United States Air Force Questioned After Destroying Expensive Planes Worth Almost $500 Million

The United States Air Force is being questioned by a U.S. government watchdog agency after destroying 16 aircraft bought for the Afghan air force, netting only $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding another way to salvage almost $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.

Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to explain the decisions made about scrapping the 16 C-27J aircraft being held at Kabul International Airport, which had been largely unused for years, and what was planned for the additional four planes now sitting in Germany.

Sopko addressed a letter to James dated October 3 and released Thursday by his office.

“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.”

The letter also went on to ask what individual parts of the planes were sold before the aircraft were destroyed by the Defense Logistics Agency.

Sopko’s office has been investigating the issue since December 2013 after several non-profit groups and military officials voiced concerns over the wasted funds used on the program.

The U.S. government spent about $468 million to buy and refurbish 20 C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a division of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA, but later cancelled the program due to a crippling lack of spare parts. Instead, the Pentagon opted to buy four larger C-130 aircraft built by Lockheed Martin.

Sopko also addressed his concerns with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking about their plans for the remaining four aircraft, which were never sent to Afghanistan. Sopko’s team had been due to inspect those planes.

The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the gross mishandling of government funds, which the non-profit group Project on Government Oversight calls a “shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”

Sopko stated in an interview with NBC News last year that while it is unclear whether this case will be considered criminal fraud or just terrible mismanagement, the multi-million dollar waste is not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.

In January 2013, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported that the aircraft only flew 234 of the required 4,500 hours, and that another $200 million in spare parts needed to be acquired for the planes which are now heaps of scrap metal sold for only 6 cents per pound.

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[Image via Reuters]