Germany is ready to establish an airlift to help transport food and other emergency supplies to the Soviet Union, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Welt am Sonntag newspaper, quoting unidentified "reliable sources" in Bonn, said German air force transport planes would be used if an airlift became necessary.The newspaper said "government circles" think U.S. Air Force units stationed in Germany also could take part in a possible airlift.

The government is thinking about an operation similar to the Allied airlift that brought tons of supplies to Berlin during the Soviet blockade of the city from June 1948 to May 1949, the Sunday newspaper said in a report that was distributed to other news media in advance.

There have been dire predictions of what the winter holds in store for the Soviet people and fears that food shortages could seriously exacerbate longstanding tensions and result in civil unrest.

Dieter Vogel, a government spokesman, said Friday that food shipments and other aid to Moscow this year were absolutely essential.

The German view contrasted sharply with a U.S. assessment that immediate food aid to the Soviet Union was unnecessary this year.

Germany is sending a team of experts to Moscow next week to work on resolving expected shortages.

Welt am Sonntag said Germany was preparing the largest government and private aid campaign since the end of World War II to help the Soviets avert hunger this winter.

Much of the aid is expected to come from emergency reserves of food and other supplies built up in Berlin over the years to help the city overcome another possible Cold War blockade, the newspaper said.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev agreed during Gorbachev's visit to Germany earlier this month to jointly sponsor the aid action.

Gorbachev is very popular among Germans for having made unification possible and several private relief agencies have already started collecting food and other supplies to be sent to the Soviet Union.

"CARE Germany" said Saturday it is preparing packages of food that will be sent to the Soviet Union before Christmas.

A poll published by the Wickert Institute on Saturday said 89.4 percent of Germans were ready to make personal contributions to the relief effort.

Kohl has made help to the Soviet Union a major theme in recent speeches and meetings with world leaders.