Project AIR FORCE Analysis of the Air War in the Gulf

An Assessment of Strategic Airlift Operational Efficiency

by John Lund, Ruth T. Berg, Corinne Replogle


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The 1990 airlift during Operation Desert Shield moved ten times the daily ton-miles of the Berlin Airlift. In the main, this airlift operation was successful, but it did not attain expected performance. Operations began without a feasible transportation plan and requirements changed frequently as the situation developed. Half the Air Mobility Command's strategic aircrews are in the reserves; they were not called up until 16 days into deployment. The small number of en route and offload bases made the entire system sensitive to disruptions at those bases, such as weather or ramp congestion. Maintenance problems resulted in aircraft unavailability. Among other suggestions, the authors recommend that 1) knowledgeable transporters be included early in contingency planning to ensure the feasibility of courses of action, 2) access to adequate bases be ensured both en route and in the theater, 3) measures be taken to ensure that the U.S. Transportation Command or the Air Mobility Command has sufficient aircrews in a crisis, 4) the aging C-141 fleet be replaced by C-17s.

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