According to the CNN Security Clearance blog, the State Department denied a request by the security team at the U.S. Embassy in Libya for continued use of a DC-3 plane earlier this year.
Even if the presence of the white Dakota belonging to the DoS Air Wing (Department of State) would not have helped stopping the terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate on Sept. 11 the news that the diplomatic mission was denied the support of a plane (based on the assumptions that a special flight would have been chartered had it been necessary) raises questions over whether the State Dept. properly addressed security concerns and requests coming from the Embassy in Tripoli.
The DoS Air Wing provides a wide variety of missions, including reconnaissance and surveillance operations, command and Control for counter-narcotics operations, interdiction operations, logistical support, Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC), personnel and cargo movement by air, aerial eradication of drug crops (currently only in Colombia).
Interestingly, the DoS DC-3 N707BA was often spotted at Malta, after the end of Operation Unified Protector.
The aircraft had been deployed to Iraq before being moved to Libya. When commercial flights were resumed to Tripoli and Benghazi, the aircraft was moved back “to other State Department business.”
Although quite obsolete (since it is based on a 1930s concept), the turboprop is quite effective because it is extremely efficient, reliable, requires little ground support and can operate also from unpaved runways.
That’s why the DoS, based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, still operate it on several known and clandestine missions across the world (including Afghanistan).
Image credit: Brendon Attard