WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has contracted charter flights to transport the remains of troops killed overseas to their homes.
According to Stars and Stripes newspaper, the contract is worth up to $11 million to Kalitta Charters, LLC, of Ypsilanti, Mich.
Dead American service members had been transported as cargo along with other commercial aircraft once they arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on a military aircraft.
The practice of transporting remains home to their families on regular commercial flights drew criticism in 2005 when a family was denied permission to have an honor guard unload the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq.
Congress in October required the Defense Department to begin using either military or dedicated commercial aircraft to transport remains from Dover on Jan. 1. All remains on Kalitta charter flights will have a military service member to escort them from Dover to their final destination.
Kalitta will maintain four small jets at Dover to provide dedicated transportation for human remains. The company will fly no additional cargo.
At least 3,336 U.S. service members have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom during the last five years.
The Air Force awarded the contract to Kalitta on Dec. 13, according to Stars and Stripes, a daily newspaper published for the U.S. military, DoD civilians, and contractors.