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Airdrop ideas, techniques shared as part of International Airdrop Symposium

by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 Public Affairs

7/21/2011 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- On the first day of the International Airdrop Symposium here July 19, ideas and the outlook at how several countries and the U.S. perform and utilize airdrops for their missions was shared among 200-plus participants.

Numerous speakers addressed their airdrop capabilities to include speakers from Columbia, Japan, Canada and Australia. Briefings by U.S. Airmen were also shared, to include an analysis by Capt. Jennifer Trapp of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., on airdrops in Haiti for Operation Unified Response in 2010.

"At Air Mobility Command, we asked if there if an airdrop solution to support operations (in Haiti) were possible, and the answer was yes," Captain Trapp said, who deployed to Haiti for OUR. "So we worked with (U.S. Southern Command) to make it happen."

Captain Trapp showed a video of the first airdrop to all of the international participants in attendance. She said that first airdrop contained 14,000 meals-ready-to-eat and 14,000 quarts of water for 4,000 Haitians. She said airdrops proved they "can significantly contribute to relief operations" and are an "enduring critical capability."

Captain Trapp also encouraged the symposium attendees to improve the way all countries conduct airdrops.

"Part of the reason we are all here is this is an international effort," Captain Trapp said. "Bringing the international community together like this will help improve this capability."

Mr. Richard Benney, from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center at Natick, Mass., also discussed some of the latest airdrop capabilities being used by the U.S. military in contingency and humanitarian environments. Among those discussed include the Joint Precision Airdrop System and the Low-Cost, Low-Altitude System.

In all types of airdrops, Mr. Benney said the focus is to do them effectively so people on the ground receiving the airdrops are safe.

"We are always testing extensively in areas so we understand that we can do an airdrop and not hurt someone," Mr. Benney said.

JPADS is a precision airdrop system that provides increased control upon release from the aircraft, according to factsheets.

Mr. Benney described the various types of JPADS airdrop capabilities, including "micro-light" bundles of 10 to 150 pounds to "medium version" bundles of 10,001 to 42,000 pounds.

Traditional airdrops by Air Force airlifters, such as the C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III, are at altitudes of anywhere between 400 and 1,000 feet, officials said. With JPADS, those same airlift aircraft have the potential to guide air drop bundles from as high as 25,000 feet.

The accuracy of a JPADS airdrop has many factors built in, Mr. Benney said.

"Accuracy for these (precision) airdrops is dependent on weight," Mr. Benney said. "That's factored in along with many other things in doing the airdrop."

Mr. Benney said the NSRDEC is working on a variety of high-altitude/low-opening, or HALO, parachute systems that may affect the future of airdrop to include the Ballistic Precision Aerial Delivery System. The BPADS is a HALO system intended to deliver cargo in the weight range of 16,000 to 30,000 pounds at an altitude of up to 25,000 feet using C-130 or C-17 aircraft. He also noted there are several airdrop systems are being looked at to support medical purposes in delivering equipment.

"Precision airdrop is a rapidly advancing capability in operations around the world," Mr. Benney added.

Also speaking was Air Commodore Gary Martin of the Royal Australian Air Force. The commodore showed areas where the RAAF has operated and stated how the RAAF used airdrops to support 2011 humanitarian operations in Australia, New Zealand and Japan back-to-back-to-back.

"That's what it's all about with airlift and airdrop," Air Commodore Martin said.

Air Commodore Martin said the history of airdrops with the RAAF can date back to the use of C-47s in World War II in New Guinea. He said airdrops will continue to be a need throughout the world.

"We all need airdrop capability out there," Air Commodore Martin said. "Airfields are often few and far between and airdrops allow us to get the supplies to affected areas quickly."

The symposium continues through July 21 with the participants experiencing LCLA airdrop demonstrations as well as viewing static displays and aerial rigging operations. Participants in the airdrop symposium are also participating in Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which takes place July 24 to 29.

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