News: Record year of deployed mobility airdrops continued to build in September
Story by Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Mobility airmen completing airdrops for Operation Enduring Freedom during September surpassed the 40 million pounds-delivered mark for 2010 -- building on what is a new record year for airdrops for OEF.
Numbers tracked by air mobility planners at Air Forces Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia show that from January through September 2010, airmen completing airdrops in Afghanistan delivered 40,200,000 pounds. That's nearly 8 million pounds more than was airdropped than in all of the former record year of 2009 -- 32,267,606.
The airdrop figures for Afghanistan for 2010, through September, include 3.4 million pounds in January, 3 million in February, 3.2 million in March, 4.2 million in April, 4 million in May, 6 million in June, a new monthly record of 6.4 million pounds airdropped in July, 6 million in August, and 4 million in September. At an average of just over 4.4 million pounds a month -- that's like airdropping more than 970 full-size pickup trucks every month from aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III or the C-130 Hercules.
In all of 2006, only 3.5 million pounds of supplies were airdropped for OEF. Since airdrop tracking started in 2005, the amount of material airdropped has nearly doubled every year since, statistics show. The increase in the 2010 numbers may be because of the Afghanistan surge of an additional 30,000 troops, which took place between Dec. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31. Another part of the success and increase in airdrops in Afghanistan might also be because of the innovations in improving airdrops over the last several years.
For example, the Low-Cost, Low-Altitude, or LCLA, airdrop platform -- the latest in airdrop platforms -- became operational in March 2010. The LCLA concept, completed mainly by C-130 Hercules aircraft, is more accurate than traditional, higher-altitude methods.
An LCLA airdrop on a C-130 is accomplished by dropping bundles weighing 80 to 500 pounds, with pre-packed expendable parachutes, in groups of up to four bundles per pass. The drops are termed "low-cost" to reflect the relative expense of the expendable parachutes compared to their more durable, but pricier, nylon counterparts. "Low-altitude" alludes 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.
Reports show, for example, a C-17 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.
Col. David Almand, director of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center's Air Mobility Division, said in a Sept. 16 story that in August, mobility airmen airdropped a record number of CDS bundles with more than 3,800 delivered. He also said in the same story that, records or not, airdrops are highly important to those troops on the ground.
"These airdrops are critical to sustaining ground forces at austere locations where other means of re-supply aren't feasible," Almand said in the story. "This continued sustainment of our warfighting forces is key to counter-insurgency operations, which require persistent presence and logistics."
(Mr. Roger Drinnon, AMC Public Affairs, and Capt. Heather Ward, Air Forces Central Public Affairs, contributed to this story.)