Army tests new water, fuel bladders for airdrop

CAMP MACKALL, N.C. — Army para­troop­ers here com­plet­ed two of three test drops Nov. 10 to cer­ti­fy a new water and fuel con­tain­er sys­tem for air­drops in Afghanistan and else­where.


Each drop of two Life­lin­er con­tain­er-uni­tized bulk equip­ment, or CUBEs, deliv­ered hun­dreds of gal­lons of water safe­ly to the ground under dual, 100-foot-wide para­chutes from over 1,000 feet, accord­ing to the project lead, John Mahon of the U.S. Army Nat­ick Sol­dier Research, Devel­op­ment & Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter of Nat­ick, Mass. 

A third drop sched­uled for the same day was scratched due to mechan­i­cal issues aboard the air­craft, said Mahon. 

The new con­tain­er, a polypropy­lene blad­der-like “blivet” nest­ed inside a recy­clable plas­tic box, was devel­oped to meet spec­i­fi­ca­tions request­ed by the 101st Sus­tain­ment Brigade cur­rent­ly deployed to Afghanistan, he said. 

The CUBE can be trans­port­ed by truck or slin­gloaded beneath a heli­copter, and unlike the old 500-gal­lon blivets, these 400-gal­lon sys­tems can be stacked sev­er­al high to reduce their stor­age footprint. 

To meet cur­rent rig­ging guide­lines and avoid delays, the air­dropped blivets were filled to less than their max­i­mum capacity. 

The CUBE is 40 per­cent the cost of the cur­rent mod­el, and when col­lapsed, can be han­dled by one per­son and stacked for storage. 

For the test drops, the team was aid­ed by sus­tain­ment para­troop­ers with the 82nd Air­borne Division’s 1st Brigade Com­bat Team, along with para­chute rig­gers and heavy-equip­ment oper­a­tors from the 82nd Sus­tain­ment Brigade, he said. 

Lt. Col. Paul Narows­ki, senior logis­ti­cian with 1BCT and com­man­der of the 307th Brigade Sup­port Bat­tal­ion, said that val­i­dat­ed air­drop-rig­ging pro­ce­dures will ensure that, no mat­ter where a force is on the bat­tle­field, 400 gal­lons of fuel, water or uni­tized sup­plies can be deliv­ered by sur­face, slin­gload or airdrop. 

A pio­neer of low-cost, low-alti­tude sup­ply drop tech­niques in Afghanistan, Narows­ki sees the CUBE sys­tem as anoth­er rel­a­tive­ly low-cost method of resup­ply­ing small bases. 

“Use of the CUBE will sup­port objec­tives to draw down forces and equip­ment in [Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom] by pro­vid­ing stor­age and dis­tri­b­u­tion capa­bil­i­ty to the warfight­er at a great­ly-reduced cost,” he added. 

The 11th Quar­ter­mas­ter heavy drop air­drop sys­tems tech­ni­cian, Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Ter­ry Wright, said that because many of the civil­ian engi­neers were for­mer rig­gers — Mahon served 31 years — work­ing with them went par­tic­u­lar­ly well. 

Where­as a typ­i­cal Army pro­gram from con­cept to oper­a­tional tests can take 6–8 years, because the project was fast-tracked, oper­a­tional test­ing was achieved in just over a year, Mahon said. 

To date, 200 sys­tems have already been field­ed to deployed units with more on the way, he said. He hopes to cer­ti­fy the CUBE’s air­drop capa­bil­i­ty and have a draft of air­drop pro­ce­dures ready with­in the next 30–60 days. 

US Army

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