MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – Marines with Landing Support Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group assisted Marine Corps Systems Command in testing the Joint Precision Airdrop System—JPADS, for short— to support the implementation and evaluation of the system Aug. 25-28, 2014, at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
The JPADS systems use GPS, a modular autonomous guidance unit, or MAGU, a parachute and electric motors to guide cargo within 150 meters of their target points. In order to test its precision, the Marines used a series of palletized loads attached to parachutes with the GPS integrated system and dropped them from various heights.
"The system is basically a guided container delivery system," said Michael Poe, MCSC JPADS project officer. "You input the coordinates into the system, and when you throw it out of the back of the aircraft, it will guide itself to that location."
The systems, when fully loaded, have the capability to safely deliver thousands of pounds of supplies at a time to forward-positioned Marines.
"If you think about it from an infantry standpoint, they need to resupply at some point, and with our current system they don't have to chase the cargo," said Lance Cpl. Andrew Anderson, LS Co., 1st MLG and a native of Brenham, Texas. "They will know where it is, and they can get in and out quickly and efficiently."
There are three variants of the JPADS system, the ultra-lightweight JPADS, which can handle drops between 250-699 pounds and the two larger systems, the 2K and the 10K, which can handle 900-2,200 pounds and 7,000-10,000 pounds, respectively.
With this new system Marine pilots can drop loads from as high up as 24,000 feet, meaning they and their crew may never have to enter the danger zone during combat operations.
"This system will be mostly beneficial for special forces operations because a lot of times they operate in remote locations, at night and in silence and secrecy," said Poe, a native of Compton, Calif. "The fact that we can drop supplies from that high means the enemy won't even know the [aircraft] is there, ensuring the safety of the pilot, the equipment and the troops on the ground."
To get the supply drops to the impact points on the ground, the MAGU links to the aircraft's GPS system to locate its position in reference to the targeted drop point. Then, the MAGU receives additional variables such as parachute type, weight and ground elevation.
Once the JPADS hits the ground, the electric motors that control the parachute's lines do a controlled line pull to collapse the chute for pickup and preventing the system from being dragged by the wind.
The Marine Corps, specifically MCSC, joined in the program in the early 2000s to get two JPADS variants as added capabilities. After several years of testing, the system is now in the final stages for three variants and will be fielded to Marine Corps units next year.