According to the French media, the Russian group of companies (GC) Volga-Dnepr has announced to Western partners that from January 1 next year it will no longer provide NATO services for oversized air transport on An-124-100 transport aircraft Ruslan. According to Kommersant, Volga-Dnepr does not really intend to extend the corresponding contract with the French party for 2019 - because of the sanctions policy of Western countries against a number of Russian companies.
"Putin cuts off the wings of the French Air Force" - this begins the material of the French edition of Challenges, which, citing its own sources, says: the Russian GC "Volga-Dnepr" informed NATO that after 2018 it will not provide AN-124 transport aircraft to the alliance countries -100. Instead, the company intends to focus on civilian transportation. The same information with reference to a letter sent by the Russian side to the members of the managing board of the SALIS program (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) on April 12, is also reported by Ouest-France. As noted in Challenges, such a decision will increase the cost and significantly complicate the logistics of French military operations abroad.
Since 2006, in the framework of the SALIS program, oversized strategic long-distance air services have been provided in the interests of almost two dozen NATO member states and the EU. For ten years, the main contractor was the joint venture (JV) of the Ukrainian "Antonov Airlines" and the Russian GC "Volga-Dnepr" - Ruslan SALIS GmbH, registered in Germany. The joint venture could provide 17 heavy long-distance AN-124 Ruslan trucks with a carrying capacity of 120 tons, that is, almost the entire commercial fleet of such aircraft in the world. In 2013, during the French military operation Serval in Mali (when the French army had to intervene urgently to prevent the victory of the rebellious Tuaregs and groups of radical Islamists who planned the seizure of the capital of Bamako), the AN-124 was actively used for the transfer of French military cargoes to Africa . In January-February 2013, there were 115 AN-124 flights, 7 AN-225 flights and 47 IL-76 flights per 110 flights of NATO aircraft (mainly British C17 transport).
Despite the high cost of chartering (in € 36-56 thousand per hour in 2017), the AN-124 as the world's largest cargo aircraft has remained in demand, especially the military of France and Germany.
As MP Francois Cornuil-Gentius noted in his last year's report to the National Assembly, replacing the AN-124 with the A400M European military transport aircraft will require five aircraft instead of one, and the cost of flights will triple.
Since this year, the name of the program was edited: SALIS was deciphered as Strategic Airlift International (not Interim) Solution, that is not "temporary", but "international solution for strategic air transportation." This was done after the Ukrainian "Antonov Airlines" announced in 2016 the termination of the joint business with "Volga-Dnipro". "We can not technically help Russia, because in this way we promote aggression, but we are confident that our own capabilities are sufficient to meet the basic needs of NATO," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said at the time.
As a result, according to the tender for 2017-2018, ten NATO countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) signed two contracts - both with the Russian and the Ukrainian side. However, they expire on December 31, 2018.
According to the German media, the main consumer of SALIS services was the NATO Procurement and Procurement Agency on behalf of the ten member states of the program. At the end of 2016, these countries entered into a two-year contract with the possibility of extending it for another five years. According to the German ARD channel, NSPA / SALIS agreed on at least 1.6 thousand flight hours for 2017, of which 973 were performed by Volga-Dnipro, and 629 hours by Ukrainian Antonov. The cost of Antonov's flying hour was € 37,500, the cost of the Volga-Dnepr hour was € 23,300.
The largest user of SALIS services was the German armed forces, which reserved 1080 hours for 2017 and 980 hours for 2018, as well as the French Air Force. According to the French Chamber of Accounts for November 2016, the share of SALIS in the total volume of traffic for the French side was 34.7% and another 33.7% of services were provided through the landlord of An-124 aircraft - International Chartering Systems (ICS). This company also used the Ruslans, which are operated in the park of the 224th flight detachment (a subsidiary of the Russian Defense Ministry). In 2015, the French government paid about € 40 million for 1115 flying hours, contracted through SALIS and ICS.
According to the source of "Kommersant" in the aviation industry, from January 1, 2019, "Volga-Dnepr" will really suspend the contract with the French side in the framework of SALIS. "The airlines belonging to the Volga-Dnepr Group, in the context of the sanctions policy with respect to a number of Russian companies, as well as unprecedented foreign policy pressure on the Russian Federation, have decided to change the commercial policy related to the nature of the cargo being transported," the Kommersant source said. The companies refused to transport military cargo. The decisions taken by the leadership of the group not to extend the contract for the delivery of cargo to the orders of defense departments of NATO countries are, according to the source, "in line with the new commercial policy of the company."