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US Leads Way on NATO C-17 Fleet: The first commander of the nascent NATO C-17 fleet at Papa AB, Hungary, will be a USAF colonel, according to Gen. Roger A. Brady, commander of US Air Forces in Europe. Fifteen NATO members plus Finland and Sweden have agreed to collectively purchase and operate at least three C-17 airlifters to meet European strategic lift requirements. The unit should reach initial operational capability later this year. The commander will report to USAFE administratively, and to a NATO board of directors for operational matters, Brady said in an interview March 18 (see above). The US is also providing the first C-17 for the new fleet. The arrangement, similar to that used for the Alliance’s larger E-3A AWACS force at Geilenkirchen, Germany, gives the partner nations as-needed access to large airlifters not regularly available on the continent. The aircraft will be maintained and flown by multinational teams. Overall, the unit will have 150 personnel from the various member nations, with about 42 USAF airmen. “Every nation at some point needs lift, but does not necessarily have the capability or the need” to buy strategic airlifters, said Brady, explaining the rational behind NATO’s Strategic Lift Consortium. This “strengthens the cohesiveness and interoperability of the nations involved,” he added.