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Defense Dept Activates Civil Reserve Air Fleet; Enlists U.S. Airlines To Help With Evacuation Efforts

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to activate, requesting 18 aircraft from U.S. airlines to help in the evacuation of Afghans and Americans from Afghanistan.

It marks the third time in history that the military has mobilized the U.S. airlines to help with a military evacuation. Some 22,000 Americans and Afghans have been flown out of Afghanistan since July; 17,000 in the past week alone.

The Pentagon said that Austin’s order calls for American Airlines, Atlas Air, and Delta Air Lines to provide three aircraft in an emailed statement on Sunday morning. Omni Air and Hawaiian Airlines must each provide two aircraft. United Airlines will provide four planes.

The civilian airliners will not go into Kabul. Military aircraft will continue to airlift passengers out of Afghanistan’s capital to staging bases in the Middle East. The commercial airlines will take the second leg, flying them to the U.S. or other temporary housing locations, such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet is “a cooperative, voluntary program involving the [Transportation Department], DoD and the U.S. civil air carrier industry in a partnership to augment DoD aircraft capability during a national defense-related crisis,” as the Transportation department’s website puts it.

“Air carriers volunteer their aircraft to the CRAF program through contractual agreements with U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In return, the participating carriers are given preference in carrying commercial peacetime cargo and passenger traffic for DoD.”

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