All you need to know about the Civil Reserve Air Fleet
- The US Defense Department activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet on Sunday
- It is the third time the CRAF has been activated in 70 years
- Previously it was used in the early 1990s and early 2000s during the Iraq wars
The US Defense Department activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a nearly 70-year-old program created in the wake of the Berlin airlift to provide a backup by commercial air carriers for a "major national defense emergency."
It is the third time the CRAF has been activated. Previously it was used in the early 1990s and early 2000s during the Iraq wars.
But what is the Civil Reserve Air Fleet?
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet is a unique and important element of the nation's air transportation resources. In crises where the need for airlift exceeds the capabilities of military aircraft, selected aircraft from U.S. airlines are contractually committed to CRAF to supplement Department of Defense airlift requirements.
The CRAF is divided into two sections: international and national. The international market is subdivided into long-range and short-range segments, while the national segment caters to domestic needs.
Passenger and freight aircraft capable of transoceanic operations make up the long-range international division. These planes will supplement Air Mobility Command's long-range intertheater C-5s and C-17s at times of increased airlift demand, ranging from minor contingencies to full-fledged national defence emergencies.
Contractually, airlines pledge aircraft to CRAF's various divisions, making them available for activation as needed. The government makes peacetime DoD airlift business accessible to commercial airlines that contribute aircraft to the CRAF programme to provide incentives for private carriers to commit aircraft to the CRAF programme and to ensure the United States has appropriate airlift reserves.
Why has the Civil Reserve Air Fleet been activated for the third time in 70 years?
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered US commercial airlines to provide planes to help speed up Afghanistan evacuation efforts, the Pentagon said Sunday.
The planes would not fly into Kabul, instead of transporting individuals who had already been flown out of the country to military facilities in Europe and the Middle East. According to the Pentagon, this will allow military aircraft to focus on operations in and out of the Afghan capital.
The activation is 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.
United Airlines' first flight under the CRAF programme took off from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport on Sunday and landed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. After a refuelling stop in Germany, it will most likely fly evacuees to the United States, although timetables may change. The airline is looking at stocking diapers, personal hygiene products, and clothes on some of its aircraft.
"CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement, according to NBC inputs.