NATO and Antonov have agreed a three-year contract extension to continue to provide the alliance with out-sized heavy-lift airlift support.
The contract extension, announced by Antonov Airlines on 4 January, will see the Ukraine-based company continue to provide two An-124-100 aircraft in support of NATO's Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme through to 31 December 2021.
While NATO does field strategic airlifters in terms of the nationally operated Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy and nationally and alliance-operated Boeing C-17 Globemaster III platforms, it does not have enough capacity to service all of its requirements. Under the SALIS agreement, the alliance will charter additional commercial airlift to make up the shortfall.
News of the contract extension came about six months after the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) told Jane's it was negotiating a contract with Antonov to provide additional outsized airlift after Russian provider Volga-Dnepr said it would no longer support the alliance from the end of December 2018.
Under the terms of the SALIS agreement in place at that time, both Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr contributed a total of six An-124 aircraft for charter services to NATO and partner nations. With this latest SALIS contract covering only the two Antonov aircraft, it is not clear how or from where the shortfall will be made-up.
Antonov Airlines is a division of Antonov Company, a Kiev-headquartered company that designs, develops, produces, and maintains the Antonov series of airlifters. As noted on the company's website, Antonov Airlines specialises in the transport of outsized and project cargo worldwide using a fleet of one An-22, seven An-124s, and the world's only An-225. The company has previously stated that it would be willing to commit additional An-124s to fill any gap.
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