DROP ZONE SUPPORT TEAMS
This appendix outlines the requirements for US Army DZ support teams to support tactical airdrop operations. It will be used to develop implementation plans for assuming DZ support responsibilities. US Army DZSTs will support unit airdrops of personnel, equipment, and CDS in single-ship and formation-type airdrops. With some exceptions, these airdrops are limited to day/night visual conditions. MAC Regulation 3-3 governs the operation of Air Force CCT efforts. Many of the requirements of MAC Regulation 3-3 also apply to US Army DZST operations. (When referring to MAC Regulation 3-3, DZSTs must ensure that their copy is current.)
B-1. DROP ZONE SUPPORT TEAM LEADER DUTIES
The DZSTL represents both the airlift commander and the ground forces commander. He has overall responsibility for the conduct of operations on the DZ.
a. Considering flight safety as well as ground safety, the DZSTL coordinates closely with the DZ safety officer to observe and evaluate all factors that could adversely affect the safety of the airdrop operation. If radio contact is possible, the DZSTL will pass surface wind information and limited weather observations to inbound aircraft and units, as required. When radio contact is not possible, the DZSTL must ensure DZ markings are properly displayed as prebriefed to convey the appropriate message to aircrews. The DZST must have radio contact with the drop aircraft for IMC/AWADS drops.
b. The DZSTL must also evaluate the condition of the DZ before the drop to ensure that it is suitable for a safe personnel landing, as well as to ensure that airdropped equipment can be recovered. The DZSTL places personnel, vehicles, and support equipment so they are not endangered by the airdrop. (Possible parachute malfunction should be considered when determining placement.) He also ensures the DZ is clear of all personnel and equipment not required to support the airdrop no later than 10 minutes before the estimated time over target.
c. The DZSTL is responsible for the operation of all visual acquisition aids and electronic equipment, such as smoke, flares, signal lights, and radios. He ensures that this equipment is not used by untrained personnel.
d. If conditions are not safe for a successful airdrop, the DZSTL uses prebriefed visual signals or radio communications to ensure that the no-drop condition is made known to the incoming aircraft.
B-2. COMPOSITION/QUALIFICATIONS OF DROP ZONE SUPPORT TEAMS
The DZST consists of at least two members. More members may be required depending on the complexity of the mission. The senior member of the DZST functions as the DZSTL and meets the following requirements:
a. He must be an NCO or officer.
b. He must have completed training as a DZST member and satisfy parent service currency requirements.
c. He must be a qualified and current jumpmaster or an airborne qualified pathfinder for personnel and heavy equipment drops.
B-3. PREMISSION COORDINATION PROCESS
Premission briefings are vital to the successful accomplishment of any operation. When possible, all participating members and agencies should take part in premission coordination and briefing. This allows them to resolve all conflicts and to ensure all agencies are informed of the details of the operation.
a. Safety Considerations. The monthly joint airborne/air transportability training, or appropriate joint exercise planning, conference is the source of most taskings for missions. Taskings are coordinated as far out as possible to meet many training requirements.
(1) Add on missions (JA/ATT, special assignment airlift missions, and so on) outside the normal planning cycle may generate additional taskings. Requested add-on missions accepted by a MAC airlift unit must be supported by the requesting unit if a CCT is not available. Add-on mission requirements are fully documented by message traffic to all concerned units.
(2) After the mission is tasked, the receiving unit coordinates as required IAW a checklist. (See Figure B-1 for an example.)
b. Operational Responsibilities. Specific responsibilities of the various personnel involved in the establishment of a DZ are as follows:
(1) The senior combat control representative
(a) Locates in the ALCC or on the AFSOB.
(b) Coordinates with the G3 Air and the TALO.
(c) Ensures that either a CCT element or a DZST is available to operate each drop zone.
(d) Coordinates airspace.
(e) Resolves conflicts with other missions.
(f) Adjusts DZ dimensions and headings.
(g) Develops aircraft communications and handoff procedures for each mission.
(h) Establishes point-to-point radio communications between the DZST and the ALCC or the AFSOB.
(2) The CCT --
(a) Deploys with the Army airborne and light infantry divisions.
(b) Establishes and operates DZs.
(3) The DZST --
(a) Establishes and operates DZs.
(b) Communicates with the ALCC or the AFSOB.
(c) Maintains the equipment required to operate a DZ.
The following equipment is required to support DZ operations. It may come with a CCT, but any unit must have --
- Raised angle marker or VS-17 high-visibility signal panels.
- Smoke (red or green, white, or yellow).
- White light (omnidirectional).
- Signal mirror.
- Flare device with red and other colored flares (other than pen-type survival flares).
- Surface wind measuring device (anemometer).
- Strobe light.
Normally, rehearsals and exercise drops should have every acquisition aid and safety device available for the airdrop aircraft if the mission scenario permits. Drops should have the benefit of air-to-ground communications, PIBAL mean effective wind measurement, ATC light gun, smoke or flares, and so on, if these items available. During contingency or wartime operations, units may not be able to carry as much airdrop support equipment. Therefore, it is vital that premission coordination and briefings thoroughly discuss visual signals (such as drop cancellation, postponement, authentication procedures).
B-5. DROP ZONE OPERATIONS
Drop zone support team leaders must allow enough time to locate the PI, establish a DZ heading, locate the control point, and have the DZ operational at least one hour before the drop. During rehearsals and exercises, the DZSTL may be required to evaluate the conditions of DZs that have not been used for one year or longer. This should be done before a mission is scheduled to that particular DZ. In such cases, the DZSTL compares data in the DZ survey form with actual conditions in the DZ and surrounding area. He ensures that significant changes are properly annotated and discussed with the aircrew. He also notifies the appropriate MAC NAF of the differences. The DZSTL must be sensitive to the safety requirements of both paratroopers and aircraft.
NOTE: It is common for trees to be within the boundaries of any given DZ. Trees are not always considered DZ obstructions or a hindrance to recovery operations.
a. During combat operations, DZ criteria and selection is the joint responsibility of the airlift commander and the ground forces commander. (For training operations, the minimum DZ sizes are specified in MAC Regulation 3-3.)
b. Normally, the control point is set up at the PI because this location usually offers the best view of the DZ and approaching aircraft. If the tactical condition permits, the DZST may take advantage of this positioning, or he may locate the control point elsewhere.
(1) For CDS operations, locate the control point 150 yards at 6 o'clock in relation to the PI and DZ heading (tactical situation permitting).
(2) For all AWADS and station keeping equipment drops, the control point is off the DZ when the ceiling is less than 600 feet. All personnel are also kept off the DZ.
c. Drop zone markings for computed air release points are discussed in Appendix A.
d. Surface wind limitations for training operations are as follows (unless otherwise established by the airdrop unit's service):
(1) Thirteen knots for personnel drops (including gusts within 10 minutes of drop time).
(2) Thirteen knots for equipment without ground-quick disconnects.
(3) Seventeen knots for equipment with ground-quick disconnects.
(4) Twenty knots for CDS drops using G13/14-type parachutes.
When radio communication is available to the DZST, it is important for air-to-ground communications to be brief, concise, and clear to reduce cockpit distraction. Aircrew members are extremely busy during run in from the initial point to the DZ and throughout the escape flight path.
NOTE: The DZST must be aware of COMSEC requirements. All air-to-ground signals must be kept to the absolute minimum.
a. For a no-drop situation, the phrase "no drop, no drop, no drop" must be transmitted. The reasons for the no drop should be cited at the first opportunity and the aircraft commander asked what his intentions are. The aircraft commander may elect to airland, or fly a race track and attempt another drop. If the DZSTL notices a factor that could affect the safety of the operation (such as a helicopter transiting low over the DZ while the drop aircraft is on approach), he should notify the aircraft.
b. If the situation requires minimum radio transmissions, a premission coordination or briefing may establish a drop clearance call as the only necessary communication. Few C-130s have FM; however, all are equipped with UHF/AM and VHF/AM capability. Some using units may have UHF/VHF radios. This must be discussed at the premission briefing.
B-7. GROUND MARKED RELEASE SYSTEM
The most common type of GMRS DZ establishment uses the inverted "L" marking system. The ground marked release system places the responsibility for determining the airdrop release point on the ground party. When the DZST is tasked to operate the DZ using the GMRS, several factors must be considered in determining the release point.
a. Forward Throw. Basically, this is the distance along the flight path that an object or a paratrooper travels from the time of exit from the jump platform until the parachute canopy fully opens. This allows other natural forces to act on the load and parachute. Different loads have different forward throw values.
b. Wind Drift. To determine the distance that an airdropped object travels under canopy as a result of wind action, use the formula: D = KAV (D = distance travelled in yards; K = constant value [4.1 for personnel and 2.5 for equipment]; A = drop altitude in hundreds of feet; and V = wind speed). Mean effective wind speed should be used, if possible.
c. Panel Placement. The following procedures are used to establish a GMRS DZ. The placement of the panels is shown in Figure B-2.
(1) Locate the desired PI.
(2) Measure the wind and compute the wind drift using the D = KAV formula.
(3) From the PI, walk the required distance into the direction of the wind.
(4) From this spot, face the direction of the flight path and pace off the distance for the forward throw. This establishes the actual release point overhead.
(5) Turn 90 degrees to the right and pace off 110 yards (100 meters) for the offset. This is done so the aircraft pilot can look out his left cockpit window while abeam the release point and see the panels. The corner panel is placed here. It is best to elevate the panels at a 30-to 45-degree angle for greater visibility from the air.
(6) The other panels are located as shown in Figure B-2.
(7) Night inverted "L" drops are laid out the same way using directional/omnidirectional white lights. Small fires, flares, or flashlights may also be used; however, this should be precoordinated.
B-8. TACTICAL DROP ZONE ASSESSMENTS
During operations, DZSTs are expected to tactically locate and assess a potential DZ for follow-on airdrop resupply/reinforcement.
a. Normally, the Air Force CCT would be tasked to accomplish this reconnaissance-type mission, using the MAC Form 339. When a CCT is unavailable, a tactical DZ assessment may be made using the following checklist guidelines:
- Drop zone name or intended call sign.
- Topographical map series and sheet number.
- Recommended approach axis magnetic course.
- Point of impact location (eight-digit grid coordinates).
- Leading edge centerline coordinates (eight-digit UTM).
- Drop zone size in yards/meters.
- Air traffic restrictions/hazards.
- Name of surveyor and unit assigned.
- Recommendation for approval/disapproval (for disapproval state reason).
- Remarks (include a recommendation for airdrop option CARP, GMRS, VIRS, or blind drop).
b. Airdrop operations on tactically assessed DZs are made only under the following conditions:
(1) During training events, the airdrops will be within a military reservation or on US government leased property.
(2) The supported service accepts responsibility for any damage that occurs as a result of the airdrop activity.
(3) There must be adequate time for safe, effective planning.
B-9. VERBALLY INITIATED RELEASE SYSTEM
A simple, yet accurate means of ground support of an airdrop operation involves guiding the aircraft from the ground to the release point via air-to-ground communications. The DZSTL calculates the release point in the same way as described for GMRS. He places himself on that release point and guides the aircraft to a spot directly overhead and radios the aircraft to release cargo/personnel. The following is a typical scenario:
(Aircraft) L41 - This is Bulldog, over.
(DZST) L41 - authenticate Charlie tango, over.
(Aircraft) L41, Bulldog - Sierra, reporting five minutes, over.
(DZST) Bulldog, L41 - not in sight, continue, over.
After one minute:
(DZST) Bulldog, L41 - In sight, turn left . . . . .
(DZST) (Call sign calls cease) Turn left . . . . .stop turn.
(DZST) Stand by (call about five seconds from drop).
(DZST) Execute, execute, execute. L41, out.
NOTE: Direction changes are given in relation to the direction of flight. Aircraft will drop on the first call of "execute."
This airdrop option is not too difficult, especially after the DZST has the experience of controlling even one drop this way. When executing this option, the DZSTL could conceal himself in bushes, tall grass, or a fighting position at the release point.
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