26-29 May 2008

NATO sponsors
a Precision Airdrop Capabilities demonstration

From 26 to 29 May 2008 NATO sponsored a Precision Airdrop Capabilities demonstration at the Centre d’Essais Lancement de Missiles at Biscarrosse and at Cazaux Air Base in France. During this event the latest in precision aerial delivery systems and technology was demonstrated, such as GPS-guided cargo parachute equipment, mission planners, personnel guidance and weather systems.

These systems can operate under “all weather” conditions, allowing delivery aircraft to accurately drop loads at very high altitudes, thus avoiding many ground-based threats.

During this 3-day event, a total of 49 equipment loads were dropped and 21 special operation forces and military paratroopers were delivered from high altitudes and synchronized to special operations scenarios which included team insertion, logistic re-supply and delivery of essential mission equipment.   

13 nations attended the event, with 150 national and NATO participants including military, industry, aircrews and jumpers. Systems from 8 nations were demonstrated and displayed.  Belgium, France, Germany and USA all provided transport aircraft. 

The unique capabilities of precision air drop technologies for SOF application were demonstrated to include loading flexibility, high altitude release,  high stand-off, rapid and accurate delivery of mission essential equipment, and autonomous terminal guidance.  The demonstration also helped increase interoperability for mission planning and embarkation procedures between air, ground and loadmaster crews.

Precision airdrop technology for special operations forces is one of 11 initiatives undertaken by NATO’s Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) Defense Against Terrorism (DAT) Programme of Work.

The purpose of the programme is to develop new, cutting-edge technology, or adapt existing technology to protect troops and civilians from terrorist attacks. It was approved as part of an enhanced set of measures to strengthen the Alliance’s contribution to the fight against terrorism by NATO leaders at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004.

During their last meeting on 24 April 2008, the CNAD welcomed recent developments in the Precision Airdrop initiative which they stated, “could help NATO military authorities address the serious shortfall in helicopters”.

The US has the lead on this initiative and the demonstration in France, the 4th conducted under the DAT programme, is an important milestone for the evolution of this technology.