The Pentagon said Sunday that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has activated the initial stage of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, asking for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.
According to Kirby, those aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. They will be used to move passengers from way stations once they leave Kabul, allowing the U.S. military to focus on the Afghanistan portion of the evacuation.
CRAF is a National Emergency Preparedness Program designed to augment DoD’s airlift capability and is a core component of USTRANSCOM’s ability to meet national security interests and contingency requirements, according to a Sunday morning Pentagon news release Under CRAF, the commercial carriers retain their civil status under FAA regulations while USTRANSCOM exercises mission control via its air component, Air Mobility Command.
This is the just the third CRAF activation in the history of the program, according to the Pentagon. The first occurred in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm (Aug. 1990 to May 1991), and the second was for Operation Iraqi Freedom (Feb. 2002 to June 2003).
DoD’s “ability to project military forces is inextricably linked to commercial industry, which provides critical transportation capacity as well as global networks to meet day-to-day and contingency requirements,” according to the release. “Utilizing commercial partners expands USTRANSCOM’s global reach as well as access to valuable commercial intermodal transportation systems.
“The Secretary greatly appreciates the support of our industry partners in this critical mission.”