Skip to comments.U.S. troops to staff NATO base in Hungary
Posted on 10/04/2008 5:59:16 PM PDT by Dawnsblood
A NATO base to support the airlift operations of 12 nations will be established in Hungary early next year, and about 40 U.S. military members will be calling the station 100 miles west of Budapest home, according to an alliance agreement.
The Strategic Airlift Capability Partnership which involves the joint acquisition of three C-17 Globemasters will increase NATOs ability to transport large numbers of troops and supplies to far-flung places, such as Afghanistan. The town of Papa will host the base to be commanded by U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky.
"It (airlift capability) has been a longstanding alliance shortfall," said Jim Lovell, head of Air Defense and Airspace Management for NATO, noting the possession of C-17s is limited to American and United Kingdom forces. Other nations that are part of the pact will have access to the planes, he said.
The Strategic Airlift Capability Partnership includes 10 NATO nations and two non-NATO members Sweden and Finland.
The C-17 fleet will be operated by a heavy airlift wing under the command of Zazworsky and a Swedish deputy commander. International crews will be assigned to the base and conduct missions based on national requirements.
The Hungarian community has been busy preparing facilities to accommodate the influx of servicemembers. An English language international school for dependents is one of the services being developed, Lovell said.
"The community has developed a plan for a normal three-year accompanied tour," Lovell said.
In all, about 150 people will be assigned to the wing, with the number of Americans standing at 40, he said. The airlift team also will include about 35 civilians, hired by NATO, to manage administrative concerns.
The reason for setting up the base in Hungary is simple, Lovell said. The country stepped forward and expressed interest in playing host.
"They made the offer and we were looking for a nation that would be willing," he said.
The planes will be available for a variety of missions, including NATO-led operations as well as international humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. The C-17, often described as the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force, is capable of hauling heavy loads and landing on short and rugged runways in places such as Afghanistan and other remote places.
The 10 NATO members involved in the deal are Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U.S.
In the beginning, U.S. personnel will spend time training international crews how to operate the planes.
"Initially, there will only be U.S. personnel manning the C-17s," Zazworsky said in August as a final agreement neared. "But with training, the countries will be able to use their own pilots and loadmasters. It will take a year-and-a-half to train the countrys crew and for them to be comfortable with the C-17 to fly on their own."
The first aircraft is expected to be delivered to Papa in the spring with the second and third C-17 arriving by summer.
NATO officials say while the agreement advances the alliances ability to respond to various crises, the initiative also serves as an example of how nations can pool resources to build programs that many nations cannot support on their own.
"It can also provide a model for future capability development," said Peter Flory, NATO assistant secretary-general for defense investment.