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Channel airlift


Channel airlift refers to a recurring, scheduled transportation service used by the military to transport personnel, equipment, and supplies between designated locations. It employs military cargo aircraft and predetermined flight routes, also known as air corridors or channels. This system streamlines logistics and ensures efficient and coordinated movement of resources.

Key Takeaways

  1. Channel airlift is a method of military transportation that refers to the scheduled, routine flights used to deliver cargo and personnel to multiple destinations within a predetermined network of locations.
  2. These operations are primarily utilized to support military logistics, such as resupplying troops, moving equipment, and transporting personnel, thereby ensuring efficient and reliable distribution of resources during peacetime and conflicts.
  3. Channel airlifts can be conducted by military aircraft or by using contracted commercial air carriers, which allows for flexibility in response to various levels of demand and ensures that resources are allocated effectively in both routine and emergency situations.


Channel airlift is an important military operations term because it refers to a pre-scheduled and continuous airlift operation that efficiently provides transportation of personnel, equipment, and supplies through designated air routes.

This scheduled transportation system significantly contributes to the overall readiness and capability of military forces by enabling rapid deployment, timely provision of resources, and the ability to respond effectively to various missions and contingencies.

Additionally, channel airlift activities promote seamless coordination and collaboration among different units, improving flexibility and operability while demonstrating a nation’s force projection capability.

Overall, channel airlift is the backbone of military logistics, ensuring the successful execution of missions and a well-supported defense structure.


Channel airlift is a crucial component of military operations, designed to provide an efficient and organized means for the transportation of cargo, troops, and resources through predetermined routes in support of various missions and contingencies. The primary purpose of channel airlift is to facilitate the movement of essential supplies and personnel between designated locations, thus ensuring a seamless and well-coordinated logistics support system.

This strategic tool not only enhances the readiness and mobility of military forces but also assists in maintaining the operational tempo of units engaged in missions at home and abroad. Channel airlift operations are planned and executed with the utmost precision and generally rely on fixed schedules, established routes, and consistent capacity allocations.

The utilization of these predetermined channels reduces response time, maximizes resource allocation, and alleviates logistic bottlenecks that may hinder the progress of military activities. As military operations constantly evolve, the channel airlift system provides a crucial lifeline that enables swift adaptation and redeployment when contingencies arise.

Furthermore, the strategic positioning and shifting of resources and personnel through channel airlift can also serve as a deterrent to potential adversaries, demonstrating a military’s fluidity and tenacious presence in the face of complex and dynamic scenarios.

Examples of Channel airlift

Channel airlift refers to a system of scheduled flights primarily used for transporting cargo and personnel within military operations. These airlifts operate as regular flights between designated locations, following routine routes and schedules. Here are three real-world examples of channel airlifts:

**Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles), 1948-1949**: During the Berlin Blockade, when the Soviet Union cut off all access to West Berlin, the United States and its allies conducted a massive channel airlift operation to deliver essential supplies to the city’s residents. Over the course of more than a year, US, UK, French, and other aircraft carried over 2 million tons of cargo to West Berlin, including food, fuel, and other necessities, to maintain the city’s lifeline.

**Operation Nickel Grass, 1973**: During the Yom Kippur War, the United States conducted an extensive channel airlift operation to supply Israel with military equipment and ammunitions. The airlift delivered approximately 22,000 tons of armaments and supplies to Israel via over 560 flights, helping Israel maintain its military capabilities during the prolonged conflict, and ultimately contributing to the ceasefire agreement.

**Operation Desert Shield, 1990-1991**: As part of the response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the United States conducted a channel airlift operation to transport American and coalition military forces and cargo to the Persian Gulf region in preparation for Operation Desert Storm. More than 500,000 personnel and hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo were transported by airlift, making it one of the largest military air operations in history. This massive airlift played a crucial role in focusing military resources and equipment in a challenging, remote area.

FAQ – Channel Airlift

What is Channel Airlift?

Channel Airlift is a military operation wherein troops, equipment, and supplies are transported via air to support missions or conduct emergency evacuations. This method is often employed in situations where ground transport is impossible or too dangerous.

What are the primary objectives of Channel Airlift?

The primary objectives of Channel Airlift operations include transporting troops and supplies to areas of conflict, providing humanitarian aid during natural disasters, and conducting evacuations of personnel in case of emergencies or hostile situations.

What types of aircraft are used in Channel Airlift operations?

Various types of military transport aircraft can be used in Channel Airlift operations, depending on the mission requirements. Commonly used aircraft include cargo planes like the C-130 Hercules, the C-17 Globemaster III, and the C-5 Galaxy, as well as helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook and the UH-60 Black Hawk.

How is Channel Airlift different from other types of military transport operations?

Channel Airlift specifically refers to the transport of troops and supplies through air routes, as opposed to ground transport or maritime shipping. Other types of military transport operations may employ different combinations of ground, air, and sea transport depending on the mission and regional infrastructure.

What are some examples of Channel Airlift operations in history?

Notable examples of Channel Airlift operations include the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), where Western Allies used airlifts to supply the besieged city of West Berlin during the Soviet blockade, and Operation Nickel Grass (1973), a strategic airlift operation to supply Israeli forces during the Yom Kippur War.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Air Mobility Command (AMC)
  • Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF)
  • Strategic Airlift Capability
  • Aeromedical Evacuation (AE)
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Sources for More Information