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NATO C-17 Plan Advances: After two years of negotiations, NATO announced Wednesday that it is taking “a big step forward” by implementing its plans to acquire and operate three C-17 transports to support alliance activities around the globe. Moving forward is possible now that all of the participants in the alliance’s strategic airlift capability consortium have signed the SAC memorandum of understanding. The final MOU signature came on Sept. 24, setting the stage for NATO's “first major defense purchase” in 30 years, C-17 maker Boeing said in a separate release Oct. 1. The SAC now comprises Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States, plus partnership for peace nations Finland and Sweden. As of June, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Latvia were expected to participate. But then Latvia pulled out, and it appears that the Czech Republic and Italy did so, too, at the last minute. The participants will jointly operate the three C-17s from Papa AB, Hungary. The NATO airlift management organization now will oversee the acquisition and sustainment of the three C-17s, the first of which should arrive at Papa next spring and the remaining two next summer. The US Air Force is providing one of the C-17s; the participants are acquiring the other two from Boeing via a US foreign military sale.