Air Transportation: Commercial Air Freight to Combat Zones


August 3, 2006: The U.S. Department of Defense is spending over $200 million a month on air transportation. Most of the cargo is carried by the U.S. Air Force's fleet of over 200 heavy transports. However, the majority of the troops are moved by commercial aviation charters. Now the Department of Defense wants to move more cargo by commercial flights, including some of the cargo going into places like Iraq. There, the U.S. spends nearly $60 million a month for air transportation. A new program is going to try and shift about a quarter of that to commercial air freight companies. These companies can do the work a lot more cheaply, often about 40 percent less. This program is intended to take the load off the military transports, especially those using reservist pilots. These pilots, especially those flying C-130s, are running out of available time for active duty flying (by law, there are limits to how long reservists can be called up fro active duty.) The air force also wants to give it support troops a break, as there are not enough of them to support wartime levels of operations over a long period.
Some of the commercial air freight companies have familiar names, like DHS or UPS. But others are unfamiliar, relatively new, outfits from Eastern Europe, flying An-12s and Il-76s. Some non-American companies will not be allowed to carry "sensitive" cargoes.


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