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U.S. to help fix Indonesian planes

From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- -- The U.S. military has begun helping Indonesia repair more than a dozen C-130 cargo planes, crippled by the U.S. ban on military sales to Indonesia, so they can be used in tsunami relief operations.

Indonesian officials said a shortage of spare parts, caused by the U.S. ban, has left only nine of the country's 25 C-130s airworthy.

As he left Indonesia for Sri Lanka Monday, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz inspected the repair operation at the Jakarta military airport.

Inside a hangar, he met with American contractors and Air Force personnel who are working with Indonesian air crews to install spare parts on Indonesian C-130H cargo planes.

American restrictions on the sale of such parts were waived last week so the planes will be able to fly relief missions into Banda Aceh.

Two technicians from Lockheed Martin's Air Logistics Center in Greenville, S.C., arrived on Sunday with spare parts to begin work on five C-130s.

"We'll go as far as they want us to go, in terms of advising or doing the actual mechanical work," one of the contractors, Jerry Lavender, told Wolfowitz.

Crews from the 517th Airlift Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, are also helping the Indonesia air force assess what needs to be done to get the Indonesian aircraft up and working.

"We'll make sure all the right parts are installed to make their planes airworthy," said Lt. Col. Gary Gottschall, commander of the 517th, which arrived here on January 6 with four C-130s and 120 personnel.

He said the first of the five Indonesian C-130s to undergo repairs should be ready for flights in the next day or two.

At one point while in the hangar, Wolfowitz clambered into the cockpit of one of two Indonesian C-130s there, and talked to Indonesian technicians.

The 517th's primary mission is flying three round trips a day to Banda Aceh, ferrying a total of about 30 tons of palletized supplies, Gottschall said. The unit's original deployment orders were for 45 days, but that might stretch into March, he said.

A short drive down the ramp, Wolfowitz toured an AID loading area where 110-pound bags of rice and iodized salt were piled high, waiting to be put on the U.S. planes.


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