per year. 

More background on the topic: „Kampf um SALIS“ and „Neues zum Kampf um SALIS“ at pivotarea (both articles in German).