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Officials test ration-drop improvements

by Master Sgt. Bob Blauser
43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

01/29/03 - POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFPN) -- Air Mobility Command officials completed tests here Jan. 22 and 24 on how to improve one of the most effective methods of airdropping humanitarian supplies.

Thirty-two units of the extended version of the Tri-Wall Aerial Delivery System, or TRIADS, were successfully dropped from C-130E Hercules over nearby Fort Bragg's Nijmegen Drop Zone as part of efforts to develop a universal system that can be used on both C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-130s.

The TRIADS uses cardboard boxes that are cut and contained in such a way that when released from an aircraft the boxes disintegrate in midair and scatter their contents over a large area. The system was key to the C-17 airdrop of more than 2.4 million humanitarian daily rations over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"TRIADS has been very successful on the C-17 in the past," said Chief Master Sgt. Cliff Harmon, AMC tactics loadmaster and program manager for the validation. "If TRIADS was good on one airdrop airplane, why not try it out on another airplane? Really, it's just the natural evolution of a process."

The tests began by checking the fit, form and function of the boxes on a C-130 hulk trainer to determine the best configuration to drop with.

"The 'triple F' was a good tool for us," said Master Sgt. William Wellbrock, 43rd Operations Support Squadron superintendent of tactics. "We were able to determine the best configuration for the boxes to give the aircrew enough clearance to perform their duties."

Each box, measuring 80 inches tall and 40-by-48 inches wide, was then filled with sandbags to simulate the 410 daily rations it is designed to carry.

"We've already got the ballistics and drop rate data on the rations," Harmon explained. "We're just trying to make sure the boxes we use on the C-17 will be compatible on the C-130."

The boxes were loaded on a 41st Airlift Squadron C-130, and the crew flew a "dry pass" over the drop zone to determine how the boxes would handle during flight.

The crews then made two airdrops of 16 TRIADS containers at 1,250 feet.

"All the boxes exited the aircraft fine," Wellbrock said. "They all separated properly and landed on the (drop zone)."

Harmon said he expects the standardized TRIADS procedures to be final within 30 to 60 days.

TRIADS was first developed in 1993 by four Air Force Special Operations Command airmen to airdrop supplies over war-torn Bosnia, and it gets its name from the tri-wall cardboard boxes originally used. The original TRIADS container holds approximately 250 rations.

In 2001, Harmon and retired Master Sgt. Donny Brass refined the system for the C-17s to deliver rations to Afghanistan. The new extended TRIADS holds about 410 rations.

"We took the old procedures and improved them and improvised to create ETRIADS for the C-17 and now the C-130," Harmon said. "Our goal was to make (TRIADS) more efficient as well as cross-functional."

Using the original TRIADS, a C-130 can deliver a maximum of about 4,000 rations, Harmon explained. After this validation, a C-130 with ETRIADS will be able to deliver about 6,800 rations.

Harmon said AMC officials selected the 43rd Airlift Wing for the test because Pope has all the necessary facilities and expertise. (Courtesy of AMC News Service)

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