Defense Acquisitions; Strategic Airlift Gap Has Been Addressed, but Tactical Airlift Plans Are Evolving as Key Issues Have Not Been Resolved
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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DOD uses a variety of aircraft to move weapons, equipment, and troops from the United States to and within theaters of operation. C-5s and C-17s are used for strategic airlift. They carry weapons and equipment too large for any other DOD aircraft from the United States to staging locations throughout the world. The family of C-130 aircraft, which includes the C-130E, C-130H, and C-130J aircraft, is then the primary asset used to move weapons, equipment, and troops within a theater of operation.3 The C-17 is dually capable of performing both strategic and tactical airlift missions and supplements the C-130 for tactical airlift. All of these aircraft are owned and operated by the Air Force and are considered part of the common user pool of aircraft that can be used to support any of the services- missions. DOD also relies on the Air Forces aerial refueling tankers KC-10 and KC-135, commercial aircraft, and leased aircraft to supplement airlift capabilities. Officials at the U.S. Transportation Command and its Air Force component, the Air Mobility Command, decide on how best to use the assets on a daily basis. Often, these aircraft are scheduled for departure when they have a full load, to ensure assets are used cost-effectively. The services may also use their own airplanes and helicopters that are not in the common user pool to move people and cargo within a theater of operation. For example, these assets include the Armys C-23 Sherpas and the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft. These aircraft are used to perform time-sensitive, mission-critical requirements and may take off without full loads since urgency is the primary driver for the mission, not efficiency or cost-effectiveness.
- Transport Aircraft