Archive for category Paracargo

Jobs: Aircraft Load Master, OCONUS

I wanted to post this one as a unique job to get into. This is a paracargo job or kicker job and you don’t see too many of these being advertised.

In the smokejumpers I used to partake in these types of operations all the time and they are pretty cool. Flying low and kicking cargo to the guys on the ground, up in some mountain range at some remote fire, is quite the experience.

As to this specific load master job, you would be working with a pretty unique aircraft (DHC 4T Turbo Caribou) and more than likely you would be working in Afghanistan. I did a post awhile back about FlightWorks winning an LCLA contract in Afghanistan and posted a video to go with it if you want to check that out.

My only advice to FlightWorks on this is that there should be some mention of the possibility of crashing or getting shot down, and that Load Masters and crew should be prepared for that possibility. Meaning they should have survival gear and weapons, and some background or training as a back up for that possibility. –Matt


Aircraft Load Master – OCONUS
Job ID: 2013-1076
Posted Date: 3/19/2013
Location: OCONUS
Category: Operations-Operation Management
De Havilland DHC-4 aircraft. Employee will participate as a non-rated crew member on approved missions flown in support of an OCONUS US Government contract.
The Load Master is responsible for accomplishing all required Load Master (non-rated crew member) duties in accordance with FlightWorks policies and procedures to include existing company training programs. The individual will also perform duties in accordance with FAA, ICAO or OEM Regulations and other tasks required to service the aircraft. The employee must be able to read and write English, interpret and apply technical data and instructions in the performance of required duties. Load Master duties are performed under the supervision of the Pilot-Command and include but are not limited to, aircraft configuration changes to support alternate missions, aircraft cargo and personnel loading and unloading operations, passenger safety briefings and other tasks as assigned. In addition to the duties stated above, the load master will also accomplish the following.
Perform non-rated crewmember duties in accordance with aircrew training program requirements.
Plan and perform LCLA airdrop operations.
Plan and perform loading and unloading activities, compute the center-of-gravity position and ensure it is within prescribed limits at all times.

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Paracargo: Contractors And Low Cost, Low Altitude Aerial Resupply In Afghanistan

“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.

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Paracargo: Afghanistan Airdrops Surpass Record Levels In 2011

“We’re surrounded by mountains — the snow sets in. The helicopter passes are impassible by helicopter and the roads could be clogged up,” Poe said in the report. “Utilizing airdrops with the GPS-guided parachutes allows us that avenue to use in case we can’t get resupplied by helicopters or vehicles by the road, which is a typical case come winter here.”

This is very cool. Logistics is so important to the war effort, and it looks like paracargo is really shining in Afghanistan. I like it because it reduces the amount of convoy operations needed, which then equates to less targets for the enemy on the ground. Attacking logistics is definitely a goal of the enemy, and paracargo is a great way to get around that. Especially when we are using precision guided paracargo systems like the JPADS. –Matt


Afghanistan airdrops surpass record levels in 2011
Posted 1/9/2012
by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
In 2011, mobility Airmen delivering airdrops reached a new annual record with 75,956,235 pounds of cargo delivered. That’s nearly 16 million more pounds delivered than the previous record set in 2010 of 60,400,000.
At more than 75.9 million pounds – that’s the equivalent of standing on a mountain top and watching 553 Army M1 Abrams tanks — or even 11,868 Chevrolet Silverado trucks — floating down from the sky with parachutes to a landing zone.
The record number, as recorded by Air Forces Central’s Combined Air Operations Center at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia, is also larger than the total number of pounds delivered in Afghanistan by airdrop from 2006 to 2009 which combined is 60,525,969 pounds.
On average mobility Airmen airdropped 6,329,686 pounds of cargo each month in 2011. Mobility Airmen completing the airdrops flew C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from various deployed bases. They also completed the airdrops in various forms – from the the use of the traditional Container Delivery System, or CDS, bundles to the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPADS.

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Publications: Journal Of International Peace Operations, September-October 2011

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Paracargo: GPS-guided Parachutes May Soon Drop Blood, Medical Supplies To Wounded Troops In Afghanistan

     I like this, but I have to think, what took you guys so long to think it up?  I mean they have already been using these types of paracargo systems for years, and just now the military is thinking about using it for medical resupply?

     What really kills me is that they predict they might be up and running with the project by January? I am sorry, but this is ridiculous and so typical of how government operates.  Put the stuff in a box, and drop it out of the airplane like you would with ammo, food, and water. Surround it with as much cushioning as it takes to insure it lands in one piece, but either way, get it done.

     In the smokejumpers, we have been dropping medical paracargo for a long time.  Stuff like oxygen bottles, IV’s and whatever else the mission required. Which is another point to bring up.  If they are going to drop this kind of bundle in any kind of wooded areas, it might be wise to also have a set of tree climbing equipment that you can toss out of the aircraft as well.  Maybe something that you could drop by GPS chute, and then at a certain altitude the tree climbing box is released with a small drogue keeping it straight but still allowing for speed of the bundle.  That way the thing can plow through the trees to the ground.

     Or if the aircraft can do a low pass, they could toss out the thing as well. In the jumpers, this is how we would do it, and those boxes would plow through the trees just so the guys on the ground could get to it for tree climbing operations.   Because getting medical supplies out of a tree requires the right equipment, and you definitely do not want to keep your patient waiting because of a bundle that is hung up.

    The aircraft could also just drop another medical bundle, but if that one gets hung up in the trees or gets lost in a river or destroyed by enemy fire, it will be equally problematic.  So it pays to have some back up tree climbing equipment just to be prepared.  That is how we did it in the smokejumpers. I realize that most of Afghanistan is not that bad tree-wise, but for those areas that guys are operating in where trees are tall enough, it is something to think about.

    Another idea is to use UAV helicopters for the task. If you want to put medical supplies on the ground and with precision, use something like that.  That’s if it is too dangerous or the conditions suck for manned flight into that spot.

     But going back to the time frame for this.  Imagine how many folks have already died, just because this capability was not in place?  I say do a couple of test runs to figure out the right kind of packaging for the load, and start this program immediately. You could get this done in a week or two, and not wait until January of next year.  Lives could be saved because of it. –Matt


GPS-guided parachutes may soon drop blood, medical supplies to wounded troops in Afghanistan


August 11, 2010

WIESBADEN, Germany — GPS-guided parachutes soon could be dropping blood supplies to medics on the battlefield, cutting down the time life-saving medical supplies reach wounded troops.

The military already uses the technology to deliver food, water and ammunition to U.S. forces in remote parts of Afghanistan. Now, the Armed Services Blood Program is working with an Army research center to put blood and other medical supplies under the parachutes instead.

If testing goes as planned, the system could be up and running by January.

Troops needing blood on the battlefield usually have to be evacuated and transported to the nearest medical facility. But evacuation is not always possible when units are under fire or if the weather prevents an emergency vehicle from traveling.

That’s when the Global Position System-guided parachutes can be a lifesaver and allow a wounded servicemember to receive blood during the critical period following an injury, said Air Force Maj. David Lincoln, Armed Services Blood Program deputy director for operations.

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Publications: GAO Report On DoD’s Progress And Challenges For Logistics In Afghanistan

     Thanks to David Isenberg for identifying this report and pointing out all the goodies. What was interesting to me was how absolutely vital contractors are to the logistics of the war in Afghanistan.  Especially for the routes coming out of Pakistan, because US military forces are not allowed to escort that stuff.  Nothing new, but as you go through this report, you get the idea of how essential we really are.  It also signifies how important it is that we get a handle on how to manage it all, because logistics is going to be big…. really big.

   Some of the things that jumped up at me as obvious fixes for some of the problems, is to stop depending on Fedex type tracking measures and gadgets, and start depending on humans as the tracking mechanism of this stuff. Because Afghan and Pakistani companies will do all they can to get rid of those GPS trackers, or not even care about these tracking mechanisms.  What matters to them is money and their ability to pilfer the cargo and blame it on a combat loss or whatever. No one is there to stop them or witness them doing this, and they will do whatever they want.  I say put competent expat companies in charge of these deliveries, with expat convoy leaders and teams, and use local Pakistani or Afghani drivers and guards as the manpower/interpreters.  This is the optimum set up if you cannot use the military to escort this stuff, and especially on the Pakistan side.

     The point is, is that you need a human that you can trust on these convoys, because gadgets can be defeated. But you also need something else that is lacking for these convoys.  And that is communications, appropriate fire power and support.  In order to have communications, appropriate fire power and support, you need folks who can help facilitate that.  Because without these basic tools for the defense of convoys, you will continue to see them get attacked and pilfered.

     As more troops pour into Afghanistan, the stability of logistics will be crucial and the current set up is unacceptable. I say put expat companies in charge, set up Pakistani QRFs and air support on their side, and US military QRF and air support on the Afghan side, and call it a day.  These forces are purely dedicated to protecting the contractor led convoys in Pakistan, and if we want, we attach military escorts as they cross into Afghanistan. Hell, we might actually kill a few bad guys along the way, and use these convoys as decoys. If the enemy wants them that bad, they will have to pay a price to get them.

     Or we can allow our logistics to be torn apart by the enemy, and we can allow untrained, mismanaged, corrupt and undisciplined Afghani or Pakistani companies to do whatever they want with that stuff. They will continue to pilfer, they will continue to shoot wildly into towns and villages as they protect convoys, and they will continue to pay off the enemy for safe transport.  That is unacceptable to me, and there is a better way.

     Might I also add that we put expat companies in charge of convoys in Iraq, and that arrangement works far better for any kind of unity of effort between civilian and military forces sharing the roads. Companies like Armorgroup definitely bet their lives on the delivery of goods and people, and they did an outstanding job(they also lost a lot of guys due to their brave work). Our lessons learned from Iraq were also built on this concept of expats being in charge, and not the other way around with Afghanis or Pakistani companies in charge of this stuff.

     Hell, in Iraq, you would see military convoys join in the protection of a expat convoy operations.  But when it came to all Iraqi security companies, military convoys or patrols would have nothing to do with them because they had no way of communicating and they really didn’t trust them. It pays to have expats in charge of operations, and it really pays when those expats have all the tools and support necessary to be successful for those convoy operations.

    I also mentioned in an earlier post about the aviation side of logistics.  The report further emphasized the difficulties that come with aviation logistics in Afghanistan.  It seems we do not have enough space on runways to handle these large transport aircraft. It will take a massive effort to construct more landing strips that can handle the large aircraft, because unfortunately, that stuff requires modern and durable runways.  In Iraq, this wasn’t an issue, but in Afghanistan this is definitely an issue. That is why I thought the STOL aircraft/paracargo contract was interesting. That is the kind of capability that can answer the call for immediate cargo or transport needs, when the troops are in trouble and things are locked up at one of the big air bases. Small and many versus the few and large for logistics. Well, check out the report and let me know what you think. –Matt


GAO: Preliminary Observations On DoD’s Progress And Challenges In Distributing Supplies And Equipment To Afghanistan

June 25, 2010

Within Afghanistan, cargo is moved to forward operating bases primarily by means of contractor-operated trucks, though military trucking assets are used in some instances.


Because no U.S. military transportation units operate in Pakistan, DOD must rely solely on private contractors to transport supplies and equipment along ground routes through the country and to provide security of the cargo while in transit. Privately contracted trucks can transport cargo through Pakistan via two routes: the northern, which crosses into Afghanistan at the border town of Torkham, and the southern, which crosses at the border town of Chaman.


Limitations on what items can be transported through Pakistan and the amount of damage sustained by cargo transiting through Pakistan also can delay the delivery of necessary supplies and equipment to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Private trucking contractors do not transport sensitive equipment on the Pakistani ground routes. Instead, such equipment must be flown into Afghanistan and then be installed onto the vehicles in Regional Command-East.

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