AskDefine | Define airlift

Dictionary Definition

airlift n : transportation of people or goods by air (especially when other means of access are unavailable) [syn: lift] v : fly people or goods to or from places not accessible by other means; "Food is airlifted into Bosnia" [syn: lift]

User Contributed Dictionary



From air + lift.


  • RP:
    • /ˈɛəlɪft/


  1. The transportation of troops, civilians or supplies by air, especially in an emergency.
  2. Such a flight.
  3. A pipe that is used to suck up objects from the sea bed.


the transportation of troops
a flight
a pipe


  1. To transport (troops etc) in an airlift.


to transport in an airlift

Extensive Definition

The United States has by far the greatest strategic airlift capacity of any nation in the world. Many countries' armed forces possess little or no strategic airlift capacity, preferring to lease from private-sector firms as needed. Alternatively, groups of nations - especially within formal alliances such as NATO - may choose to pool their strategic airlift resources rather than individually duplicating the substantial investment required to purchase and maintain such costly and, in many cases, seldom-used assets.
That being said, with present technology it is impossible even for the United States to shift a substantial mechanised force, particularly tanks, by air. This difficulty has prompted investment from the US military in lighter armoured fighting vehicles (such as the Stryker), as well as some preliminary research into alternative airlift technologies such as ekranoplan-style planes and airships.

Tactical airlift

Tactical airlift is a military term for the airborne transportation of supplies and equipment within a theatre of operations (in contrast to strategic airlift). Aircraft which perform this role are referred to as tactical airlifters. These are typically turboprop aircraft, and feature short landing and take-off distances and low-pressure tyres allowing operations from small or poorly-prepared airstrips. While they lack the speed and range of strategic airlifters (which are typically jet-powered), these capabilities are invaluable within war zones. Larger helicopters such as the CH-47 Chinook and Mil Mi-26 can also be used to airlift men and equipment. Helicopters have the advantage that they do not require a landing strip and that equipment can often be suspended below the aircraft allowing it to be delivered without landing.
Tactical airlift aircraft are designed to be maneuverable, allowing low-altitude flight to avoid detection by radar and for the airdropping of supplies. Most are fitted with defensive aids systems to protect them from attack by surface-to-air missiles.
The earliest tactical airlift occurred in 1929, in which forty men of the Red Army were airlifted to the town of Garm, Tajikistan (then the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic) to repel an attacking force of basmachi rebels under Fuzail Maksum.
Examples of tactical airlifters include:
Note: The Airbus Military A400M, a tactical airlifter, blurs the line between tactical and strategic transports. Airbus stresses its tactical performance but also its strategic capabilities; higher payload, higher range and higher speed than the Hercules, although not as high as the C-17. The table below demonstrates this status, the A-400 occupying a "middle ground" between the C-130 and the C-17.


airlift in German: Transportflugzeug
airlift in Spanish: Puente aéreo
airlift in French: Pont aérien
airlift in Hebrew: רכבת אווירית
airlift in Italian: Ponte aereo
airlift in Dutch: Luchtbrug
airlift in Portuguese: Transporte aéreo táctico
airlift in Slovenian: Taktično transportno letalo

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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