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A drop zone is any designated area where personnel and or equipment may be delivered by parachute or, in the case of certain items, by free drop. The DZ is located where it can best support the ground tactical plan. It is selected by the ground unit commander, usually on the technical advice of the DZST leader. For tactical training the USAF assault zones availability report should be checked for an approved DZ within the tactical area. If the selected DZ is not on the AZAR, a tactical assessment must be conducted.


The drop zone selection factors discussed in this section are used to analyze the suitability of a drop zone.


The aircraft airspeed will determine the time over the drop zone. Table 6-1 provides the USAF airdrop and rotary-wing airdrop speeds in knots indicated airspeed. (Table 6-1 Airdrop speeds.)


Drop altitude is measured from above ground level, which is from the highest field elevation on the drop zone to the drop aircraft. However, some drop aircraft may request the drop altitude in feet indicated, which is measured on the aircraft altimeter from sea level. To calculate feet indicated, take the field elevation and round it up to the nearest 50 feet (537 feet becomes 550 feet), then add the drop altitude in feet AGL For example, if the drop altitude is 800 feet AGL and the field elevation is 550 feet, then the drop altitude is 1,350 feet indicated. See Table 6-2 for the drop altitude for different type training missions. In combat (wartime) operations, the drop altitudes are determined jointly by airborne and airlift commanders.


For personnel, allow 1 second for each jumper to exit the aircraft; do not count the first jumper in the door. For example, 10 jumpers (minus 1) require 9 seconds. For equipment, allow 3 seconds per door bundle to exit; do not count the first bundle in the door. For example, 2 bundles (minus 1) requires 3 seconds.


When considering the method of delivery, take care when using high velocity airdrops or free drops around built-up areas or airfields because of the risk of damage to buildings or airstrips.

a. A low velocity airdrop is used for sensitive equipment and personnel. The parachute slows the rate of the descent for a soft landing.

b. A high velocity airdrop is the delivery of certain items of supply rigged in airdrop containers with an energy dissipater attached to the underside of the load and a ring slot parachute attached to the top of the load. The chute is designed to stabilize the load and reduce the rate of fall to ensure an acceptable landing shock.

c. A free drop is used for nonsensitive items only. No parachute is attached to stabilize or slow the rate of descent of the cargo.

NOTE: When determining the suitability of the DZ and considering the method of delivery around built-up areas or airfields, you must consider the additional risk of damage to buildings when using high-velocity or free-drop methods.


To ensure that the airdrop is safe, and that personnel and equipment can be recovered and employed to accomplish the mission, the DZ and adjacent areas should be free of obstacles.

a. Obstacles to personnel are any features, either natural or man-made, that would pose a hazard to a parachutist.

b. Obstacles to equipment are any features, either natural or man-made, that may hinder the recovery of equipment. Examples of such obstacles are:

    (1) Trees 35 feet or higher, which would impede recovery of personnel or equipment.

    (2) Water more that 4 feet deep within 1,000 meters of any edge of the drop zone.

    (3) Any other conditions that may injure parachutists or damage equipment, such as barbed wire fences, swamps, rocks, ditches, and gullies.

    (4) Power lines that are carrying active current of 50 volts or greater. Based on the reported altitude wind, a safety zone is created in which power must be interrupted to prevent accidental injury of a parachutist. Figure 6-1 shows the size of the safety zone for various altitude wind velocities during static line operations.


Avoid DZs with major obstacles between the DZ and the objective area. Ensure that adequate routes are available to conduct troop movement and equipment recovery.

6-7. SIZE

The size of computed air release point DZs during peacetime drop operations is determined by USAF doctrine.

a. The CARP DZ for one jumper will be a minimum of 549 meters (600 yards) by 549 meters (600 yards). Add 64 meters (75 yards) to the length of each additional jumper.

b. The CARP DZs for the containerized delivery system will be as indicated in Table 6-3.

c. The CARP DZs for heavy equipment will be at least 549 meters(600 yards) wide and 915 meters (1,000 yards) long for one platform. If using a C-130, add 366 meters(400 yards) to the length for each additional platform. If using a C-141, add 458 meters (500 yards) to the length for each additional platform.

d. If using more than one aircraft not in trail formation, add 92 meters (100 yards) to the width of all CARP DZs (46 meters/50 yards each side).

e. From official sunset to sunrise, add 92 meters (100 yards) to the length and width of all CARP DZs (46 meters/50 yards to each side and to each end).

NOTE: To convert yards to meters, multiply yards by .9144; to convert meters to yards divide meters by .9144.

f. To determine the required size of Army VIRS DZs, use the D=RT formula, which is explained in detail after paragraph g. A 100-meter buffer zone is required at the leading and trail edge of the DZ when jumping personnel. The buffer zones may be waived by the local commander if local regulations permit.

g. For GMRS DZs, the minimum size is 275 meters by 275 meters (300 yards by 300 yards). Additional size requirements will redetermined using the D=RT formula. The 100-meter buffer (required for personnel drops only) at both the leading and trail edge of the DZ will be included in the minimum size.

D = ? (length of DZ needed in meters)

R = Rate of the aircraft's speed expressed in meters per second. To convert knots to meters per second, multiply the knots by .51. Do not round this answer off. See Table 6-1 for aircraft speeds.

T = Amount of time it takes to exit each load. Parachutists require 1 second each. The first parachutist is free (10 parachutists take 9 seconds). Door bundles take 3 seconds each. The first bundle is free (3 bundle require 6 seconds).

EXAMPLE: How long must the DZ be for a C-130 dropping 10 parachutists on a GMRS DZ?

D = ?

R = 66.3 meters per second (130x.51).

T = 9 seconds (1 second per parachutist not counting the first).


D = 597 meters of usable DZ required. For personnel drop zones, add a 200-meter buffer (100 meters on the leading edge and 100 meters on the trail edge) to total 797 meters for the drop zone. However, the commander can waiver this requirement.

NOTE: Always round the answer up to the nearest whole number.

g. To calculate the number of parachutists or bundles that a GMRS DZ of given length can accept in one pass, use the T = D/R formula. Type of aircraft must be known.

T = ? (Amount of time that the aircraft will be over the DZ in seconds.

D = Distance of DZ in meters (length).

R = Rate of aircraft's speed expressed in meters per second. To convert knots to meters per second, multiply the knots by .51. Round this number up to the nearest whole number.

EXAMPLE: How many parachutists from a C-130 can a 750-meter long DZ accept per pass? This is a GMRS DZ.

T =

D = 750 meters usable drop zone.

R = 67 meters per second 130 x .51 = 66.3 rounded up to 67


D/R = 11.3 (750/67)

T = 11 seconds (always round down)

DZ can accept 12 parachutists (11 parachutists at 1 per second and 1 parachutist free) per pass.

h. To calculate the amount of drift experienced by a load under a parachute use the D = K x A x V formula.

D = ? The amount of drift in meters.

K = Load drift constant = 3.0 personnel. 
			= 1.5 door bundle 
			= 1.5 heavy equipment 
			= 1.5 containerized delivery system.
			= 2.4 tactical training bundle 

A= Drop altitude expressed in hundreds of feet (800 feet would be expressed as 8.

V = Velocity of the wind (either surface wind or mean effective wind may be used).

EXAMPLE: For a drop altitude of 800 feet and wind speed of 11 knots, calculate the amount of drift experienced by a jumper.

D = ?

K = 3.0 (parachutist)

A= 8 (800 feet)

V = 11 knots


NOTE: Always round up to the next whole number.

i. Measuring wind on the drop zone entails surface wind and mean effective wind.

    (1) Surface (ground) wind should be measured by using the AN/PMQ-3A anemometer. This is the only acceptable wind measuring device for personnel and heavy equipment DZ operations.

    (2) Mean effective wind is the average wind from ground level to drop altitude. MEW is measured by using the PILOT balloon. PIBAL circumferences areas follows:

    • 10 grams for day: 57 inches

    • 30 grams for day: 78 inches

    • 10 grams for night: 74 inches

    • 30 grams for night: 94 inches

NOTE: The magnetic azimuth to the balloon is measured and the reciprocal heading noted. This will give the MEW direction to be reported.

At night a small liquid activated light is attached to the balloon to assit in observation. For PIBAL charts, refer to Table 6-4.

j. Forward throw is the effect that inertia has on a falling object. When an object leaves an aircraft, it is traveling at a speed equal to the speed of the aircraft. The parachutist (or bundle) continues to move in the direction of flight until the dynamics of gravity and the parachute take effect. Forward throw for rotary-wing aircraft is half the aircraft speed expressed in meters. To determine the amount of forward throw when using a USAF aircraft, apply the following distances:


Routes for the aircraft into and away from the DZs must be adequate. To ensure this, consider the following factors:

  • Enemy situation and location.

  • Obstacles to the aircraft (TV towers, high tension lines).

  • Terrain higher than the DZ.

  • No-fly areas.


The drop zone support team will plan, establish, and operate day and night drop zones for personnel/resupply missions flown by Air Force and Army aircraft. The DZST is ultimately responsible for the accomplishment of the mission on the DZ. In operations in which the USAF combat control team is not present, the DZST has overall responsibility for the conduct of operations on the DZ. It represents both the airborne and airlift commanders. The DZST leader assumes all the responsibilities normally associated with the USAF CCT and the DZSO.


The DZST will have at least two members. More personnel maybe required depending on the complexity of the mission; however, they may not have to be DZST qualified. The senior member of the DZST will function as the drop zone support team leader and he must bean NCO, sergeant or above officer; or civilian equivalent. He must have completed the appropriate initial training as a DZST member and satisfy current parent service requirements. He must also be a qualified and current jumpmaster to conduct personnel and heavy equipment drops. (See also paragraph 6-13.)


Primary missions of the DZST include wartime CDS drops to battalion or smaller size units, and peacetime visual meteorological conditions drops involving one to three aircraft for personnel, CDS, and heavy equipment. Secondary missions include wartime drops of brigade size or larger units, peacetime drops of C-130 AWADS (all-weather aerial delivery system) involving one to three aircraft, or VMC drops of four or more aircraft.


The DZST leader must have a working knowledge of the equipment he will use during the establishment, marking, and operation of his drop zone. The following basic equipment is used by the DZST, however, there may be more or less equipment, depending on the mission.

a. Anemometer. The AN/PMQ 3A (NSN: 6660-00-515-4339) is a calibrated, hand-held wind measuring device used for measuring surface wind. Oriented correctly, it will give wind direction in degrees by pressing the trigger. It is capable of reading the wind from 0 to 15 knots on the low scale and from 0 to 60 knots on the high scale. The anemometer must be calibrated every six months.

b. VS-17 Marker Panel Aerial. The VS-17 marker panel (NSN: 8345-00-174-6865) is a two-sided panel, 2 feet wide by 6 feet long. One side is fluorescent orange, sometimes referred to as international orange, and the other side is cerise, commonly referred to as red. It has six tie-down points used to attach the panel to stakes. It also has three snap fasteners on the short ends in the stow pocket. It should be folded up so that the olive drab green is showing. The color of the panel used should be the one that best contrasts with the surrounding area.

c. Light, Marker, Ground Obstruction. This marker (NSN: 6230-00-115-9996) is also known as the "beanbag light. " It is powered by one BA-200 battery, and its color can be changed by using interchangeable colored plastic domes. The markers can be used in light holes or on the surface and can be secured with tent pegs or by filling the bottom with sand or rocks.

d. Raised Angle Marker. The RAM is a locally constructed visual signal used to mark the PI on CARP DZs. It is constructed by assembling five VS-17 panels as shown in Figure 6-8.

e. Whelen Light. This light is powered by either the BA-4368 or the lithium battery used in the PRC-77 radios. The light is placed on top of the battery and is ready for operation. The color of the light can be changed with different colored domes. It is a local purchase item.

f. M-2 Light Baton. The M-2 (NSN: 6230-00-926-4331) is a flashlight powered by two BA-30s. The color of the light can be changed with different lenses that are stored in its base compartment. This light is used in light holes or on top of the ground attached to a tent peg.

g. Aerial, Marker, Distress. This marker (NSN 6230-00-67-5209) is an omnidirectional flashing (strobe) light with a very long range. A directional cover can snap on the top for tactical operations. Colors can be changed with snap-on caps. The strobe light also has infrared capabilities.

h. Mirror, Emergency Signaling, Type II. The signal mirror (NSN 6350-00-105-1252) can be used to signal aircraft by reflected sunlight. There is a set of instructions on the back of the signal mirror for proper use and aiming. The signal mirror can still be used on hazy days. One misconception is that it can only be used when facing the sun. It can be used in all directions and can be seen as far as the horizon will go.

i. SE-11 Light Gun. This light gun is a long-range, directional, visual-signaling device used to signal aircraft to mark the release point on the drop zone. It is powered by five BA-3030 batteries and can be set up for remote operations. It has a red cap/lens, which is normally used as a no-drop signal. The Air Force has a light, traffic air B-2 (NSN 6210-00-578-67547) that is comparable to the SE-11 (NSN 5820-00-4074671).

j. Pilot Balloon. The PIBAL is a 10- or 30-gram rubber balloon that when filled with helium to the specified circumference is used to measure the mean effective wind, which is the average wind from the ground to drop altitude. The NSN for the Balloon Meteorological 10-Gram is 6660-00-663-7933. The NSN for the Balloon Meteorological 30-Gram is 6660-00-663-8159.

k. Lighting Unit. This light (NSN 6660-00-839-4927) is attached to the PIBAL for night operations. The PIBAL is over-inflated to compensate for the weight of the light so that the same ascension rate is achieved. The PIBAL light has a wet-cell battery that is activated by water or fluid. When temperatures fall below 50 degrees, the PIBAL light activates faster by using warm water.

l. Drift Scale. This slide-type scale uses a 90-degree angle to measure the ascent of the PIBAL for determining the mean effective wind. It is locally produced by TSC. (Also used for this purpose are the theodolite (NSN 6675-00-861-7939) pocket transit with built-in clinometer (NSN 6675-00-641-5735) or the clinometer (NSN 6675-01-313-9730).

m. AN/PRC-l19A Radio or SINCGARS. This man-portable radio NSN 5820-01-267-9482) is used for contacting the aircraft with FM communication capabilities. This radio can also be used for NAVAID with aircraft that have FM homing capabilities. It has a range of 4 to 16 kilometers without power increasing accessories.

n. PRC-113 Radio. This is a man-portable UHF/VHF AM radio (NSN 5820-01-136-1519) that has a quick, jam-resistant, ECCM transceiver. It is designed for short range (5 to 16 miles), tactical, ground-to-ground, or ground-to-air communication.


The drop zone coordination checklist was designed so that the DZST leader could conduct a pre-mission coordination without communicating with the aircraft (Figure 6-2).


The following support requirements apply to multiple aircraft formations (USAF aircraft), personnel, and equipment; or to single aircraft operations on DZs more than 2,100 meters in length.

a. The DZST leader ensures the DZ control group is in place on the DZ and operational one hour before the drop. The composition of a complete control group is as follows:

  • DZST leader.

  • Assistant DZST leader (must be DZST qualified).

  • Malfunction officer or NCO (with camera).

  • Parachute recovery detail (with saw and tree climbing equipment).

  • Radios, one each for the DZST leader and the assistant leader (minimum).

  • Anemometers, AN/PMQ-3A one each for the DZST leader and the assistant DZST leader.

  • Smoke grenades/flares (as required).

  • Vehicles (as required).

  • Road guards (as required).

  • Military police (if required to control vehicles and spectators)

  • * Two medical personnel with front line ambulance.

  • * Boat detail (if required). If water more that 4-feet deep is within 1,000 meters of any edge of the drop zone, at least one boat with operator and assistant operator is required. The boat must be in the water with the engine running, and there must be a life jacket on board for every parachutist on the first pass. For deliberate water jumps, each parachutist will wear a life vest.

b. The units may supplement these requirements based on the type of drop, size of the airborne operations, number of aircraft involved, and number of parachutists.

c. If there are single aircraft (no more than 20 seconds exit time or 2,100 meters or less of usable DZ), a partial control group with at least the following personnel and equipment can handle the DZ.

  • DZST leader.

  • Assistant DZST leader (not necessarily DZSTL qualified).

  • Anemometers, AN/PMQ-3A.

  • * One medic (with FLA).

  • Malfunction officer or NCO (with camera).

NOTE: The DZST leader may perform this additional duty provided he has received specialized Chapter 17, FM 57-230.

  • Parachute recovery detail.

  • Radio.

  • Anemometer, AN/PMQ-3A.

  • Compass.

  • Smoke grenades/flares (as required).

d. The DZST leader should maintain an inventory of the following basic equipment to support the mission.

  • VS-17 panels.

  • Smoke grenades/flares.

  • White lights (Whelen or M-2 light baton).

  • Air traffic control light (SE-11 or B-2).

  • Signal mirror.

  • Strobe light.

  • Binoculars.

  • Anemometer, AN/PMQ-3A (required for personnel and heavy equipment drops, recommended measuring for all types of drop).

  • Compass.

  • PIBAL kit with helium.

  • Night vision goggles (for night drops).

NOTE: Other equipment may be needed as a result of pre-mission coordination or unit SOP. Refer to DZST equipment familiarization, paragraph 6-11.


The DZST leader is responsible for the overall establishment and operation of the DZ He selects the locations of the control center, point of impact, and release point. He is ultimately responsible for the accomplishment of the mission. Specifically, the leader ensures he

a. Has the drop zone fully operational one hour before drop time and conducts pre-mission coordination.

b. Opens the drop zone through range control and closes it when accountability of personnel, air items, and equipment is completed.

c. Conducts ground or aerial reconnaissance of the drop zone for obstacles or safety hazards at least one hour before the drop.

d. Establishes communication with departure airfield control officer no later than one hour before drop time.

NOTE: The DZST leader may perform this additional duty provided he has received specialized Chapter 17, FM 57-230.

e. Controls all ground and air medical evacuations. (Refer to paragraph 6-26 for MEDEVAC format.)

f. Submits post mission reports to appropriate agency.

g. Operates all visual acquisition aids.

h. Ensures no-drop signals are relayed to the drop aircraft.

i. Ensures all DZ markings are correctly displayed.

j. Establishes a 10-minute window. A continuous monitoring of the surface winds must commence no later than 12 minutes before TOT. For example, if the TOT is 0700 hours, then the window begins at 0648 hours (two minutes are added to allow adequate time to relay a no-drop signal if needed). If at any time during the 10-minute window the winds exceed allowable limits, the DZST leader will relay a no-drop to the aircraft. Once a no-drop has been called, a new 10-minute window is established. So, if the winds pick up at 0655 hours, a no-drop is called and a new window runs from 0655 to the new TOT of 0705 hours.

k. Takes surface wind readings from the control center location and from the highest point of elevation on the DZ when the DZ exceeds 2,100 meters in length or when it is a multiple aircraft operation.

l. Calls a no-drop when surface winds exceed the following limits:

Personnel (land) 13
Personnel (water) 17
Equipment without ground disconnects 13
Equipment with ground disconnects 17
CDS/door bundles using G-13/14 type parachutes 20
USAF tactical training bundles 25
High-velocity CDS No Restrictions


The control center is where the DZST leader controls and observes the airborne operation. This is one of the locations where wind readings are taken. The DZST leader should have all radios, signaling devices, and appropriate forms positioned at the control center. The location of the control center will be determined by the type of mission.

a. For personnel drops, the control center will be located at the PI.

b. For CDS drops, the control center is located 150 yards to the 6 o'clock of the PI.

c. For free drops, heavy equipment, and AWADS with a ceiling of less than 600 feet, the control center will be located off the drop zone. However, it should be located so that the approaching aircraft can be observed along with the PI. For example, the leading edge may be a poor location due to obstruction by the woodline.

d. For all GMRS and VIRS DZs, the control center will be located at the release point.


When voice control of aircraft becomes limited, visual communication becomes a very important way to relay information to the aircraft. No-drop and mission cancellation situations are two of the most important of these visual signals.

a. To identify a no-drop situation to the aircraft, scramble the shape designator and remove the markings or any other pre-coordinated signal on the DZ.

    (1) The drop aircraft should continue to do racetracks until a signal for clearance to drop is given. A no-drop maybe given when winds exceed the maximum limitations for that type of drop, when there are vehicles moving on the drop zone, or when any other unsafe act is observed on the drop zone.

    (2) In pre-mission coordination, it should be determined how many no-drop passes the aircraft will fly until the mission is cancelled and they begin their return to base.

b. Signals for, clear to drop should be covered also. Having the drop zone markings in place could indicate that it is clear to drop. This method could be used when smoke is not available. Any smoke other than red could indicate clear to drop.

c. At night, your clear-to-drop signals could include shape designator illumination, a flashing white light, a green light, or any other device available that was coordinated in advance.


Procedures for determining a release point on a GMRS drop zone, Air Force VIRS drop zone, or Army rotary wing VIRS drop zone areas follows:

STEP 1. Determine the location of the point of impact which is where the first parachutist or load will land. The following criteria should apply. For door bundles the PI maybe located at the leading edge of the tree line, centerline. For personnel, the PI should be on the leading edge of the 100-meter buffer zone, centerline. For CDS and heavy equipment, refer to MAC Form 339 for the surveyed PI location. For CDS and heavy equipment on nonsurveyed DZs, refer to the standard PI locations for tactical assessments.

STEP 2. Determine the drift direction and distance. Computes D = KAV formula for your mission. Determine back azimuth of wind direction. From the PI location pace off the distance computed from D = KAV formula into the wind. If the wind is blowing to an azimuth of 200 degrees, then the pace-off azimuth is 020 degrees.

STEP 3. Determine the forward throw. Once you have paced off the drift, walk off the forward throw. To do this, shoot a back azimuth of drop heading and walk the distance of the forward throw (for Air Force aircraft forward throw, refer to Table 6-5. For rotary wing aircraft, divide the drop airspeed in half, and express in meters. For example, the drop speed of 90 knots equals 45 meters of forward throw. The release point is at the end of the forward throw (Figure 6-3).


The GMRS is a means for the DZST to identify the release point to the drop aircraft. The pilot uses the markings to adjust his flight path 100 meters to the right of the comer panel/light and parallel to the approach-comer panel/light axis. (Wherever panel is used in the following subparagraphs, light may be substituted.) This method was designed for use without radio communication between the drop zone and the aircraft.

a. The DZ will be marked with an inverted "L," "H," or "T" pattern using VS-17 panels. The inverted L consists of 4 panels; the approach panel, the comer panel, the alignment panel, and the flanker panel. The comer panel is located 100 meters to the left (as seen from drop heading) of the release point. (Refer to Figure 6-4, for panel emplacement). All other panels are aligned with and oriented to the comer panel. For establishment of the seven panel "H" and six panel "T" pattern, which are recommended for C-141/C-5 airdrops due to the aircraft side-angle-vision limitations pattern, refer to Figure 6-4.

b. The alignment panel is 50 meters to the left of the corner panel. The approach panel is 50 meters in front of the corner panel as seen from drop heading. The flanker panel is 150 meters to the left of the alignment panel as seen from drop heading.

c. The DZST places the markings where obstacles will not mask the pilot's line of sight. As a guide, he uses a mask clearance ratio of 1 to 15 units of horizontal clearance (Figure 6-5).

    (1) For example, if you must position a drop zone marker near a terrain mask such as the edge of a forest that is on the drop zone approach, and the trees are 10 meters (33 feet) high, the markings would require 150 meters (492 feet) of horizontal clearance from the trees (Figure 6-6).

    (2) If any of the GMRS markings fall within a 15:1 mask clearance ratio on the approach end of the drop zone, an Army code letter (H, E,A, T), or a far (marker) panel may be placed on the trailing edge of a drop zone if coordinated for during the DZST/aircrew mission briefing. If a code letter is used, it can be used to distinguish the drop zone from other drop zones in the area.

d. At night, panels will be replaced with lights (1 light per panel). Directional lights should be used for the approach, corner, alignment, and flanker. If necessary, the far code letter would use directional light holes and the base light would be on line with the comer light. (Refer to Figure 6-6 for construction requirements for Army code letters.)

e. The release point should be marked with some type of identifiable light source distinct from all other DZ markings.


Army VIRS is a method of establishing the release point on the DZ by using radio communications. A code letter may mark the RP if this is tactically feasible, but the aircraft initiates the drop on verbal command from the ground.

a. A standard Army code letter using VS-17 panels for daytime operations will be emplaced at the release point. The base panel of this code letter will be positioned exactly on the RP. The code letter will be either H, E, A, or T and will be at least two panels high and one panel wide (Figure 6-6).

b. A flank panel is emplaced to the left of a code letter at a distance of 200 meters or the edge of the DZ, whichever is less. A far panel is emplaced 500 meters from the code letter along drop heading or at the end of the DZ, whichever is less. Both far and flank panels are positioned with the long axis parallel to drop heading and raised at 45 degrees back toward the code letter. The GTA radio operator will be positioned at the release point.

c. At night the panels in the code letter are replaced with lights. The code letter will be at least four lights high and three lights wide with 5 meters between each light. The code letter and far light will be placed in directional holes and the flank light will be in a bidirectional hole.

d. In case the release point (RP) falls off the DZ making the markings not visible, or the GTA operator cannot see the aircraft, the parachute drop can be changed to a jumpmaster-directed release operation using the wind streamer vector count (Figure 6-7).

e. In situations where the RP falls off the DZ and the jumpmaster is unable to conduct a wind streamer vector count, a delayed release or an early release maybe conducted. For example, a late release is done by determining how many seconds the aircraft must fly past the GTA operator before the release is initiated. An example with the drop speed of 70 knots is 70 x .51 = 36 meters per second of flight.

f. On an Army VIRS DZ where the RP is in the woodline, an off-set may be used (Figure 6-8). For example, a UH- lH is traveling 70 knots. Converted to meters per second, this is about 36 meters per second. If the RP is 108 meters into the woodline, the GTA operator will allow the aircraft to pass the code letter. As the aircraft passes over the code letter, the GTA operator will begin counting "one thousand, two thousand, three thousand." At the end of three seconds, the GTA operator will transmit, "Execute, execute, execute."


The USAF VIRS drop zone does not require markings. This specialized procedure is normally used when regular markings are not tactically feasible or would not be visible from the air. However, before considering a USAF VIRS DZ, you must have radio communications with the drop aircraft, and at least two FM/VHF/UHF radios should be on the DZ.

a. To establish a USAF VIRS drop zone, a release point is determined the same way as a GMRS or rotary-wing VIRS release point. (Refer to paragraph 6-17 and Figure 6-2 to determine release point location.)

b. At the release point location, the DZST leader will verbally guide the pilot over the release point to align the aircraft so the drop can be initiated.

c. Instructions transmitted to the aircraft must be concise: Left and right turns will be given to align aircraft on desired inbound heading. Stop turn is given when aircraft is on course. Standby is given about 5 seconds prior to release or as pre-briefed, and execute will be given three times when the aircraft reaches the predetermined release point. An example of a USAF VIRS Transmission is as follows:










d. When transmitting the MEW to the aircraft, make sure that it is identified as the mean effective wind and that the altitude to which it was taken is included. Any indications of erratic winds or wind sheers reported by previous aircraft should also be reported at this time.


The DZST leader and DZ party mark the point of impact on a surveyed DZ, and the aircraft navigator computes the release point from the air.

a. During day operations, the point of impact will be marked with a RAM (Figure 6-9) and a shape designator patterned in either a triangle (for personnel airdrop operations, or a square for CDS/HE airdrops (Figure 6-10).

b. Night markings will consist of a shape designator (made of lights) placed at the point of impact, one flanker light placed 200 yards/183 meters to the left and right of the shape designator, and a trailing edge light placed 1000 yards/915 meters from the shape designator, or at the trailing edge of the surveyed DZ whichever is closer to the PI (Figure 6-11).

c. During day operations, authentication or identification of different sites can be accomplished by specified drop times, alternating panel colors, or drop headings.

d. During night operations, authentication or identification of different sites can be accomplished by having one light in the shape designator replaced with any color light, except white.

NOTE: Authentication markings must be pre-coordinated with the aircrew.

e. Circular DZ markings must be coordinated 24 hours in advance to determine the desired drop heading.

f. Smoke, other than red, may be displayed adjacent to, and on the downwind side of the RAM/shape designator to assist in visual acquisition of the DZ and to indicate the surface wind direction.

NOTE: The panels in the shape designator are not elevated.

g. The Army ground unit commander may position the PI anywhere on the "surveyed DZ" and insert his forces as necessary to accomplish the mission. He must make the PI location known to the supporting airlift and the DZST leader in sufficient time to plan the mission. The GUC accepts the responsibility for an off-the-DZ impact if he selects a PI closer than 300 yards from any edge of the surveyed DZ.

NOTE: A 200-yard buffer zone on the trail edge of the drop zone is required for personnel if the PI is located closer than 300 yards from any edge of the drop zone.


The Air Force has a listing of all available drop zones that are approved for use. The list is called an Assault Zone Availability Report. The AZAR is compiled from input provided by 21 AF, McGuire AFB, NJ; and 22 AF, Travis AFB, CA. It identifies CONUS drop zones, landing zones, and extraction zones available for use by the Air Mobility Command.


All needed information concerning the drop zone is on the Air Force AMC Form 339 (Figure 6-12 and 6-13). The boxes on the AMC Form 339 are self-explanatory; however, a detailed explanation is in AMC Regulation 55-60.


During Contingency/wartime and major training exercise participation, DZST leaders maybe expected to tactically locate and assess a potential drop zone for follow-on airdrop resupply/reinforcement missions.

a. Normally, the Air Force combat control teams would be tasked to accomplish this reconnaissance type mission using the AMC Form 339; but when a CCT is unavailable, the DZST leader may accomplish a tactical drop zone assessment using the tactical assessment checklist for a guideline (Figure 6-14).

b. Airdrop operations on tactically assessed DZs will be made ONLY under the following conditions:

    (1) During training events, the airdrop will be located within a military reservation or upon US government leased property.

    (2) The supported service will accept responsibility for any damage that occurs as a result of the airdrop activity.

    (3) There must be adequate time for safe effective planning.

c. Once the tactical assessment has been done and approved by the Air Force, a guide line for CARP markings must be followed. For CDS drops, the point of impact will be at least 200 yards (C-130) and 225 yards (C-144) from the leading edge of the drop zone and centerline for daytime operations, and 250 yards (C-130) and 275 yards (C-141) at night. For personnel drops, the PI will be at least 300 yards from the leading edge of the drop zone and centerline (350 yards at night). For heavy equipment drops, the PI will be at least 500 yards from the leading edge of the drop zone and centerline (550 yards at night).


The AMC Form 168 is basically a scorecard for the Air Force. Since the release point is computed by the aircrew on the CARP drop zone, the Air Force must have some documentation of the crew's performance. The DZST leader fills it out. a. The following is an explanation of the blocks on the AMC Form 168 (Figure 6-15). The individual named in blocks 2, 3, or 4 may all be the same person or may be different people.

    (1) Location. Name and grid coordinates of DZ/LZ/EZ.

    (2) CCT and unit. Name of combat control team and unit controlling the DZ.

    (3) DZ/LZ/EZ control officer and unit. Name of the individual and unit controlling the DZ.

    (4) DZ safety officer and unit. Name of DZ safety officer and unit.

    (5) Legend. Explanations of abbreviations used on this form.

    (6) Line number. Each line number on any given DZ mission represents an individual pass over the DZ, even on a multiple aircraft DZ. For example, a three-ship operation uses three lines. No-drop passes should use a line number also, with the remarks column reflecting the reason for the no-drop.

    (7) Unit. The unit of the flight crew, usually a number designator.

    (8) Call sign. The correct call sign if you have radio communications with the pilot.

    (9) Pilot/navigator. Last name and rank of pilot and navigator.

    (10) Type mission. The letter designator in the legend for the type of mission.

    (11) ETA. Estimated time of arrival over target; it can be a hard time or a block time.

    (12) ATA/ATD. Actual time of arrival or departure.

    (13) Strike report. The strike report yards/clock is the actual purpose of the 168. The DZST leader observes the first parachutist, bundle, or heavy equipment platform from the control center; he uses NVGs at night.

      (a) He determines the distance to the first parachute in yards and the clock direction in relationship to the point of impact (12 o'clock is drop heading [magnetic]).

      (b) If the first parachute lands within 25 yards of the point of impact, then he puts the letters PI in this block to indicate that a direct hit was made.

      (c) If it was impossible to maintain visual contact with the first parachute, especially during multiple aircraft operations, then use an "S" or a "U" (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) to score them. If 90 percent of the parachutes land on the DZ, then an "S" will be put in this column. If less than 90 percent land on the DZ, then a "U" will be put in this column.

      (d) If radio communication is maintained with the drop aircraft, relay the strike reports to the drop aircraft so that the aircrew can make adjustments on following passes over the DZ.

      (14) AL/EX. For an airland/extraction, enter an "S" or "U" as appropriate

    (15) Surface wind. Should be the highest wind reading during the 10-minute window for that pass.

    (16) Score method. Mark which method was used to determine the distance to the first parachute from the PI.

    • E = Estimated

    • P = Paced

    • M = Measured

    (17) Mean effective wind. If a pilot balloon is used on the DZ, a MEW will be determined and annotated in this block. A MEW is the average wind from the ground to drop altitude. If radio communications are established between you and the aircraft, give this information to the aircrew before the first pass to assist them in calculating their release point.

      (a) Time. Note the time the MEW was determined.

      (b) Alt: Note what altitude MEW was determined for.

      (c) Direction and velocity. The magnetic azimuth to the pilot balloon is measured and the reciprocal heading noted. This will give the MEW direction to be reported. When transmitting the MEW, make sure that the altitude to which it was taken is included. Any indications of erratic winds or wind shears should also be reported at this time.

    (18) Remarks. Anything pertaining to the DZ operation that can be useful to the Air Force during pilot debriefing.

b. The DZST leader forwards the AMC Form 168 to his air operations officer who in turn submits it through the chain of command to the Air Force representative.


The following information is necessary when requesting a MEDEVAC for casualties.

a. Location. Grid coordinates will contain the six-digit grid location and be preceded by the 100,000-meter grid identification.

b. Radio/Frequency/Call Sign. The frequency and call sign should be that of the radio at the site of the unit requesting the MEDEVAC.

c. Patient Category of Precedence. You should be prepared to classify the casualties priority to be evacuated.

    (1) Urgent: Within 2 hours to save life or limb.

    (2) Priority: When casualty's medical condition will deteriorate and become urgent within 4 hours.

    (3) Routine: Requires evacuation, but when patient's condition is not expected to deteriorate for several hours.

    (4) Tactical immediate: Evacuation needed so as not to endanger tactical mission.

d. Special Equipment/Emergency Medical Supplies. List your requirements.

e. Number and Type of Casualties. Self-explanatory.

f. Security of Pickup Site. Describe conditions of security.

g. Site Marking. Describe marking method used.

h. Patient Nationality and Status. Self-explanatory.

i. NBC Contamination Area. Give location of NBC area.


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