MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The world’s newest airdrop systems were showcased Oct. 25 during the final day of the fourth biannual Precision Air¬drop Technology Conference and Demonstration at a U.S Army Yuma Proving Ground test center drop zone.
Nearly 20 allied countries from around the world, includ¬ing France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, along with American military officials, at¬tended the event to observe the latest innovations in airdrop sys¬tem technology as well as some already in use.
The drop, which was put to¬gether by YPG’s Air Delivery Systems branch and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center based out of Natick, Mass., featured about 150 displays of more than 25 different manned and unmanned air-delivery sys¬tems carrying loads from five to 30,000 pounds.
Richard Benney, representa¬tive from Natick, said the goal of the event was to find air delivery systems that would give military services the ability to provide units on the ground with supplies while staying out of reach of anti-aircraft firepower, but still giving them the ability to accurately reach target areas from those high altitudes.
“We have a lot of forward operating bases, for example in Afghanistan, on the edges of mountains, and we want to be able to reach those guys without them having to climb or go outside of their bases, and we don’t want the aircraft to get shot while trying to re-supply them,” said Benney.
Rob Berlind, YPG chief of air delivery systems branch, said other benefits to precision air-drop systems are that they protect the service members on the ground and broaden the scope of aerial resupply missions.
“When an aircraft flies over at low altitude and drops something, the enemy is going to see that and know there are troops there or going to be there shortly to get that gear, so (precision airdrop systems) do keep the troops safer,” said Berlind.
“And with precision airdrop it’s a lot easier to drop at night, instead of having to drop in the day time,” added Berlind. “Most low-altitude aircraft have to (drop) in the day time because it’s a little riskier at night.”
Essentially, the system needs to be able to keep both the aircrew and the ground personnel safe, said Berlind.
A few of the systems showcased included the 2K Screamer, being used operationally in Afghanistan, the 2K Firefly U.S. Army Program of Record system, and the Dragon Train system, which can be at¬tached directly to a small cargo bundle.
Robert Mathews, a retired Marine major and designer of the Dragon train, said his company designed the system to be light for the person having to pick up the supplies.
“Everybody wants to give the grunt something, but the problem is they have to carry it,” said Mathews.
As the numerous cargo-drop systems showed their stuff, Amer¬ican military command represen¬tatives were also able to get an idea of which systems would best fit mission needs for the future.
Marine Master Sgt. Lorrin Bush, air delivery officer for Reconnaissance and Amphibious Raids, Marine Corps Systems Command said the Marine Corps was evaluating the different sys¬tems at the conference to see which one would fit their needs.
Bush said the Corps is search¬ing specifically for systems that can deliver light weight supply loads, while making use of cano¬pies the Corps already has.
“We want something Marines can carry on their backs,” said Bush, a Kaila Kona, Hawaii na¬tive. “Anything more is just too much for the reconnaissance community.”
The day ended with a final dem¬onstration by the MegaFly airdrop system, which is the world’s larg¬est parafoil system and capable of dropping up to 30,000 pounds of cargo.
“The event went well,” said Berlind. “The weather cooperated and we were able to see the full (capabilities) of the technologies that dropped here.”