An Antonov An-124 cargo plane carrying several tons of medical supplies from China, including vital respirators and millions of face masks, landed at Pardubice airport in the Czech Republic on the night of 24 March 2020 to help combat the coronavirus.
The flight was made possible by the NATO-managed Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS), which provides NATO countries participating in the programme with access to heavy transport aircraft. The Czech Government had tasked the mission.
Another SALIS An-124 carrying 48 tons of medical supplies arrived at Bratislava airport in Slovakia on 25 March. The supplies included face masks, surgical gloves and protective suits arrived from Tianjin in China.
A further 45 tons of medical equipment, including 100,000 protective suits, arrived in Bucharest in Romania on 26 March 2020 from the Republic of Korea. The equipment has been procured by the Romanian government as part of the efforts to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The supplies will be delivered with a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft which is part of the Strategic Airlift Capability.
NATO oversees two strategic airlift programmes. As part of the Strategic Airlift Capability or SAC, Allies jointly own and operate three C-17A heavy cargo aircraft, sharing flying hours and costs. Allies also charter several Antonov transport aircraft under the Alliance’s Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme. These programmes routinely moved personnel and supplies from Europe to NATO bases in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti and Pakistan.
The Romanian Air Force also deployed a Lockheed Martin C-130H and a Alenia C-27J Spartan to airlift urgent coronavirus supplies from Germany and Turkey on 24 March.
by David Oliver