Bagram C-130s drop high-tech cargo delivery system
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)
JPADS makes aerial delivery precision science

by Senior Airman Joel Mease
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

6/6/2007 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It's about the size of a postage stamp. 

For the Airmen of the 317th Airlift Group, delivering cargo from several thousand feet in the air to a drop zone that might only be the size of a football field on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan is easier said then done. 

The joint precision air drop system plans to completely change the way aerial delivery is accomplished, said Capt. Andy Kraemer, 317th Operations Support Squadron acting chief of tactics. 

"For years, the Air Force has been able to put a bomb through a chimney, but we couldn't do the same with cargo," Captain Kraemer said. "It just makes sense that we have developed a system that can deliver valuable cargo accurately to a drop zone that looks smaller than a postage stamp from the air." 

Delivering supplies like food and ammunition to troops on the ground within feet of a designated target is highly valuable, he said. 

"The old way of delivering cargo involved flying low to the ground, exposing our aircraft to small arms fire,"Captain Kraemer said. "JPADS allows us to fly well above the line of small arms fire and shoulder carried missiles. We can hit a drop zone the size of five acres that would have to be the size of 260 at the same altitude under the old system. More than likely it's going to be within half a football field's distance of where it needs to be." 

And 50 yards can make all the difference. 

"A typical drop zone in Afghanistan could be on a mountain side where if it lands 50 yards to the left it rolls down the cliff, and if it lands 50 yards to the right it might be to close to Taliban fighters," Captain Kraemer said. "Getting our cargo as close to our troops on the ground as possible is a huge deal to them, as it may be a matter of getting the ammunition or supplies they need or not at all. JPADS has helped save Soldiers' lives and at the same time conserved limited U.S. resources." 

So how does JPADS work? 

Each JPAD employs different means of delivering cargo, but most use a GPS-guided system that redirects the pulleys and wires of the parachute to its target. One system the 317th AG owns, called the Screamer 2K, allows a fast GPS-guided decent before it reaches destination and altitude requirements. Then it deploys another parachute that allows for a soft landing of the cargo. The Screamer 2K can allow the Air Force to deliver accurately in a high-wind environment, where as a normal delivery system could be more than a half mile off, Captain Kraemer said. 

The new delivery system has allowed the 317th Airlift Group to do things that were previously not possible. 

"One of the most exciting things we can do with JPADS is drop multiple cargo to multiple drop zones at the same time," Captain Kraemer said. "In fact, we could be potentially more than 20 minutes ahead or behind the drop zone and the JPADS would correct itself to go back to the target." 

The development of JPADS is a big deal to the airlift community, said Tech. Sgt. Jerry Pritt, a career loadmaster with more than 20 years of experience.
"It's absolutely amazing to me," said Sergeant Pritt, 317th OSS. "Before, we were trying to land cargo within a general area in a city, but now we are hitting intersections."