East African Shuttle Service

With the Army-Air Force C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft still on the horizon to carry out such roles, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently granted a waiver to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to use a commercial airline based in Kenya to shuttle its personnel into austere, hard-to-access locations. US military personnel began using the Nairobi-based airline, which operates a fleet of six 19-passenger, twin-engine turbo propeller airplanes, in early December for travel from major East African cities to the remote areas. These aircraft allow the US military to shave hours off of trips to areas heretofore accessible only by road since USAF’s C-130 tactical airlifters cannot access them. “A C-130 can go a lot of places, but a small, narrow dirt strip isn’t going to work for a C-130, which is why using smaller planes to transport personnel and goods is essential to the CJTF-HOA mission,” said Col. John Crocker, CJTF-HOA Air Component Coordination Element director. Using the civil aircraft is also more affordable, costing $1,800 per hour compared to about $3,000 to $4,000 for the C-130 on a comparable flight, Crocker said. The Army and Air Force have laid out the strategy for the joint acquisition of C-27Js, but elements in Congress and inside the Pentagon are still at odds over whether the JCA should fall under USAF alone. Congress wants a new roles and missions scrub and new fixed-wing airlift review. (Report by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mary Popejoy)