“These airdrops bring the supplies closer to the troops, and lowers the risk of IED attacks by taking convoys off dangerous roads,” Bobby Robinson, a government civilian logistician, told an Air Force public affairs officer last year.

I don’t think people realize how significant LCLA resupply is to the war effort. Every paracargo bundle dropped, is one less convoy operation that could be exposed to IED’s. It get’s the troops off of the roads and diminishes the effectiveness of IED’s. That’s unless the Taliban can figure out how to mine the sky? lol

But what is key here is the amount of contractor involvement with this crucial logistics method. Below I have posted three separate bits of news that when combined, are pretty significant.

The first is a video showing an old Caribou dropping paracargo in Afghanistan. Wired’s Danger Room did a great little post on this and got some quotes about what was going on with it. No word on what company this is, but I am sure the Caribou clubs know and are cheering them on. I also would not be surprised if the pilots are former smokejumper pilots, because the way they were dropping that stuff is exactly how the jumpers would do this.

The Army deployed to Marzak in January. Anticipating the need to supply it and other remote locations, in October the Army hired a boutique resupply company built around a single, 50-year-old DeHavilland Caribou and 15 civilian pilots, staff and ground crew. The Caribou and its crews, based at Bagram airfield near Kabul, are asked to do things most military airlifters cannot: Fly low and fast to drop small loads of critical supplies with pinpoint accuracy.

The company, whose name we’ve been asked to keep secret, began flying resupply missions in October. Since then, it has delivered more than a million pounds of cargo, according to a source close to the company. The secret to its success is the skill of the flight crews, the mechanics’ meticulous maintenance of the 1960s-vintage Caribou and upgrades to the rugged plane’s engines that give it extra oomph. “It makes for a perfect LCLA airdrop platform,” the source tells Danger Room.

“Low-Cost, Low-Altitude airdrops by civilians in Afghanistan is an extremely vital asset that’s usually overlooked by most,” the source continues. The lack of publicity could be intended to spare the Air Force any embarrassment. After all, until recently the flying branch did possess one small airlifter in the Caribou’s general category that could possibly have equaled the civilian plane’s low, pinpoint drops. The would be the C-27J, built by Alenia.

On a side note, smokejumpers used this aircraft for operations back in the day. We have used all sorts of aircraft, and we still use the DC-3 from WW2! lol  I remember watching this really cool 70’s video of some smokejumpers doing some loadmaster work out of a Caribou over some forest fire. The footage was amazing and vintage, and in color!  If I find it or someone posts it on youtube, I will put it up one of these days.

The next bit of news is that FlightWorks Inc. just won a $13,182,338 firm-fixed-price contract for LCLA resupply in Afghanistan.  They also have to provide short take off and landing aircraft for the contract.  That means aircraft that can land on small runways up in the mountains, much like how smokejumpers use their aircraft to supply folks. No word yet on what type of aircraft Flightworks Inc. will use, or if they will be using their own loadmasters or not.

Last I had heard, contract aircraft would fly the stuff, but military loadmasters would kick it. Maybe that has changed and we will see. I would also be curious as to what this company will do for preparing pilot, air crew, and aircraft for combat operations? Because dumping this stuff at low levels will definitely expose them to enemy attacks. Dangerous stuff, and if an aircraft crashes, that air crew must have the tools necessary to survive until rescue. From weapons to first aid supplies to survival items–they must be prepared.

The last story though is the most eye opening. The military just announced multiple contracts totaling $838 million for the manufacture and purchase of pre-packed paracargo chutes. That is a lot of cargo chutes.

But what I was most concerned with is that they are one time use–supposedly. That is surprising to me if true. These chutes should be re-packed and used over and over again. What a waste of parachutes by just using them once and throwing them away?  If anything, a company could be contracted to re-pack them in Afghanistan, and re-distribute those chutes to aerial resupply units that need them. Either use a local company that is managed well by professional cargo chute packers (contract civilian Master Riggers?) and re-use these things. That is what makes the concept ‘low cost’. Here is the quote from the author of the post.

These so-called LCLV parachutes are one-time-use ‘chutes designed to deliver fuel, ammo and food to troops at isolated bases in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They’re packed into a “Low-Cost Container” as part of the Army’s “Low Cost Aerial Delivery Systems” program. Beginning to notice a pattern?

Perhaps the author of the blog post made a mistake here and that there is a paracargo packing system in place to re-use this stuff? That is how we used paracargo chutes in the smokejumpers, and those things can last forever if taken care of properly.  One chute can be used for hundreds of paracargo missions, and when I was jumping, we would pack and use everything form the old French Cross military cargo chutes to converted and chopped up older/out of service canopies. Jumpers would repair these cargo chutes to get even more use out of them, and it was a system that worked great. Even our rigging was re-usable.

Either way, this is great to see private industry meet the requirements for these crucial logistics. We are also flying helicopters and cargo aircraft all over Afghanistan, and private aviation is crucial to the logistics there. It also saves lives, because every bundle that can be flown, is one less bundle that has to be transported on IED infested roads. –Matt

 

 

FlightWorks, Inc., Kennesaw, Ga., was awarded a $13,182,338 firm-fixed-price contract.
The award will provide for the short take off and landing and low cost low altitude aerial resupply services in Afghanistan.
Work will be performed in Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 26, 2012.
One bid was solicited, with one bid received.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (W560MY-11-C-0005).

 

Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Chad Chisholm A flock of Low-Cost, Low-Velocity parachutes gently drop bundles of needed supplies to a remote forward operating base in Afghanistan.

 

They Better Be 100% Silk
By Mark Thompson
April 18, 2012
Five of the first six contract awards announced Tuesday were for parachutes costing nearly $1 billion. All five contracts were for “low-cost, low velocity parachutes.” Alas, as is becoming increasingly common, the contract announcements don’t specify how many are being bought, so it’s difficult to assess the “low cost” claim. We trust the competition keeps prices down.
These so-called LCLV parachutes are one-time-use ‘chutes designed to deliver fuel, ammo and food to troops at isolated bases in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They’re packed into a “Low-Cost Container” as part of the Army’s “Low Cost Aerial Delivery Systems” program. Beginning to notice a pattern?
The parachutes aren’t made of silk, but of a polypropylene fabric similar to that often used for sand bags. “These airdrops bring the supplies closer to the troops, and lowers the risk of IED attacks by taking convoys off dangerous roads,” Bobby Robinson, a government civilian logistician, told an Air Force public affairs officer last year. “LCLV parachutes look like a big Hefty bag flying in mid-air.”
They’re dropped at a rate of less than 28 feet a second from cargo planes at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1,250 feet. Each can deliver up to 2,200 pounds.


Last year, the military was flying the parachutes to Afghanistan aboard C-5 and C-17 cargo planes, as well as hired 747s, due to the need to supply troops on the front lines.
The ‘chutes come prepackaged from the factories, which saves a lot of time in the field. “If not for prepacking,” retired Air Force General Duncan McNabb recently noted, “we could not sustain our current airdrop volume with legacy methods.” These ‘chutes now account for 96% of the airdrops in Afghanistan.
Still, it’s surprising, according to Tuesday’s contract awards, that we’re spending $838 million buying more parachutes to airdrop vital supplies to U.S. troops who have been waging war on the ground in Afghanistan for more than a decade. This is not a good leading indicator, as the economists might say.
Too bad there isn’t a way to parachute out of Afghanistan. Don’t fret, McNabb says in Air & Space Power Journal: they’re working on it. “In spite of its huge success, airdrop is one-way-only,” he concedes, “so we are now exploring ways to conduct two-way mobility operations just about anywhere in the world.”
Story here.