The Czech Republic and Slovakia are both using the NATO Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme to airlift in emergency equipment from China during the coronavirus crisis, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) has announced.
The first SALIS flight using an Antonov An-124-100 ‘Condor’ strategic transport aircraft arrived at Shenzhen Airport, in southeastern China, on 20 March, where it was loaded with 70 tonnes of protective medical equipment before arriving at Pardubice Airport in the Czech Republic on 21 March. A further flight to Slovakia took place on 23 March, with another for the Czech Republic due on 31 March.
“Our contractor, Antonov Logistics SALIS (ALS), has implemented procedures to ensure maximum protection for the aircrew. For example, direct contact between the aircrew and the locals at the destination is forbidden. Chinese Authorities have accepted to deviate from their national rules, allowing aircrew to stay on board during the passport controls,” an NSPA Officer was quoted as saying.
According to the NSPA, additional crew have been allocated to these missions to enable non-stop flights from Shenzhen to Pardubice, and special permits granted to overcome current restrictions.
The purpose of the SALIS contract is to facilitate the rapid deployment of outsized equipment in support of NATO and/or EU-operations. The nine participating nations in the SALIS contract are Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In December 2018 the NSPA signed a contract with the German-based ALS to obtain assured access to up to five An-124 aircraft within a few days. In addition, the current contract also provides access to An-22, An-225, and Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft. In 2019 the SALIS contract provided 1,900 flight hours.
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