History: 62nd AW conducts first C-17 JPADS training

By Airman 1st Class Leah Young on March 9, 2012

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing recently completed the first continental C-17 Globemaster III airdrop using a piece of technology designed to deliver cargo with pinpoint accuracy in even the most hostile environments.

The 62nd AW dropped two bundles equaling 2,900 pounds at Yakima Training Center, Wash., using the Joint Precision Airdrop System.

JPADS is an airdrop system that uses Global Positioning Satellite, steerable parachutes and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact on a drop zone.

"Our goal is to develop new tactics and techniques for this system," said Col. Wyn Elder, 62nd AW commander. "We're eventually looking to perform individual precision airdrop within a meter of its target."

The two bundles were dropped at approximately 5,700 feet above the ground, which is more than one mile in the air. The first landed within 20 yards of its designated target. The second landed within seven yards.

Traditional airdrops by Air Force airlifters, such as the C-130 Hercules and C-17, are at altitudes of anywhere between 400 and 1,000 feet. With JPADS, those same airlift aircraft have the potential to guide air drop bundles from as high as 25,000 feet.

"This is significant because we can drop anything from large equipment to food supplies with this system," said Staff Sgt. Todd Tichawa, 62nd Operations Support Squadron loadmaster. "This allows us to deliver supplies to troops all over the world in a faster, safer and more efficient way."

The JPADS offers several benefits, including an increase in the number of available drop zones and the ability to resupply troops accurately in the face of difficult ground terrain like mountains and steep valleys.

Employing the system also reduces the need for truck convoys that are vulnerable to enemy fire.

"The possibilities for this system will only expand from here," said Tichawa. "It's a very flexible tool. We are able to accomplish so many different types of missions with this capability."

Along with a large amount of capabilities for the JPADS, there are also specific requirements.

"JPADS training comes with a restricted area requirement," said Capt. Josh Long, 62nd OSS. "We worked closely with the experts at Yakima Training Center to develop a brand new drop zone specifically for this type of mission."

In addition to working with Yakima, 62nd AW Airmen also teamed up with neighboring Army units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, making the training a complete joint effort.

"Army riggers came over and augmented our teams by packing these specific types of parachutes," said Long. "Until our Airmen and contractors are more experienced and fully qualified, the Soldiers will continue to come over help out. Without the assistance of Yakima and the Army riggers, this mission would not have happened."

While JPADS have been used in theater since 2006, the majority of aircrews haven't had the opportunity to fine-tune their skills prior to executing this method during actual combat missions.

As the system develops, aircrews say they plan to continually improve and break new barriers.

"Future plans for the JPADS include increasing the altitude at which we drop and the number of bundles dropped at one time," said Long. "Testing the capabilities of the system will be important for future operations."

The 62nd AW plans to conduct weekly JPADS training in order to provide loadmasters and pilots with more experience.

"We will continue to work toward smarter, more precise airdrop procedures," said Elder. "We are perfecting precision airdrop, and this is the beginning."