The U.S. military has increased air supply missions in
Iraq in an effort to avoid Sunni ambushes on truck convoys.
Officials said the U.S. Air Force has expanded its role in transporting
supplies to troops in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the air force launched the effort in
September amid the withdrawal of Kuwaiti and Turkish transport companies
whose truckers were abducted and sometimes executed by Sunni insurgents in
"They give the ground forces the opportunity to reduce the traffic on
the most dangerous routes," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper said.
"I am totally disinterested in the cost. It will be paid for. We will do
what it takes."
By November, officials said, the U.S. Air Force organized a fleet of
C-130s and C-17s for daily transports to Iraq from such countries as Jordan,
Kuwait and Turkey. The air force has 64 C-130s for the Iraqi campaign.
"I was not happy with the communication I saw between the air components
and the land components about convoy operations," Jumper said. "We have 64
airplanes and they're staying busy. But the question is: Could they be
busier? And is 64 enough?"
Officials said that so far the air force was transporting 450 tons of
cargo a day throughout Iraq, most of it combat vehicles, ammunition and
spare parts. This marked a 30 percent increase since September, they said.
The U.S. military hauls about 25,000 tons of supplies throughout Iraq.
Officials said the air force mission envisions the transport of 1,600 tons a
day by mid-2005.
A key mission of the C-130s has been the transport of armored Humvees
for U.S. troops in Iraq. Until now, the armored Humvees were driven from
production facilities in Kuwait to Baghdad in a trip that took about four
days and exposed military convoys to attacks from both insurgents as well as
The U.S. Army plans to spend $4.1 billion by mid-2005 to accelerate
production and delivery of armored vehicles for U.S. troops in Iraq.
Officials said 60 percent of U.S. military vehicles in Iraq have received
some form of armor.
Each day, about 3,000 military vehicles move in 215 convoys throughout
Iraq. The convoys have come under increasing attack from improvised
explosive devices planted along the routes and officials reported about 100
casualties per month.
Most of the military heavy trucks in these convoys travel without armor,
which has sparked complaints throughout army reserve units. In October, 23
army reservists, citing the lack of armor on their vehicles, refused to
transport supplies from the Talil air base to Taji, north of Baghdad.
"Rather than run, you know, thousands of trucks up and down the main
supply routes, if you could put it in by air, that would decrease those
number of convoys that go up and down," Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy
director for regional operations of the Joint Staff Operations Directorate,
said. "So that's been an alternative that they've looked at and have been
able to expand that as the ability to fly into different places throughout
opened itself up over time."
So far, the C-130s would not be used for the supply of food and water to
U.S. troops in Iraq. Officials said the military was examining the
feasibility of purifying and bottling water in Iraq, which accounts for 30
percent of U.S. cargo from Kuwait.
Officials acknowledged that air transports could come under Iraqi
surface-to-air missile attacks. But they said the C-130s have been armed
with counter-measure systems and would coordinate with army forces.