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Joint Precision Airdrop Systems (JPADS)

What is it?
The JPADS is a high-altitude airdrop system that increases on-ground accuracy of aerial delivery cargo operations, allows for the use of smaller drop zones (DZ), improves aircraft survivability, delivers supplies and equipment that are packaged into "unit sets" to multiple objectives and DZs from one release point, and compensates for aircraft release point errors. Likewise, JPADS can also hit a single DZ from multiple release points.

The JPADS is a Joint interest program that combines the capabilities of two military Service programs. The Army program consists of a Global Positioning System Guided Air Vehicle made up of a decelerator (parachute) and an autonomous guidance unit that are attached to supply bearing platforms and navigate to their intended point of impact. The JPADS is most effective when used in conjunction with the Air Force's Mission Planner (JPADS-MP) program. The JPADS-MP provides for a more refined computed aerial release point or launch acceptance region by using collected atmospheric conditions (i.e., wind information) that may be transmitted to the air vehicles.

The JPADS is a Program of Record (POR). In January 2007, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved the program, and is now managed by the Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems under the Program Executive Officer for Combat Support/Combat Service Support.

The air vehicle currently consists of two fully rigged weight variants—a 2,000 lb. capability and a 10,000 lb. capability for which there are multi-Service requirements. A lighter weight air vehicle is also being developed for the U.S. Marines and special operations forces. All air vehicles look and operate similarly, and work commonly with the Air Force JPADS-MP.

What has the Army done?
The JPADS program started as an Army effort and has evolved into a Joint interest program, with the Army as the lead Service. To date, 2,000 lb. JPADS prototype systems were fielded to meet Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) requirements. In March 2007, a $3 Million contract was awarded to Airborne Systems of New Jersey to proceed with the system development and demonstration of the 2,000 lb. "Firefly" Air Vehicle. The 10,000 lb. "Dragonfly" Air Vehicle was also awarded to Airborne Systems for production.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
Due to current and planned needs in OEF, and in the wake of favorable development testing (DT) and operational testing (OT) results, an urgent materiel release (UMR) of the Firefly was exercised. While more must be sent to satisfy the total requirement (300), the initial UMR systems are currently serving and operating successfully in OEF. The Firefly will continue forward toward full development and production (Milestone C), with fielding planned for fully mature systems in 2nd Quarter, FY09.

With the exception of some 10,000 lb. advanced concepts and technology demonstration (ACTD) residuals, currently there is no Dragonfly POR capability in the Army. The Dragonfly is currently in the demonstration and validation phase with DT scheduled for early 2009.

Why is this important to the Army?
The JPADS continues to be used in support of OEF as a responsive supply/re-supply enabler, using aircraft as the distribution platform of choice in an environment that requires a greater amount of air-mobility. The JPADS has saved Soldiers' lives by augmenting ground convoy requirements and reducing rotary wing sorties. It has provided supply/re-supply to on-ground forces in areas that are so austere and geographically secluded that other means of re-supply would be excessively time or resource consuming. The JPADS has utility not only in the current overseas contingency operation, but well into the future to meet distribution requirements. As such, the source selection committee is seeking to select the system that best meets the needs of the Soldier as stated in the capabilities development document. The system chosen will properly balance performance, sustainability, cost, safety, and risk in consideration for fielding this required capability.

POC: Mr. Jack Welsh (703) 614-4052

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