SSC-Natick Press Release
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: May 19, 2003
24 hours to resupply with joint precision airdrop
NATICK, Mass. -- With precision airdrop, the Air Force and Army plan to eventually safely deliver anything from sensors to armored vehicles in weights ranging from 200-42,000 pounds to friendly ground forces with accuracy similar to Joint Direct Attack Munitions, commonly called "smart bombs," that strike enemy targets.
The next step in making that a reality is the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), a proposed Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) beginning in 2004 and managed at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.
JPADS is intended to resupply troops anytime and anywhere within 24 hours, where 24 hours is worst case from United States to anywhere in the world. Aircraft survivability will increase because cargo will be delivered within 100 meters of the ground target from altitudes of 25,000 feet and at an offset distance of up to 12 miles.
The ACTD will focus on payloads of 10,000 pounds-the lightweight category-with a usable payload of no less than 8,000 pounds, that would resupply troops with food, water, ammunition and even fuel, according to Richard Benney, technical manager for JPADS and Airdrop Technology Team leader at Natick.
Cost is the driving factor for JPADS because the capability exists now but at more than five times the price users are willing to pay, Benney said. The goal is to drop the price to $3-6 per cargo pound, and even at that price he said it's an expensive alternative to current standard low-altitude airdrop systems.
"It won't replace the ground logistics, but it gets you the extra capability, especially if you're cut off from an ambush and need resupply, or for locations that trucks can't reach," Benney said. "It won't drop a Humvee. The next (weight) level will do that. A lot of the technology from this program applies to all weight classes."
Even with advanced technology, he added that "smart" systems won't allow flight crews to drop supplies anywhere and expect a precise landing. Rather, it widens the window of opportunity to make it easier.
JPADS combines the Army's Precision and Extended Glide Airdrop System (PEGASYS) program with the Air Force's Precision Airdrop System (PADS) program to meet joint requirements for precision airdrop.
PEGASYS is the name of a family of precision airdrop systems, consisting of extra light, light, medium and heavy payload categories. It consists of a canopy decelerator and airborne guidance unit, including a Global Positioning System, along with the appropriate pallet platform.
PADS is an on-board computer system predicting release points for ballistic or "dumb" parachute systems for high altitude airdrops. It uses mission-planning and weather forecasting software, and can receive en-route mission changes and weather updates via satellite links.
The joint system will be able to send a signal from the aircraft to the receiver of cargo pallets carried aboard a C-130 or C-17, each pallet potentially directed to different drop zones.
"The mission planning software will be able to communicate with any airdrop system," Benney said. "The pilot or navigator, possibly via a SATCOM link from anywhere in the world, will be able to tell each individual load where to go. They could be spread out or bunched together or both depending on what's needed."
To get similar accuracy now, cargo needs to be released at 1,500 feet or lower, and even then, only the first pallet will land close to the intended target because the aircraft generally crosses a 3-mile drop zone to deploy all the payloads it's carrying. That allows enough time and distance to take hits from shoulder-launched missiles or antiaircraft artillery, according to Benney.
Candidate decelerator systems for JPADS have been downselected from eight to three: a low-cost parafoil, hybrid single surface parachute and "strong screamer."
The parafoil uses low-cost parachute construction techniques similar to round parachute designs while offering greater capability and reliability. The hybrid is a new design built with a lower-cost, high-performance, zero-porosity fabric used in the hot air balloon industry. The screamer starts with a ram-air drogue parachute deployed at high altitude and then opens standard Army inventory round parachutes at lower altitudes.
The program expects to ultimately downselect to just one of these decelerators as it prepares to meet the needs of the Objective Force of just-in-time resupply to locations anywhere around the world.
For more information about the Soldier Systems Center, please visit our website at http://www.natick.army.mil.