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C-17 employs 'screamer' in combat airdrop

Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

5/25/2007 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- A C-17 Globemaster III deployed to Southwest Asia conducted the first C-17 combat airdrop May 24 using the Joint Precision Airdrop System with a screamer. Screamers are steerable GPS-guided container delivery system bundles.

The mission was also unique because it conducted airdrops in two locations using two types of delivery systems. The drops delivered food, water and ammunition to U.S. forces in two remote locations in Afghanistan. The crew first delivered about 21,000 pounds of supplies using 14 of the JPADS steerable screamer chutes. It then resupplied a different group of ground forces with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies using six Improved Container Delivery System bundles.

The benefit of the C-17 is that it can carry about 40 container delivery system bundles and drop at multiple locations during a single sortie, said Lt. Col. Paul Eberhart, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander.

JPADS has been operational on C-130 Hercules and C-17s in theater for about eight months. Until now, C-17s only used the JPADS mission software to support drops using the ICDS.

The JPADS mission software computes a release point based on a four-dimensional forecast wind model and the actual wind data relayed to the aircraft. The data is then sent via wireless transfer to GPS receivers located on the top of each CDS bundle. Each bundle has GPS-guided autonomous actuators mounted at the top that steer the chute while it drops at 100 mph to a point above the drop zone. A larger parachute then deploys to slow the descent rate, allowing for a soft touchdown of the bundle directly over the drop zone. 

Officials said using steerable chutes allows guaranteed accuracy for ground forces while keeping the aircraft at high altitudes and away from ground threats.

"This type of airdrop demonstrates the versatility of the C-17 aerial delivery system," said Lt. Col. Fred Boehm, an 816th EAS operations officer. 

When the eight-member crew from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., was notified about the drop, it began planning the mission, said C-17 loadmaster Tech. Sgt. Gary Kleinfeldt.

"This isn't a mission planned by one unit. We worked closely with planners at the combined air operations center's air mobility division, joint airdrop inspectors at the 774th EAS, and parachute riggers at the 11th Quartermaster Detachment at Bagram Air Base," said Maj. Kevin Peterson, the aircraft commander. "It was a total joint effort to make these drops happen."

"The system was amazing to watch," said Staff Sgt. Derek Howard, the crew's evaluator loadmaster. "When the bundles departed the aircraft and the chutes deployed, you could instantly see them turning in what appeared to be a formation as the guidance system began steering the bundle directly over the drop zone."

"This capability was first used by C-130s in theater," said Colonel Eberhart. 

The 816th EAS has been using the JPADS software with ICDS for some time. But the mission May 24 was the first combat airdrop using screamer chutes, expanding C-17 employment capabilities to include the use of true precision vertical resupply.

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