JPADS training preps 133AW for deployment
By Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss, 133 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 19, 2008
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The loadmaster crouches down on the ramp of the C-130 aircraft with a sharp tool ready to cut the pallet loose. The ramp is open and the 133rd Airlift Wing cargo plane levels off as they approach the drop zone in central Minnesota.
The navigator has computed the exact time and place for the pilot to give the loadmaster the green light, based on information provided by a sensor which had been dropped on an earlier pass.
The green light comes on and the loadmaster's blade slices through the strap, releasing the pallet, called an improved container delivery system (ICDS). The loadmaster backs away as the ICDS rolls out the back of the Hercules. The parachute cord pulls and the cargo drifts under the silk until it lands precisely where it needs to be.
This is what JPADS, or Joint Precision Air Drop System is all about: putting cargo from the C-130 exactly where it needs to be using global positioning system, GPS, technology in the combat zone. Minnesota Airmen train, qualify and then deploy, doing their part in the fight.
According to command pilot, Lt. Col. Ted Biro, 109th Airlift Squadron, JPADS allows the aircrews to fly much higher than usual, keeping them safer, but still allowing them to put the cargo in the right place at the right time.
"We support the U.S. Army or other allies at forward operating areas in Afghanistan," Lt. Col. Biro said. "It is imperative we accurately drop the essential supplies." That is frequently in mountainous areas, and it can be during bad weather or darkness. They train for just about any possible scenario.
Last year when the Minnesota Air National Guard served in Southwest Asia, they accomplished approximately one-thousand combat flights, or sorties, where critical supplies were either flown into a remote airfield in the area or airdropped from the C-130. JPADS was used for 20 drops in the combat zone last year.
With improvements in the system and the additional training, the JPAD system is expected to be used more in future deployments.
The training has been continuous, according to Tech. Sgt. Aran Stromberg, a loadmaster with the 109th AS.
Tech. Sgt. Stromberg takes the loadmasters through the paces of configuring the sensor, or sonde, which sends the information back to the computer on the aircraft. They drop the sonde out the back of the aircraft when cued by the Airmen up front. Frequently they make multiple passes, dropping the sonde and then letting the cargo drop when they are in the right place at the right time. It can be a single pallet, or a mission may send up to sixteen bundles out the back of a C-130H model, like those flown by the 133rd AW.
Many times the sorties include multiple C-130s, and there have been very successful interfly missions which include the 934th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, or other wings from around the country.
While not technically flying in formation, they might fly a few minutes apart as they line up on a drop zone. Communication amongst the air crews is critical, according to Lt. Col. Biro.
Computers, sensors, radios and other high-tech equipment are all part of the mission in modern warfare, but it still takes people to do the job. The motivation to do it well, says Biro, includes knowing they are saving lives.
"The warfighters on the ground need the supplies and sometimes airdrop is the only way to get it there," said Biro.
"The 133rd Airlift Wing has repeatedly stepped up and maintained top levels of performance. Minnesota Airmen have a reputation as being amongst the top performers in the world."