NATO Deputy Secretary General, Claudio Bisogniero, presided over a signing ceremony in the margins of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Bratislava. The ceremony marked a declaration of intent by nine NATO Allies to contribute to a multi-national helicopter initiative designed to provide NATO and its operations with additional airlift capability through a multi-national cooperative programme run by the HIP Helicopter Task Force.
Created in February 2009 and led by the Czech Republic, the HIP Helicopter Task Force is responsible for the development of a multi-national transport helicopter programme for NATO to help those countries that do not have the resources to deploy and run a transport helicopter operation on their own. This multi-national initiative will facilitate the in-theatre deployment of transport helicopters by NATO and Partner nations through the collective support of other Allies. Assistance ranges from the provision of operational pre-deployment training; command and control capabilities; base support or financial aid.
The Declaration of Intent was signed today by the Czech Republic, Albania, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia Spain, Turkey and the UK. This will provide the necessary political mandate to start mitigating critical utility helicopter shortfalls, particularly in the conduct of ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
Helicopters remain a critical requirement for NATO operations, especially in Afghanistan given the scope of ISAF operations and the lack of a fully developed road system to transport troops and equipment. Several countries, which operate HIP helicopters, have been willing to send additional aircraft but needed assistance to deploy and operate these vital assets.
Over the past eight months the HIP Helicopter Task Force has been encouraging NATO Allies to provide resources and expertise so that those Allies, including the Czech Republic and Hungary, who operate transport helicopters such as the MI 8, MI 17 and MI 171, would have the assistance necessary to set up a multi-national deployable operation.
Membership in this initiative is therefore not limited to transport helicopter owners but is open to any country willing to contribute with experience, know-how and/or capabilities. These efforts are part of a broader NATO Helicopter Initiative aimed at addressing helicopter shortfalls on all operations. This programme also includes a UK-French Multinational Helicopter Initiative (MHI), which supports the financing of helicopter deployment-related activities.
It is hoped that other Allies will join this cooperative programme.