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Inching Closer to NATO C-17s: NATO has signed a letter of offer and acceptance with the US government for the purchase of two C-17 transports via a pre-disclosed foreign military sales arrangement, Boeing, the aircraft’s maker, announced Monday. The move is another step in the alliance’s plans to operate three C-17s from Papa AB, Hungary, starting next year under a group of 12 nations known as the strategic airlift capability consortium. (The US Air Force is providing the third C-17.) Gunnar Borch, general manager of the NATO Airlift Management Agency, called the letter “a significant step forward in the ability of NATO and partner nations to respond to a critical shortfall in alliance and national capabilities.” The letter follows NATO’s announcement last month that the 12 nations had formally agreed to move forward with the C-17 acquisition. The SAC members (NATO members Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States, plus partnership for peace participants Finland and Sweden) are pooling resources and buy the two aircraft and jointly run the three-aircraft fleet. Jean Chamberlin, vice president and general manager of Boeing Global Mobility Systems, said the company anticipates delivering the first of NATO’s C-17s “as early as spring 2009,” with the remaining two in the summer.