Russia-based freighter aircraft group Volga-Dnepr has served notice that it is to quit the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) contract which provides airlift for European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries.
Two Antonov 124-100 aircraft, one each from Moscow-based Volga-Dnepr and Antonov SALIS, a subsidiary of Ukraines' Antonov Group, have been permanently stationed at Germany's Leipzig/Halle airport since March 2006 as part of the SALIS Project.
More aircraft are also made available at short notice, when required, to provide airlift for EU and NATO countries. A source confirmed that Antonov SALIS remains part of the military airlift project.
A spokesperson for NATO said: "SALIS is not a NATO contract but an initiative of a multinational consortium of 10 countries."
However, Germany's defence ministry confirmed the Volga-Dnepr decision to a Leipzig-based newspaper. There have also been other reports of the move in trade press articles.
Volga-Dnepr has issued this statement: "In line with our corporate strategy, Volga-Dnepr Group is focused on the growth of its business in the civil commercial sector and continuing to extend the scope of its niche products.
"We have been gradually withdrawing from the military logistics transportation market in due compliance with our previous commitments.
"The Group will not participate in the tender process initiated by NATO in its existing configuration, but we are open to continued cooperation with all organizations engaged in the transportation of humanitarian cargoes, and for future participation in disaster and emergency recovery programs."
On its website, the carrier states: "Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ services were chosen following an international tender for air transportation support of anti-terrorist, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. At present, 17 Western European countries and Canada participate in the SALIS project.
"In October 2006, a modern maintenance base for the An-124-100 transport aircraft was established in Leipzig, Germany, to support the SALIS project and ensure the contract terms for service and reliability are consistently fulfilled.
"Volga-Dnepr Airlines fulfils the requirements of its SALIS contract through Ruslan SALIS GmbH, which it registered in 2004 in Leipzig, Germany."