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National Airlines delivers US-made Javelin missiles to Ukraine

747 freighter spotted at Kyiv airport

An Air Force service member inspects cargo netting on palletized ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Roland Balik)

All-cargo carrier National Airlines is delivering anti-tank Javelin missiles, launchers and other U.S. weapons to Ukraine to help the country withstand a possible invasion by Russia, according to government photos and social media posts.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said on Twitter that 300 Javelin missiles arrived Tuesday in the Ukrainian capital, the third shipment of $200 million in security assistance to the Eastern European nation in response to a buildup of 100,000 Russian troops on the border. A photo shows a National Airlines Boeing 747-400 being unloaded.

Photos on a Defense Department website for journalists show ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine being loaded on an aircraft at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday. Flightradar24, a flight-tracking service, shows a 747 aircraft registered to National in Dover on Monday and in Kyiv on Tuesday.

“We are shipping over additional security assistance to the Ukrainians as we speak,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a regular press briefing. “[Planes] are taking off and landing in Kyiv. So, we are acting.”

Airmen are also loading military cargo for Ukraine at Travis Air Force Base in California, according to a DoD message on Twitter.

National Airlines, a charter operator based in Orlando, Florida, has a fleet of six 747-400 freighters and several passenger aircraft. A company official declined to comment about the nature of the company’s transportation contract with the Defense Department.

Russia is ramping up military exercises near Ukraine as part of a gambit by President Vladimir Putin to increase its influence in the nation and keep it from aligning further with the West. Putin says he wants NATO to guarantee that Ukraine won’t be allowed to join the security alliance.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 service members on alert for possible deployment to surrounding nations because of the ongoing Russian provocations along the border with Ukraine.

U.S. officials say they are also considering export controls on American-made software and technology to Russia.

COVID test shipments

National Airlines is also delivering about 4 million COVID-19 test kits this month to locations around the country for distribution to hospitals and testing centers trying to contain the spread of the omicron variant, the company said in a news release. Flights originating from Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Tianjin, China, are going to New York JFK, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago O’Hare airports. 

National is also shipping COVID test kits to Canada and the United Kingdom from South Korea and China.

In 2020, the cargo carrier participated in Project Airbridge, a Federal Emergency Management Agency program to airlift personal protective equipment and other urgent medical supplies from Asia for COVID-relief efforts at the start of the pandemic. It has been busy transporting vaccines, oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment for governments and humanitarian agencies throughout the crisis.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


National Airlines expands 747 freighter fleet by 150%

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]