Troops in hostile environments need supplies that cannot safely arrive by truck due to enemy combatants or rugged terrain. Our U.S. soldiers conducting in-theater resupply distribution operations face enemy action targeted at non-armored combat service support vehicles, often with devastating effects (e.g., rocket propelled grenades [RPGs], improvised explosive devices [IEDs], etc.). There are also significant risks and shortfalls associated with conducting conventional airdrop operations. Drops below the altitude of 2,000 feet are more accurate, but are subject to small arms and anti-aircraft artillery. In these circumstances, the U.S. military relies on airdrops from cargo planes, which can fly above any anti-aircraft weapons. However, the drops must be accurate to ensure they land with our troops rather than the enemy. Dropping cargo from 25,000 feet above sea level and having it land within 60 meters at 80-percent accuracy of its designated impact point may look easy in the movies, but the real-life physics of such a feat are daunting. Delivering cargos of varying weights via autonomously guided precision airdrops from the hold of a C-130, C-17, and other aircraft to isolated ground troops in an active warzone is a huge challenge, and one that Engility is helping to meet.
Engility’s team at Picatinny Arsenal is assisting in the transition of the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), a fully autonomous global positioning system (GPS)-guided cargo delivery system that was executed jointly between the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Air Mobility Command (AMC) and U.S. Army Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems (PM-FSS). Engility is supporting the transition of the JPADS software and hardware from the contractor (Draper Laboratory) to the Armament Software Engineering Center (Armament SEC) for both the current and future materiel releases. Prior to the Armament SEC’s involvement, JPADS software releases were being fielded without formal baselines. Initially, Engility’s involvement was faced with the challenge of identifying and managing many versions of the JPADS that were not baselined and had been sent out in the field without any real oversight over inventory or software updates to the fielded systems. Since May 2012, our experienced Engility configuration management team supported the Armament SEC with the review and baselining of four JPADS software versions for materiel release to the field. Having achieved a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 5 rating in the 2010 Armament SEC appraisal, our Engility team ensures a higher level of software lifecycle quality on the existing and future JPADS software baseline releases. All formal release requests of JPADS software are now under configuration management control at the Armament SEC at Picatinny Arsenal, ensuring controlled software baselines.
The U.S. military has used airdrops as a means of delivering supplies to support military and humanitarian missions around the world. JPADS is an integral part of the war efforts, providing a way to safely deliver supplies to our troops in the field while keeping our U.S. soldiers far away from insurgents. Guided systems allow aircraft to remain above 20,000 feet, where they are less audible and visible in daylight conditions. In addition, JPADS can steer to the impact point, and supplies can be airdropped from any flight vector, allowing for a controlled dispersion of loads.