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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: October 13, 2006
No: 06-40

Joint precision airdrop takes flight

Screamer 2K A new Global Positioning System-guided Joint Precision Air Drop System bundle, known as Screamer 2K, floats to the ground after being dropped from the back of a C-130 Hercules over Afghanistan Aug. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
Click for Larger Photo

NATICK, Mass. -- Delivering supplies to American troops is a lot easier now and much more precise thanks in part to the airdrop team at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center (NSC) here.

The Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) allows aircrews to drop loads from higher altitudes and farther away from the intended ground impact point, and troops on the ground are now able to receive and retrieve supplies more accurately. JPADS allows for aircraft and aircrew to fly above most threat areas with a variety of offset options yet still deploy a range of autonomous decelerators to pre-planned ground impact points.

The JPADS is a family of systems that includes self-guided cargo parachute systems, mission planning and weather systems, and military free-fall parachute systems. The primary navigation sensor is a global positioning system (GPS).

JPADS is also taking on an important role with regard to logistics distribution. With JPADS, aircrew can deliver supplies to troops in very remote areas, including those not accessible by roads. This reduces the need for Warfighters to leave a protected area to retrieve supplies and reduces the number of ground vehicle convoys that need to enter possibly dangerous areas. By limiting these two areas, it also assists with avoidance of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Recently, JPADS systems have been used in Afghanistan with tremendous success. NSC sent two riggers to Afghanistan as part of a Mobile Training Team (MTT) to train personnel to use and rig two types of JPADS systems. This training was very successful and riggers in theater are now rigging JPADS solo and both the MTT and theater-located riggers are providing valuable lessons learned and suggested improvements to NSC for future consideration and implementation.

"The recent success of JPADS is due to the dedication and commitment to the program with excellent communication and trust between the many different players," said Richard Benney, aerospace engineer and technical manager for JPADS.

The JPADS programs are an exceptional example of how numerous services and organizations can team together to support an immediate Warfighter need with numerous requirements and many users' requests for support and participation.

The JPADS team consists of players throughout the Department of Defense (DoD), led primarily by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center (NSC), U.S. Army Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems (PM FSS), Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Advanced Systems and Concepts Office, U.S. Air Force (Air Mobility Command, Air Mobility Warfare Center, Electronic Systems Center and Global Mobility Wing), U.S. Joint Forces Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Special Operations Command, and U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command.

The program also relies heavily on many other participants, including industrial partners, users (weapons officers, loadmasters, riggers, and maintenance personnel), military and civilian mobile training teams and the test community from all military services.

"This balance takes considerable time and effort to maintain but the benefits of working as a joint community have and continue to be showing a significant return on investment for the Warfighter in theater now and much more capability is anticipated to be provided to theater in the near future," continued Benney.

The cargo system of JPADS can deliver supplies, such as ammunition, water and fuel, and falls into different weight classes. JPADS-Extra Light has a 700 to 2,200 pound capacity, while JPADS-Light has a 5,001-10,000 pound capacity and is the primary system within the JPADS Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program. JPADS-Medium has up to a 30,000 pound capacity.

Each weight class of the cargo system must be able to hit a pre-planned GPS ground target within 50 meters (objective), be able to be deployed from altitudes as high as 24,500 feet mean sea level (threshold), and be able to be deployed from at least eight kilometers horizontal offset from the ground target.

JPADS-XL is in the works to meet requirements that still exits. The U.S. Army PM FSS will be releasing a request for proposals for JPADS-XL in the October 2006 timeframe.

The JPADS Mission Planner (MP), which is used to determine the best estimate of wind throughout the volume of space that the airdrop systems will be traveling, is now and will be compatible with all JPADS systems. The JPADS-MP uses the wind estimate with decelerator system performance characteristics to determine an optimum Computed Aerial Release Point (CARP) for ballistic loads or a Launch Acceptability Region (LAR) for JPADS systems. The MP can update any number of JPADS systems with new weather information and/or impact coordinates wirelessly from the cockpit. Once deployed from the aircraft, supplies are guided by GPS (actuators controlling parachute steering lines/risers) that direct them to the desired landing point. The MP has also demonstrated significant increased accuracy of high altitude ballistic fielded airdrop systems such as the Container Delivery System (CDS), known as Improved CDS (ICDS) when dropped with the JPADS-MP. The JPADS-MP is also compatible with and being used to compute CARPs for Military Free Fall (MFF) users. The system is also being tested with a wireless linkage to helmet mounted MFF Navigation Aids (NAVIADS) which provide steering cues to MFF paratroopers.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) first used the JPADS-MP over Afghanistan on July 29, 2006. Since then, numerous successful high altitude ICDS airdrop operations have taken place. In addition, with significant support from the Commander of the USAF Air Mobility Command, JPADS-XL candidate systems have been provided to Warfighters in Afghanistan and the first JPADS-XL combat airdrops took place on Aug. 31, 2006.

The need for precision airdrop capabilities is growing around the world due to the IED threat to ground troops and surface-to-air threats to aircraft and aircrews. Precision Airdrop for Special Operations has been chosen as one of 10 areas prioritized as a NATO Defense Against Terrorism (DAT) effort. The purpose of the DAT program is to develop new, cutting-edge technology to protect troops and civilians from terrorist attacks. Precision airdrop is the only DAT for which the United States is the lead nation and the NSC leads this NATO effort for the DoD. It is desired in order to support the increasing deployments of NATO troops at greater distances from their individual Nations.

"I'm very proud to be a part of the joint and ever growing JPADS team and want to thank everyone involved for their contributions to date. Many of the systems being used in theater began and/or matured through Natick Soldier Center initiatives in the late 1990s. The program has accelerated rapidly through joint teaming and exceptional dedication and hard work from many players all committed to supporting the Warfighter every day. Nothing feels better than to see paper concepts pushed and matured into systems/reality and demonstrated to a level where they can and are now making a difference to our ultimate customer, the joint Warfighter," Benney said.

As the Army transforms to the Future Combat System, JPADS will provide the 'just-in-time' logistics needed. The intention is to resupply troops anywhere in the world within 24 hours with supplies from the United States.

The JPADS team is provided feedback directly from Warfighters who have trained, rigged, flown JPADS missions, and recovered JPADS loads in theater, said Benney. This feedback and data is invaluable and our joint team is working together to ensure that JPADS capabilities are available and continuously improving to meet the Warfighters immediate and long-term aerial logistics needs.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.