The Civil Reserve Air Fleet or CRAF is a readiness program providing a unique and significant part of the nation's air mobility resources. Selected aircraft from U.S. airlines, contractually committed to CRAF, augment Department of Defense airlift requirements in emergencies when the need for airlift exceeds the capability of military aircraft.
The CRAF has two main segments: international and national. The international segment is further divided into the long-range and short-range sections and the national segment satisfies domestic requirements. Assignment of aircraft to a segment depends on the nature of the requirement and the performance characteristics needed.
The long-range international section consists of passenger and cargo aircraft capable of transoceanic operations (3500nm or greater). The role of these aircraft is to augment the Air Mobility Command's long-range inter-theater strategic airlift capability during periods of increased airlift needs, from minor contingencies up through full national defense emergencies.
Medium-sized passenger and cargo aircraft make up the short-range international section supporting near offshore and select intra-theater airlift requirements.
The airlines contractually pledge aircraft to the various segments of CRAF, ready for activation when needed. To provide incentives for civil carriers to commit aircraft to the CRAF program and to assure the United States of adequate airlift reserves, the government makes peacetime DOD airlift business available to civilian airlines that offer aircraft to the CRAF. DOD offers business through the Charter Airlift Services in support of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet contract administered by USTRANSCOM. Current contract information is available on the Federal Business Opportunities web site https://www.fbo.gov/.
To participate in the international segments of CRAF, carriers must maintain a minimum commitment of 40 percent of its CRAF capable passenger and/or cargo fleet. Aircraft committed must be U.S.-registered and carriers must commit and maintain at least four complete crews for each committed aircraft.
Carriers with aircraft whose performance does not meet minimum CRAF requirements are issued a letter of technical ineligibility so they can still compete for government airlift business.
As of April 2017, 24 carriers and 434 aircraft are enrolled in CRAF. This includes 397 aircraft in the international segment (267 in the long-range international section and 130 in the short- range international section). There are 37 aircraft assigned to the national domestic services segment. These numbers are subject to change on a monthly basis.
Three stages of incremental activation allow for tailoring an airlift force suitable for the contingency at hand. Stage I is for minor regional crises and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts, Stage II would be used for major theater war and Stage III for periods of national mobilization.
The commander, U.S. Transportation Command, with approval of the Secretary of Defense, is the activation authority for all three stages of CRAF. During a crisis, if AMC has a need for additional aircraft, it would request the commander of USTRANSCOM to take steps to activate the appropriate commercial aircraft to support airlift requirements.
Each stage of the CRAF activation is only used to the extent necessary to provide the amount of civil augmentation airlift needed by DOD. When notified of call-up, the carrier response time to have its aircraft ready for a CRAF mission is 24 to 72 hours after AMC assigns the mission, depending on which CRAF stage is activated. The air carriers continue to operate in civil status and maintains operational control aircraft with company resources; however, AMC flight follows the aircraft missions in execution.
Safety is the paramount concern, and numerous procedures are in effect to ensure that the air carriers with which DOD contracts afford the highest level of safety to DOD passengers. Prior to receiving a contract, all carriers must demonstrate that they have provided substantially equivalent and comparable commercial service for one year before submitting their offer to fly for the Defense Department. All carriers must be fully certified Federal Aviation Administration carriers and meet the stringent standards of FAA regulations pertaining to commercial airlines (FAR Part 121).
Additionally, a DOD survey team composed of experienced pilots and skilled maintenance personnel, performs an on-site inspection of the carriers. This team conducts a comprehensive inspection that includes the carrier's aircraft, training facilities, crew qualifications, maintenance procedures and quality control practices. Following the on-site inspection, the Commercial Airlift Review Board approves the carrier to provide charter airlift services before receiving a contract.
The DOD Commercial Airlift Division continues to monitor the carrier's safety record, operations and maintenance status, contract performance, financial condition and management initiatives, summarizing significant trends in a comprehensive review every six months. In addition to this in-depth review, there are several other surveillance initiatives. These include safety preflight inspections of commercial aircraft by DOD designated inspectors and periodic cockpit observations on operational flights by highly experienced pilots from AMC's DOD Commercial Airlift Division. This Division maintains close coordination with the FAA for the sharing of safety information on all DOD approved carriers.
The following air carriers are current members of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program (subject to change monthly).
International Segment - Long Range
· ABX Air
· Air Transport International
· American Airlines
· Atlas Air
· Delta Air Lines
· Federal Express Airlines
· Hawaiian Airlines
· Kalitta Air Cargo
· National Air Cargo Group dba National Airlines
· Omni Air International
· Polar Air Cargo
· United Airlines
· United Parcel Service
· Western Global
International Segment - Short Range
· Alaska Airlines
· Delta Air Lines
· JetBlue Airways
· Lynden Air Cargo
· Miami Air International
· MN Airlines dba Sun Country
· Northern Air Cargo
· United Air Lines
· USA Jet
National Domestic Services Segment
· Southwest Airlines
· Tatonduk dba Everts Air Cargo
Point of Contact
Air Mobility Command, Public Affairs Office; 402 Scott Drive, Unit 1-A-5; Scott AFB, IL 62225-5335; DSN 779-7843 or (618) 229-7843.