The Biden administration is activating the 1952 Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to increase the transport of Afghan evacuees.
The fleet was organized following the success of the Berlin Airlift and has not been used since World War II. Within the fleet are commercial airlines who have agreed to work with the Department of Defence (DOD) to speed up the evacuation process in Afghanistan. The decision to participate is left to private commercial airline companies, however, they are incentivized by U.S. military peacetime passenger and air cargo deals.
The DOD’s release reads, “Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered the Commander of U.S. Transportation Command to activate Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).” It continued, “CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan.”
Under the current plan, 18 aircraft will be involved, including three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines. According to the DOD, CRAF activation will not impact usual business.