KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force sold over a dozen Afghan military transport planes -- which cost millions of U.S. tax dollars -- for $32,000 in scrap metal, a government watchdog group reports.
John F. Sopko, head of the Office of the Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, wrote an Oct. 3 letter to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah L. James inquiring about 16 G222 aircraft parked in Kabul International Airport:
It has come to my attention that the sixteen G222s at Kabul were recently towed to the far side of the airport and scrapped by the Defense Logistics Agency. I was also informed that an Afghan construction company paid approximately 6 cents a pound for the scrapped planes, which came to a total of $32,000. I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.
Sopko requested documentation related to the decision, as well as explanations. He notes in the letter that the Department of Defense expended $486 million for 20 of the aircraft, and that the other four G222s were at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He asked what DOD's plans were for those aircraft.
The G222 is a turboprop military transport made by Alenia North America, a subsidiary of Italy's Alenia Aeronautica. The aircraft were brought to Afghanistan in 2011.
The program's intention was to bolster the operational requirements of the Afghan Air Force, but it was halted in March 2013 due to "continuous and severe operational difficulties, including a lack of spare parts."
John Young, chief executive officer of Alenia North America, said in 2011 that the G222 was becoming the "backbone" of the Afghan Air Force, and had "provided vital support to ongoing missions" in the country.
"Alenia North America is looking forward to continuing to be involved in the G222 program in future years," Young said at the time.
A company spokesman told Bloomberg the program was exceeding expectations when the air force decided not to renew the contract.
A Pentagon spokesman said the G222 program was unable to fulfill mission needs, and that the aircraft were destroyed "to minimize impact on drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan."