Nato’s strategic airlift capability (SAC) has conducted its first mission in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

SAC’s operational component, the heavy airlift wing (HAW), based in Hungary, performed the first flight on C-17 aircraft to supply materiel to Swedish troops in the Afghan theatre.

Nato assistant secretary general for defence investment Peter Flory said the first mission to Afghanistan is a big step forward for the efforts of the SAC nations, including both Nato and EU members, to address a critical shortfall in strategic lift.

The SAC currently comprises ten Nato and two partnership for peace (PfP) nations — Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland (PfP), Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden (PfP), Romania and the US.

Launched three years ago to acquire three C-17 aircraft and meet strategic airlift requirements of the ten participating member nations, the SAC is now looking at the delivery of its third aircraft, to be delivered in October 2009.