NATO and Ukraine will continue to cooperate under the SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) program, which involves the use of the An-124-100 Ruslan heavy transport aircraft by NATO and the European Union, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reports.

"NATO has confirmed the need for further use of the Ruslan fleet of SALIS: the two sides recently extended the contract for lease of the An-124-100 Ruslan until the end of 2016," a source within military circles told the news agency.

Under the terms of the contract, two An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft are permanently based in Germany and four are provided to the customer on demand, he said. "The volume of the contract reflects the accumulated experience of cooperation and the technical terms of the partnership," he added.

The Antonov Airlines (Ukraine) and the Volga-Dnepr airlines (Russia) – the world's leading operators of the Ruslan heavy transport airplane, which has a load carrying capacity of 150 tons – have been providing services under the SALIS program since 2006.

The partners and the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) signed a three-year contract (with the option of extension) worth EUR 600 million for transportation of cargo on behalf of NATO and the European Union in late 2005. The contract was extended by two years in late 2008, in 2010, and in 2012.

Ruslan International Ltd (RI, Stansted, Britain), which Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr established in 2006, is the sole marketing agent of the Ukrainian and Russian operators.

Ruslan SALIS (RS, Leipzig, Germany) also performs strategic transportation of cargo on behalf of 18 NATO countries and the European Union under the SALIS program.