Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

May 13, 2011 at 9:27am

Airdrop levels in deployed areas reach 25 million pounds

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- In 2010, an additional 30,000 U.S. forces poured into Afghanistan as part of a "surge" to further stabilize the area. As a result, statistics show, that level of forces may also be the leading reason why airdrop levels in 2011 are averaging around 6.25 million pounds dropped a month.

Through the first four months of 2011, statistics tracked by the Air Forces Central's Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia show there were more than 25 million pounds of cargo airdropped for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. That figure nearly matches all the airdrop totals from 2006 to 2008 in the same region.

The current annual record for airdrops is 60.4 million pounds dropped from 2010. Records aside, mobility Airmen are focused on meeting the needs of the warfighters on the ground.

"We're flying round-the-clock missions, mostly air-land and to and from lots of little austere Army air fields throughout the country," said Capt. Andrew Thomas, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in a January 2011 AFCENT news report by combat correspondent Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary. "We're also doing airdrops here (at a rate) of about one to two drops per day."

The C-130 Hercules isn't the only Air Mobility Command-style airframe supporting deployed airdrop operations. The C-17 Globemaster III is also a part of the effort. In deployed locations, C-130s and C-17s are a part of expeditionary airlift squadrons at numerous bases throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Both airframes use a variety of ways to deliver the airdrop cargo. For example, since March 2010, C-130s perform "low-cost, low altitude," or LCLA, airdrops where they airdrop bundles weighing 80 to 500 pounds with pre-packed expendable parachutes in groups of up to four bundles per pass. The drops, reports show, are termed "low-cost" to reflect the relative expense of the expendable parachutes. "Low-altitude" describes to the relative height from which bundles are released from the aircraft.

There's also the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPADS, that guides airdrop bundles to their drop zones using the Global Positioning System technology, and the Improved Container Delivery System, or ICDS, that allows for improved precision by factoring in the altitude, wind speed, wind direction, terrain and other circumstances that might affect the drop.

Also, for example, a C-17 Globemaster III can carry up to 40 CDS bundles for a combat airdrop mission. Each of those bundles are often built by U.S. Army parachute riggers who jointly work with the Air Force airlift community to get them delivered to ground troops in remote regions of Afghanistan.

If statistics continue at the current average of 6.25 million pounds per month, 2011 will be a new record year with more than 75 million pounds airdropped.    

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