Russia’s invasion of Ukraine endangers NATO’s Strategic International Airlift Solution (SALIS) for oversized cargo. SALIS is based on the charter of AN-124, AN-22, AN-225 and IL-76 cargo planes of the Antonov company – part of Ukraine’s state owned armament corporation Ukroboronporm.
Under the lead of Germany’s armed forces Bundeswehr, nine European NATO armies are part of SALIS (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). The charter corporation is managed by NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and had been prolonged in November 2021 for another five years. For the incorporated armies, SALIS is the core airlift option for oversized cargo like howitzers or tanks and is crucial for the supply of oversea missions like in Mali or Iraq. Beside that SALIS planes had been intensively used in the early phase of the pandemic to bring in huge amounts of medical supplies, especially from China.
The occupation of Ukraine by Russia or the installation of a puppet-regime would also mean the Russian usurpation of the Antonov fleet. It’s home airport at Hotomel near of Kiev is currently under attack. A spokesperson of Germany’s Ministry of Defecene told the author: „So far we are not aware of any restrictions on SALIS flights for the Bundeswehr due to the current situation in Ukraine.“ The spokesperson appeased questions on emergency and alternative solutions in the case of a SALIS collapse, stated that’s NSPA business. That’s hard to believe because the Bundeswehr as SALIS lead army is deeply involved within its configuration. A NSPA official stated on demand: „SALIS is still operating and providing strategic airlift services to the SALIS Participating Nations. It is rather premature to determine what will happen in the future. However, NSPA has a variety of suitable transportation solutions in place, including contractual solutions that can be activated with very short notice under the Nations’ s request.“ Until 2016 SALIS was a corporation between Antonov and the Russian company Wolga Dnepr which broke apart with the tighten conflict between the West and Russia over the Crimea annexation.
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