The Navy's Secret GA Air Force
Even James Bond would have a hard time sorting this out. According to an Associated Press report (reprinted by numerous military publications), the U.S. Navy operated a small air force of private aircraft for use in clandestine operations. Among the 33 aircraft it contracted from 10 private companies were two Gulfstream bizjets widely reported to be used by U.S. intelligence officials to carry suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners. The process is known as "rendition" and two countries, Sweden and Italy, that have had people plucked from within their borders for a flight south and east, are calling it a criminal act. The other aircraft pretty much cover the spectrum of mission capability and include an unspecified Cessna, three C-130s, several other bizjets, two Boeing 737s, a Dash 8 and even a DC-3. The Associated Press stumbled across the story when it got curious as to why the 10 companies received permits allowing their aircraft to land at any U.S. Navy base in the world. Some were also allowed to refuel. With a little digging, the AP made the link to the Navy Engineering Logistics Office, which many high-ranking Navy officials either know little about or aren't saying much about. And, of course, when the names appearing on the aircraft documents were run down by the AP, none of the people seemed to actually exist.