The Air Force announced this week that it will be temporarily taking out of service the military cargo planes used in the evacuation airlifts from Afghanistan last month to allow for a period of maintenance and recovery.
Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, head of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, said in a roundtable discussion at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference that it wanted to allow a period for its C-17 aircraft and crews to rest following “one of the largest surges we’ve had.”
“But we’ve surged before, and after you surge, there is a natural period where we want to make sure we tidy up the airplanes,” she explained, according to Air Force Magazine.
“To get them the services that they need, and get the crews the rest and the recovery, and frankly, the additional training on other missions that they weren’t focused on while they were solely focused on the NEOs [noncombatant evacuation operation] and our top priority for the command,” Van Ovost added.
Brig. Gen. Daniel DeVoe, commander of the 618th Air Operations Center, said at the event that typically, there are about 60 C-17s operating globally on any given day. However, at the height of the evacuations of Americans and vulnerable Afghans last month, DeVoe said there was an average of 113 operating each day.
During the C-17 rest period, DeVoe said the Air Force would increase its use of C-5s.
“We’ve surged its capacity so that we can now take the C-17 down just a little bit from normal averages and numbers, to give the maintainers at home station the chance to continue a little bit deeper maintenance on those aircraft,” he said.
The evacuations from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s rapid consolidation of power included a total of 387 flights conducted by the U.S. military, with 391 carried out by civilian aircraft or other countries’ military planes, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The largest C-17 flight included a total of 823 people, as the Biden administration pushed to complete military evacuations by Aug. 31 and carry out remaining efforts to remove U.S. citizens and Afghan allies through diplomatic means.
The evacuation efforts were marred by a suicide bombing attack by ISIS-K, the group's Afghanistan affiliate, on Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 200 Afghan civilians.
The U.S. is still attempting to evacuate approximately 100 remaining American citizens following the military’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced last weekend that a Qatar Airways charter flight carrying 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents had departed Kabul.