SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Water, food and ammunition are only useful if they make it to the people who need them. Fortunately for battlefield Airmen, Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan these supplies are flown in using the Joint Precision Airdrop System.
C-17 Globemaster IIIs at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing are employing JPADS enabling them to drop cargo with pinpoint precision.
"The main benefit of the airdrop mission is that it is the most expedient method to deliver vital munitions and supplies to our ground forces where re-supply by ground is either impossible or too risky," said Capt. Tony Truette, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron maintenance operations officer, and the Airman charged with ensuring proper maintenance, installation, and functionality of the JPAD system.
If everything goes as planned, JPADS helps to get the goods to the ground troops with enough accuracy to save them from anything more than a quarter-mile hike. Within one small box and a portable computer lies the technology to make it happen.
JPADS is a laptop-based, high-altitude precision airdrop mission planning system designed to use real-time wind and topographic data to deliver supplies as close as possible to the ground troops. Shifting winds will be less likely veer cargo off course forcing ground troops to trek a long way or into danger when picking up their supplies.
Simple and reliable is how it's described by one pilot who is responsible for using JPADS while flying C-17 airlift missions. JPADS are typically operated by experienced pilots such as Maj. Kevin Peterson, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-17 weapons officer, who has used the system during combat sorties over Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The JPADS allow us to perform more accurately, update the wind modules real-time and fly from a higher altitude - which keeps us out of range of insurgent ground fire," said the major who is deployed here from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. "We get reports back from the guys on the ground after every drop. They're always very appreciative. The ground guys need us to drop their supplies within a few hundred yards of their tents at some locations, and the accuracy of JPADS allows us to do that safely."
The hour it takes to install the system into an aircraft is worth the possible three hours it could take ground troops to hike to supplies that may not hit the drop zone correctly, said Tech. Sergeant Jonathon Welsh, 8th EAMS communication navigation mission systems specialist deployed from McChord, AFB, Wash. Sergeant Welsh is responsible for loading JPADS onto airlift assets and conducting systems checks prior to missions.
"It also decreases the need for convoys. If you can airlift cargo in, you don't have to truck it." He said.
Hundreds of convoys move cargo throughout the theater per day -- each facing the threat of enemy fire or roadside improvised explosive devices.
"A secondary benefit of the airdrop mission is that it reduces the requirement to move these same munitions and supplies in a convoy operation, which as we know are heavily prone to IED (improvised explosive device) attacks and ambush from insurgent ground forces," Captain Truette said, deployed here from McChord AFB.
Overall, JPADS enhances the airdrop mission by allowing the aircrew to remain at a higher altitude out of range of ground fire while at the same time enabling them to airdrop the munitions and supplies precisely where ground forces need them.
"The end result being our ground forces are always ready to take the fight to the insurgents in the Global War on Terrorism," Captain Truette said.
The 8th EAMS and 816th EAS, are tenant units of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.