NATO's head urges Czechs to stay in joint airlifting project
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged the Czech Republic Monday to stay in a joint transport-aircraft project aimed at improving the alliance's airlift capacity, dpa reported.
The Czech Defence Ministry has indicated it may withdraw from the project under which members would chip in to jointly operate several Boeing C-17 Globemaster airlifters.
The Czech cabinet has yet to decide whether the country will participate.
"I sincerely hope that the Czech Republic will find a way to stay in that project," de Hoop Scheffer said during a Prague visit.
Denmark and Slovakia already abandoned the Globemaster project, originally joined by 17 alliance members, according to the Czech Defence Ministry.
The Czech Republic currently participates in NATO's SALIS airlift programme under which members rent Russian-made Antonov 124 transport planes from a German company.
The defence ministry has said that the new programme is too expensive compared to SALIS.
"A price for a flying hour in this programme is about half the amount than in Globemaster," ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said.
In order to enhance its air-transport capacity, the Czech Republic recently agreed to launch talks with EADS, the European defence and aerospace company, to barter obsolete Czech-made L-159 military aircraft for one new CASA 295-M transport plane.