The U.S. Department of Defense
will be spending nearly $300 million a month, on commercial air transportation
services, this year. That's over $3 billion a year. Last year, over $3 billion
was spent, compared to about $2.3 billion yearly in 2005 and 2006. Rising fuel
prices account for most of the cost increases.
the military cargo to combat zones 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. But since 2003, the Department of Defense has
been moving more cargo by commercial flights, including some of the cargo going
into places like Iraq. There, the U.S. spends over $70 million a month for air
transportation. A new program has shifted 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 for 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.
the commercial air freight companies have familiar names, like DHS or UPS. But
others are unfamiliar, relatively new, outfits from Eastern Europe, flying
Russian made An-12s and Il-76s. Some non-American companies will not be allowed
to carry "sensitive" cargoes, but most of the tonnage is pretty ordinary stuff.