The Role of Aviation in U.S. National Security: Cargo Aircraft Chartering

Apr 1, 2020 | Fall Meeting 2019 Videos

Lewis King, Director of Albion Aviation Group described how the US Military utilizes cargo aircraft chartering during The Role of Aviation in US National Security class at the NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting on October 9, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.

An aircraft charter is an unscheduled flight which is not part of a regular routing for an aircraft operator. Clients “rent” the entire aircraft and decide on the departure and arrival airports and flight schedule.

The US Military charters flights for a variety of reasons such as to fly to airports not served by scheduled flights, for security reasons, to complement “gray tail” capacity, or to transport cargo that is time-critical, dangerous, restricted, heavy, or outsized, among other reasons. Specific types of cargo moved by charter for the military include military vehicles, mine rollers, 20-foot and Tricon shipping containers, flat racks, automotive parts, and perishables. Aircraft used for these flights include the Antonov (AN-26), Lockheed L-100 Hercules (L-100-30), Ilyushin IL-76 (IL-76TD-90VD), Boeing 747-400 (B747-400F), and the Antonov An-124 Ruslan (AN-124).

The types of military contracts that contain requirements for aircraft charters are commercial multi-modal, non-IBS tenders, theatre express, International Heavyweight Tenders (IHTs), and those made for Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) cargo.

Several challenges exist for the future of military aircraft chartering:

  • Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) availability, particularly in certain regions and during certain times of the year
  • Limited number of B747F CRAF operators and aircraft
  • Geography of US Military operations
  • Aging aircraft types
  • Geopolitical uncertainties
  • Tall Rigid Cargo (TRC) restrictions
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