The Civil Reserve Air Fleet is a partnership between the Department of Defense and commercial airlines where the airlines contractually commit a portion of their aircraft and crews to be used by the Department in the event of any level of military conflict. These aircraft can be “called up” and required to respond quickly to provide airlift support to the Department of Defense. There are minimum required levels of participation in order for the airlines to be eligible, and in turn they receive peace time business including passenger and cargo movement approximately in proportion to their commitment level.
The program is divided into three segments which include varying amounts and sizes of aircraft that serve specific purposes. There are also three levels of activation depending on the severity of the conflict, which also require different amounts and sizes of aircraft. This program has been in place for nearly 53 years, and has become an essential partnership required for an effective United States military. The following pages are an investigation various aspects of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet such as its purpose, history, and effectiveness.
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) is a network of select aircraft from several commercial airlines that are all committed in various amounts to the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide airlift resources when the capability of U. S. military aircraft is exceeded. This system is designed so that these carriers can provide military cargo movement and troop transportation to anywhere in the world on short notice in the event of a military conflict.
In order for airlines to join the CRAF, they must commit at least 30 percent of their long-range passenger fleet and 15 percent of their long-range cargo planes (Fact Sheet, 2004). These aircraft must also be U. S. registered, capable of over water operations, and have at least four complete crews assigned for each aircraft (Fact Sheet, 2004). Airlines that participate in CRAF have provided vital support to our military since the Korean War (Graham, David, 2003).
The Persian Gulf War was the first official activation of the CRAF, where two thirds of the troops and one quarter of the air cargo was moved by commercial airplanes (Graham, 2003). Though not officially activated, the CRAF is currently supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing nearly double the amount of aircraft that the DoD has estimated for its most demanding war strategies. This paper will provide a brief explanation of the purpose of the CRAF, its history, the effectiveness of the program, and a quick look towards the future of the CRAF.
Purpose The CRAF program gives the DoD access to a huge reserve of commercial aircraft, the crews to operate them, fuel, and any other resources required to operate them (Graham, 2003). They can be activated and given as little as 24-48 hours notice to be ready to move military forces and equipment to anywhere in the world. There are currently approximately 250 cargo aircraft involved which is 86 percent of the long-haul cargo fleets of the participants (Graham, 2003).
Passenger aircraft consist of approximately 479 which are 70 percent of the participants’ long-haul passenger planes (Graham, 2003). This section will discuss the main incentive the airlines receive for participation in the program, the three main segments of CRAF, and will provide an explanation of the three stages of activation of the CRAF. The main incentive for airlines to commit their aircraft to CRAF is the access to serve government markets in peacetime operations which represents over $2 billion dollars per year in revenue (Graham, 2003).
Nearly half of this revenue is DoD’s passenger and cargo charter business, which is divided up between CRAF participants approximately in proportion to their total commitment of aircraft (Graham, 2003). The rest of this peacetime revenue consists of a separate passenger and express cargo market program, and required that each participant commit at least 30 percent of their long-haul fleet (Graham, 2003). This peacetime business incentive is crucial in maintaining the required commitment level from airlines to the CRAF.
If it weren’t for this guaranteed business, many airlines would not participate in the program, especially the larger carriers. “Small carriers are more likely to benefit financially when CRAF is activated, whereas larger scheduled carriers are apt to be more concerned about losing market share to foreign competitors and rivals who are not in the program. Since small carriers often do not operate scheduled routes, CRAF activation represents additional business for them and is not as disruptive as it may be to larger scheduled carriers (Participation in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, 1997).
The three segments of CRAF are the international segment, the national segment, and the aero medical evacuation segment (U. S Air Force Fact Sheet, 2004). The international segment consists of passenger and cargo aircraft capable of transoceanic operations. Their role is to augment the Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) long-range aircraft such as C-5’s and C-17’s during operations ranging from minor contingencies to full blown national emergencies (Fact Sheet, 2004). The national segment provides airlift within the United States during an emergency, to include U.
S Pacific Command’s area of responsibility around Alaska (Fact Sheet, 2004). Last is the aero medical evacuation segment. This segment’s main responsibility is to provide evacuation of casualties in conflict areas to hospitals in the continental United States (Fact Sheet, 2004). They are also used to transport medical crews and supplies to and from the conflict areas where they are needed, as well as carry kits and equipment used to convert commercial B-767 passenger aircraft into air ambulances (Fact Sheet, 2004). There are three stages of activation of the CRAF.
Stage I is for minor regional crises and consists of up to 30 passenger wide-body equivalents (WBE) and 30 cargo WBE (Graham, 2003). For the purpose of the CRAF, a WBE is the equivalent of a B-747-100 (Graham, 2003). Stage I is used when the U. S. military airlift force cannot meet both deployment and other traffic requirements at the same time (Military Analysis Network, 2000). Stage II is for a major theater war and can include up to an additional 57 passenger WBE, and 45 cargo WBE above the Stage I provisions (Graham, 2003).
Stage II is used when an airlift emergency does not warrant national mobilization (Network, 2000). Finally, Stage III is for a major national emergency and mobilization declared by the President or the Congress (Graham, 2003). This stage can call for an additional 49 passenger WBE and 45 cargo WBE (Graham, 2003). In the event of a full activation, the CRAF can provide up to about 90 percent of the DoD’s troop transport needs, about 40 percent of its cargo movement needs, and close to 100 percent of the inter-theater aero-medical evacuation needs (Graham, 2003).
History The CRAF was established in 1952 to provide the U. S. military the ability to utilize commercial airlift support for its operations (Graham, 2003). World War II had a huge impact on the course of commercial aviation, and aviation had just as big an impact on the result of the war. In 1939, the United States had less than 300 air transports, but by the end of the war, more than 40 U. S. manufacturers were producing about 50,000 planes per year (Graham, 2003). There were now a total of more than 300,000 aircraft in the country (Graham, 2003).
The reason for this boom in the aviation industry was that even during World War II, it became apparent that the military had to rely heavily upon civil aviation. The industry had no choice but to grow to meet the needs of the military during this time of war. “By the end of 1944, a completely mobilized domestic airline system greatly improved the flexibility and responsiveness for the war effort (Graham, 2003). ” After World War II, many airlines found themselves in financial trouble due to overexpansion (Graham, 2003). They hired many more people, bought new airplanes, and increased their routes (Graham, 2003).
By mid-1947, they were in danger of bankruptcy, and at this time, their ability to assist the military again in another major conflict was not assured (Graham, 2003). So, President Truman established an Air Policy Commission to evaluate the condition of the airlines to determine their ability to augment the military airlift needs (Graham, 2003). By 1950 the Commission had recommended establishing a three-tiered system of reserve civilian aircraft capable of overseas transports (Graham, 2003). In 1951, this report became the framework for the augmentation of the military airlift system called the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (Graham, 2003).
The military and commercial carriers regarded each other as essential for national defense (Graham, 2003). “The airlift lesson learned during World War II, and subsequently confirmed during the Korean Conflict is that the nation could not maintain enough military airlift capability to meet all of the DoD needs. This shortcoming provided the catalyst for and establishment of, the CRAF, a partnership between military and civilian airlift (Graham, 2003). ” Effectiveness During the very first and only activation of the CRAF in support of the Persian Gulf War, several problems were identified.
Despite these problems, the activation was considered a very successful (Network, 2000). Many of these problems were subsequently corrected with improved planning and practice exercises, and the program is constantly undergoing analysis for improvements. The following paragraphs will discuss four of the problems encountered with the CRAF program during the Persian Gulf War. First was the lack of effective communications and protective gear (Graham, 2003). The aircraft and crews of the CRAF did not have access to military communications or aircraft survivability equipment (Graham, 2003).
They could not communicate with military air traffic control, and they were limited to operation far outside of the threat areas (Graham, 2003). Also, the DoD did not provide the CRAF crews with protective chemical or biological gear to include clothing, or any related training before or during the war (Graham, 2003). It became very apparent during the Gulf War that airlift operations could be vulnerable to the threat of tactical ballistic missile attacks against allied air bases, and this realization negatively impacted the use of the CRAF (Graham, 2003).
Second was the fact that the DoD contracted simply for aircraft, crews, and flight support from CRAF participants (Graham, 2003). The department could have made much better use of the airlines’ capabilities by including provisions for also contracting for a more complete package including logistics services (Graham, 2003). There was no plan to utilize any of the carriers existing information systems that could have been used for planning and scheduling (Graham, 2003). Also, the use of ground transportation and ground handling networks that the commercial carriers have would have been very useful (Graham, 2003).
Third was the lack of use of Intermediate Support Bases (ISB’s) for CRAF aircraft (Graham, 2003). The use of these aircraft was severely impacted by the threat of attacks with tactical ballistic missiles and the potential of these containing weapons of mass destruction (Graham, 2003). Since then, the DoD has planned and prepared for using the CRAF in hostile scenarios by setting up ISB’s in relatively secured areas where cargo and passengers are moved to military aircraft to be moved to the forward locations (Graham, 2003).
This is how operations were conducted for Operation Enduring Freedom where the military has relied heavily on the CRAF (Graham, 2003). The last problem I will discuss was the lack of crew training, security, and personnel protection (Graham, 2003). As mentioned earlier, the CRAF crews were not as prepared as they should have been to fly into many areas that they did (Graham, 2003). There is also concern that following the war, many crews would not be willing to volunteer for these missions due to the dangers involved (Graham, 2003).
The DoD is considering maintaining a pool of crews that have committed to participating in the more risky operations that fly into or near war zones (Graham, 2003). These crews would be given special training to prepare them for CRAF operations, security, and personnel protection (Graham, 2003). There would also still be crews that would operate under the current rules, and would only be required to fly in the low risk situations (Graham, 2003). Conclusion This paper was a brief introduction to some of the core elements of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.
I covered the purpose of the CRAF including the main incentive for participation in the program, the three main segments, and the three levels of activation of the fleet. Next, the history of the program which dates back to just after the end of World War II was discussed. Finally, the effectiveness of the CRAF was addressed which highlighted some of the problems encountered with the first and only official activation during the Persian Gulf War. Overall, the program has been an overwhelming success with an interesting history, and has proven to be a key part of the United States military operations.