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Joint Precision Airdrop System [JPADS]

Joint Precision Airdrop System [JPADS] combines the Army's Precision and Extended Glide Airdrop System (PEGASYS) program with the Air Force's Precision Airdrop System (PADS) program to meet joint requirements for precision airdrop. PEGASYS is the name of a family of precision airdrop systems, consisting of extra light, light, medium and heavy payload categories. It consists of a canopy decelerator and airborne guidance unit, including a Global Positioning System, along with the appropriate pallet platform. PADS is an on-board computer system predicting release points for ballistic or "dumb" parachute systems for high altitude airdrops. It uses mission-planning and weather forecasting software, and can receive en-route mission changes and weather updates via satellite links.

The PM-Force Sustainment Systems, US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Natick Soldier Center (NSC), Natick, Massachusetts, are on the forefront of the (Joint Precision Airdrop System) JPADS program. This is the first time that a program of this complexity was undertaken to turn "dumb" airdrop systems into "smart" ones. The Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) provides a Joint and Service Airdrop Capability as a means of providing distributive sustainment, supply and re-supply to ground component forces. Range and speed of the air carrier allows airdrop to pass through the global time and distance paradigm, and exercise "reach" across all levels of war.

JPADS is a high altitude capable guided precision airdrop system that provides increased control release from the aircraft, and reduces on ground load dispersion with accuracy. JPADS is controlled by the assistance of a mission planner laptop with precision airdrop applications, meteorology data gathering kit, and GPS re-Broadcast kit. JPADS satisfies four identified principal needs/"gaps" in the joint airdrop functional area; increased ground accuracy, standoff delivery, increased air carrier survivability, and improved effectiveness/assessment feedback regarding airdrop mission operations.

JPADS combines two separate but cooperative materiel initiatives (precision airdrop and precision mission planning capability) into a single, joint program previously pursued by the US Army (USA) and the US Air Force (USAF). Both initiatives are directed at resolving/satisfying parallel defi ciencies/capability gaps that have been highly synergistic, worked collaboratively, and are interdependent. The Army owns JPADS, but the Air Force will own the mission planner.

The decelerator is the technical term for a parachute or parafoil. JPADS will use either a parafoil or a parafoil/parachute hybrid for flight of the load through descent and deceleration. The decelerator provides JPADS with directional capability in fl ight. Decelerator steering lines run to the Airborne Guidance Unit (AGU) and are used to create drag on one side of the decelerator or the other, providing for directional control.

The Airborne Guidance Unit (AGU) houses the battery power pack; GPS receiver; guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) software package; and the hardware required to operate the steering lines(s). The AGU, using initialized data from JPADS component, GPS re-transmission system, acquires its position prior to exit from the aircraft. Once the position is acquired, the AGU steers in accordance with the planned trajectory, making corrections in flight as necessary via an actuator system attached to the steering line(s).

The Mission Planner enables aircrews to plan and initiate load release at a precise Computed Air Release Point (CARP), or within a Launch Acceptance Region (LAR), through application of accurate, JPAD component modeling. The MP provides the capability to model parameters of aircraft position, altitude, airspeed, heading, ground speed, course, onboard load position (station), roll-out/exit time, decelerator opening time, trajectory to stabilization and descent rate. Descent trajectory to the desired point(s) of impact is enhanced via atmospheric, three-dimensional wind and density information to be encountered. MP capability enables programming and targeting of the AGU to include: drop and target altitudes, steering waypoints, wind magnitude/directions as a function of altitude, opening altitudes, and GPS "hot start" information. Mission planning is done pre-fl ight and on-board the aircraft making use of the aircraft's power, antennae, 1553 data bus when available, and secure data communications (when installed). Basic hardware components include a portable, rugged, high pressure tolerant laptop computer, dropsondes, and an interface processor that is man-portable and installed aboard selected delivery aircraft in roll-on, roll-off configuration.

JPADS is a Family of Systems (FoS) based upon a weight capability and an incremental development plan. The JPADS has four projected weight increments linked to a common mission planner and/or aircraft components: JPADS-2K for up to 2,200lbs; JPADS-10K - 10,000 lbs; JPADS-30K for up to 30,000lbs; and JPADS-60K for up to 60,000 lbs. Increments III and IV will be pursued dependent upon funding, and the technological success and Military Utility Assessment associated with Increments 1 and II. The four incremental, weight classes are as follows

Increment I: JPADS-2K- for up to 2,200 lbs; Targeted for payloads up to 2,200 pounds and is described as the "extra light" weight category. This category aligns with the standard airdrop CDS re-supply bundle/ A-22 container or equivalent, and is a relatively mature capability

Increment II: JPADS-10K - for up to 10,000 lbs; The work accomplished to achieve current maturity is applicable to Increment 2, the subject of a Joint Advanced Concept Technology Development (ACTD) to advance, integrate, and further mature technology for application to the 10,000 pound weight increment.

Increment III: JPADS-30K - for up to 30,000 lbs;

Increment IV: JPADS-60K - for up to 60,000 lbs.

Air vehicle increments align with current inter-modal/pallet platforms and those anticipated for use in future delivery and distribution plans, as well as for power projection. Each increment uses a different but existing or planned weight bearing platform. The systems are expected to operate from altitudes of 24,500 up to as high as 35,000 ft mean sea level (MSL), and exhibit extraordinarily improved ground accuracies.

The timeframe under consideration for JPADS capability is from present, to the Year 2020. With airdrop operations emerging into the 21st Century, JPADS contribution will accomplish the primary Combat Service Support (CSS) needs/'gaps" identifi ed, to become adaptable to the total force, and are seemingly "custom made" for present and potential operations.

High altitude, precision airdrop is expected to be a key enabling technology for the Objective Force. It will facilitate rapid strategic and tactical deployment of the Objective Force and just-in-time resupply to most locations throughout the world. Current sustainment distribution is an indirect, multi-complex, resource compounding system, which is tied to known high threat choke points (APODS/SPODS/DZs & GLOC) reaching supply points in days or weeks thus almost incapable of responding to a dynamic operational & tactical environment. Based on the fact that we are a projection-based force, the Combatant Commander requires the capability to SUSTAIN combat power from strategic distances into a very dynamic and dispersed battlespace, effectively and efficiently to enable decisive operational superiority.

The Precision and Extended Glide Airdrop System (PEGASYS), which is a family of variant weight systems, will allow conventional military aircraft to accurately drop sensors, munitions, and/or a huge range of supplies onto the battlefield while minimizing risk to the aircraft and the possibility of enemy detection of aircraft drop zones. The system will use actuators, Global Positioning System guidance and gliding parachute technologies to deliver cargoes with near pinpoint accuracy.

PEGASYS, still in the research and development stages, will allow for offset delivery of supplies up to 46 kilometers away with accuracy within 100 meters. The 10,000 lb. PEGASYS is a joint US Army/US Air Force FY04 ACTD initiative that provides a seamless and flexible system that will provide equipment Resupply capabilities to meet the dynamic operational requirements of the warfighter, world wide NLT 24 hours from the request. This seamless distribution system bypasses traditional high threat choke points; reduces battlespace logprint and detection (user/craft); and provides direct, dependable, fast, flexible, fort-to-foxhole, precision resupply. This concept proposes a joint 10K lb. PEGASYS solution that: focuses USAF & USA programs and initiatives on meeting joint requirements; enables global direct supply delivery anytime/anywhere; increases crew/user (ground & air)/craft/cargo survivability; reduces ground and air battlespace detection (altitude/offset/accuracy); allows en-route mission/destination changes and compensates CARP error; and permits multi-load/multi-DZ/multi-CARP.

Numerous components of this ACTD along with additional state-of-the-art technologies will be demonstrated at the Precision Airdrop Technology Conference and Demonstration (PATCAD) 3-7 November 2003 at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ.




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