Jumbo Soviet-era plane sent by NATO airlifts 10 million masks from China to Germany
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The world’s largest capacity cargo plane — built to transport the Soviet space shuttle — is now flying medical supplies from China to Germany in an effort organized by NATO.
On Monday, the six-engine Antonov-225 jet delivered 10 million protective face masks to Leipzig/Halle Airport. Two more flights are in the works that will deliver nearly 15 million more face masks from China, NATO said in a statement.
The first batch of supplies, procured by Germany for distribution throughout the country, was welcomed Monday by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
While the gear was made in China, and the aircraft built by the former Soviet Union, the airlift was part of a long-standing program backed by the Western military alliance.
Strategic Airlift International Solution, or SALIS, provides member countries with access to Antonov heavy transport aircraft. The An-225 was built in the 1980s and can carry up to 250 tons of cargo, NATO said.
There is only one such plane in the world, now owned by the Ukrainian company Antonov Logistics SALIS, operating out of Leipzig/Halle airport.
The plane’s smaller, four-engine version, the An-124, also has been involved in pandemic response efforts in NATO countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. The An-124 is roughly equivalent to Lockheed’s C-5 Galaxy strategic transport.
Nine NATO allies — Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia — participate in the SALIS program, which is managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, the NATO statement said.