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  • Stop Relying on Russian Aircraft

    The United States is increasingly relying on the Russian Federation for supplying U.S. forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is because the U.S. does not have enough C-17 military transport aircraft to address all of its logistical needs and meet its commitments around the world. Freedom is not free, and neither is the Russian help.

    In 2007, the United States paid $47,000 per hour to lease Russian Antonov AN-124 “Ruslan” strategic heavy lift jets. In fiscal year 2007–2008, the U.S. taxpayers paid more than $840 million total to the Russians. This equals what the Department of Defense would pay for four additional C-17 aircraft, which would serve the U.S. military for the next 40 or 50 years. Instead, the Obama Administration, in an effort to achieve immediate dollar savings, proposed to cancel the C-17 program in the defense budget last year.

    With additional $400 billion in cuts in the defense budget that the President proposed last month, U.S. national security is apparently one of the few areas where the President is willing to cut. In the long term, however, taxpayers will pay even more in Russian plane leasing fees than if the Administration continued with the program and procured more C-17 aircraft.

    Due to its versatility, the C-17 aircraft is an invaluable resource when dealing with humanitarian catastrophes in hard-to-access areas, such as Haiti or Chile after earthquakes in 2010. These events increased the operational tempo of the C-17 fleet—and increased U.S. reliance on foreign aircraft. This reliance ended up costing the U.S. taxpayers $2 billion. This money could have been used to procure eight additional C-17 aircraft and create jobs to support the U.S. declining defense industrial base.

    The U.S. is not alone in reliance on the giant Ruslans. In 2006, the NATO leased six Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft from Russia and Ukraine to bridge the gap between NATO’s strategic airlift capabilities and demands of its “out-of-area” military operations. The initiative is yet another demonstration of diminishing capabilities of our European allies.

    In the future, the U.S. will be required to help its allies and friends with consequences of similar catastrophes in the future. Hence, the U.S. should be able to provide for its strategic airlift capabilities, because others might not be able or willing to meet America’s needs. A capable air cargo fleet is one of the essential components of U.S. power projection capabilities, which essentially underpins the current world order.

    Increasing dependence on the foreign airlift capabilities, especially those of Russia, should be worrisome also from the intelligence perspective. By supplying the U.S. forces in a conflict area, the Russian Federation can obtain sensitive information about their locations, movements, and classified equipment. Does the U.S. really want to rely on the country whose spying activities in the U.S. reached Cold War levels? What would happen if the Russian Federation provided sensitive data to other players hostile to the U.S. interests, such as Iran or China?

    It may be cost effective to lease the Ruslans for humanitarian operations. It is a whole different question if U.S. power projection capabilities are jeopardized by relying on the Russian strategic airlift in military contingencies.

    This post was co-authored by Michaela Bendikova

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Stop Relying on Russian Aircraft

    1. Stirling, Pennsylvan says:

      This is what you get as a result of "outsourcing" and "gutting" our manufacturing base in this country. Rather then being "independent" it's clear that we are on a road to "dependence" for everything (including our financial well-being).

    2. D. P. W., Michigan says:

      The article is a real eye opener.

      When will we learn that the world is too dangerous to let leftist ideologues like Barack H. Obama have control of the Military Industrial Complex? I pray we do learn before it's too late.

    3. D. P. W., Michigan says:

      This article is a real eye-opener. When will we learn that the world is too dangerous to leave our national defense in the hands of leftist ideologues like Barack H. Obama and Eric Holder? I pray we do learn before it's too late.

    4. West Texan says:

      This story comes as a huge SHOCK to this cold war veteran. Leasing Russian transports? Because we don't have enough platforms to carry out the mission? What's next? Sharing intelligence? Combat weapon systems? You're absolutely correct about Ivan not having our greater interests at heart. Where's the congressional outrage? Where's the commander-in chief? Where's the dang defense secretary? This revelation is extremely disturbing. It's time to start kicking some politico rear ends! What total nonsense! This is a flagrant neglect of elected members' constitutional duty to provide for the country's defense. Instead this current social progressive administration has further overreached into states' sovereign domestic affairs.

    5. George Colgrove, VA says:

      CRS Report for Congress – Military Airlift: C-17 Aircraft Program (2007)

      Average Procurement Unit Cost for a C-17 is $280 Million

      Four C-17 aircrafts would cost $1.12 billion

      The BRAC 133 in Alexandria has eclipsed a billion dollars and will house only 6,400 federal workers who are paid on average over $130,000 annually or $0.83 billion a year – for just one building. There are mounting lawsuites and $100's of millions in roadway work that needs to be done. This site will likely become a money pit for the DoD. And when cuts do come it is likely that this building may end up being vacant.

      The bloated 2005 BRAC bill which resulted in 7 luxurious office and healthcare center complexes in the greater DC area will cost the taxpayers over $35 billion or an average of $280,000 to move just one federal worker! Almost a million to move three!

      The DoD has hired over 300,000 high paid federal workers – not soldiers – since 9/11.

      Adm Mike Mullen said that once the DoD became "flush with cash" after 9/11 they lost site on their priorities, and that once the reality hits with impending cost cuts, they will need to start prioritizing again.

      The money that went into a lush office envirement for a few federal workers at the BRAC 133 could have supplied our service men with four C-17's and a significantly reduced reliance on foreign nations. It is clear someone dropped the ball here.

      Incidently the same report above stated that the estimated flying hour costs of the C-17 was $11,330 not the $47,000 we are paying Russia!

      This article and so many others are very convincing. We need to modernize and maintain the correct size our military, but with budget cuts looming – it is not only what we need that has to be pointed out, it is that which we do not need that has to be pointed out with even more furvor.

      We are in the erra of reducing the impact of the federal government. We need to start thinking this way with a significantly reduced defense budget so that the end result is a better military with fewer imediments by congress and the federal workforce, with the RIGHT hardware and funding to be ready for any mission.

      • Clay says:

        Well stated. Certain people want to eviscerate the DOD budget, but we cannot turn a blind eye to clear cut waste. Cauts will be made. Let's just make sure they are justified!!!

    6. Francisco Almeida says:

      And what about the 40 million Americans in food stamps ?

      Why Iraq and Afghanistan is here said to be "national" security ?

      There's nothing "national" in it !!!

      Iraq was an invasion, in-va-sion !

    7. AF LTC, worldwide says:

      This article's argument is completely fallacious. The C-17 can't provide the airlift of oversized and large shipment cargo — thus, the reason the Air Force rents Russian aircraft. Buy American and modernize the C-5 fleet to become C-5M! It is the only aircraft in the USAF that can haul the equivalent of an AN-124 and it cost a third of a new C-17.

      Stop draping our flag over trying to create more business rather than a solution.

    8. Kris Hendrix says:

      Two things:

      - These aircraft are owned by a civilian company called Ruslan. They are Russian-Ukrainian. This is not the same as Russian government owned.

      - It is a NATO agreement. 16 NATO countries plus Sweden and Finland are hiring these aircraft. It's mainly these countries who are in need of strategic air lift capacity as they are still stuck with C-130s.

      In short, you are making this into an old America-Soviet Union issue. But it's not.

    9. Clay says:

      Is the C5A now totally obsolete? Couldn't it be modified (with more fuel efficient engines, for example) to meet certain strategic needs?

      • Andy says:

        Most of them are totally absolete and will be retired over the next few years. Only 59 C-5's will be modernized to become C-5M's.

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