8 Feb 03. The Secretary of Defense has given authority to the commander, U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to activate Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to provide the Department of Defense additional airlift capability to move U.S. troops and military cargo. This measure is necessary due to increased operations associated with the build-up of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region. CRAF aircraft are U.S. commercial passenger and cargo aircraft that are contractually pledged to move passengers and cargo when the Department of Defense’s airlift requirements exceeds the capability of U.S. military aircraft.
The authority to activate CRAF Stage I involves 22 U.S. airline companies and their 78 commercial aircraft – 47 passenger aircraft and 31 wide-body cargo aircraft. While this authority is for all 78 commercial aircraft in the CRAF Stage I program, the USTRANSCOM commander, Air Force Gen. John W. Handy is only activating 47 passenger aircraft. Currently, U.S. military airlift aircraft and CRAF volunteered commercial cargo aircraft are meeting the airlift requirements. However, if required, the USTRANSCOM commander can activate those 31 cargo aircraft in the CRAF Stage I program.
Three stages of incremental activation allow the USTRANSCOM commander to tailor an airlift force suitable for the contingency at hand. Stage I is the lowest activation level, Stage II would be used for major regional contingencies; and
Stage III would be used for periods of national mobilization. During a crisis, if Air Mobility Command (AMC), the air component of USTRANSCOM, has a need for additional aircraft, it would request the USTRANSCOM commander take steps to activate the appropriate CRAF stage. Stage II was activated during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. Stage III has never been activated. Each stage of the fleet activation is used only to the extent necessary to provide the amount of commercial augmentation airlift need by the Department of Defense.
To provide incentives for commercial carriers to commit aircraft to the CRAF program and to assure the United States has adequate airlift reserves, AMC awards peacetime airlift contracts to civilian airlines that have aircraft in the CRAF program.
The CRAF air carriers continue to operate and maintain the aircraft with their resUSces; however, AMC controls the aircraft missions through the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
USTRANSCOM relies heavily on the commercial transportation industry – sea, air, and land – to move troops, equipment, and supplies world wide in support of US Nation’s defense. Historically, 93 percent of US troops and 41 percent of US long-range air cargo are moved by chartered commercial aircraft.