By Capt. Brian Maguire
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron executed the first combat Extracted Container Delivery System airdrop the morning of April 29, successfully demonstrating the increased accuracy that this new technology provides.
The new airdrop method, known by the shorthand XCDS, is designed to pull the CDS bundles out of the aircraft at a faster rate than the current airdrop process, which improves the overall accuracy of the drop itself.
“Normally a bundle falls out of the aircraft due to gravity, with the speed mostly dependent on the deck angle of the aircraft,” said Capt. Raeanna Elms, 772nd EAS and Longmont, Colo., native who is deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base. “With XCDS, there is an additional parachute attached to a group of bundles, that pulls them out of the aircraft together and at a faster speed, resulting in a smaller dispersion area on the ground.”
For the loadmasters working with the CDS bundles, the new method adds more complexity to the rigging inside the aircraft, said Senior Airman Marisa Powers, 772nd EAS loadmaster and Coventry, R.I., native. Because of the added complexity, Powers and her fellow loadmaster on the mission were very thorough in their preparations.
“We needed to seriously hit the books more than usual, get in there and read everything a million times and understand,” Powers, who is deployed from the 143rd Airlift Wing of the Rhode Island National Guard, said. “My partner and I felt like we did a great job, sitting there for a solid two hours and highlighting, saying ‘this is what I feel like is important and we›ll go over it again tonight.’”
Crews with the 772nd EAS received some XCDS training back at home station before deploying. For Powers, the training included one flight back in the States, plus ground qualification. They came here qualified, but the new procedures still had a learning curve.
“It was definitely a little more complicated of a drop,” Powers said. “Because it was the first time in theater we obviously didn’t want to mess it up, but we went line by line, sentence by sentence to double, triple check that every tie was made right, that every knot was in place.”
Powers was part of the aircrew on the first mission, and her humble nature made the airdrop sound as if it was no big deal.
“I’m just doing my job. It’s awesome that we were the first, but I was just doing my job,” she said. “All that aside, it’s the mission in the end we’re looking towards, it’s the safety of the guys on the other end receiving it. It’s all about helping the guys downrange.”
After the bundles were pulled out the back of the aircraft, a surprising sight, according to Powers, since the CDS bundles usually trickle out the back, the accuracy of the XCDS drop was proven. The dispersion of the bundles on the drop zone was about two-thirds smaller, highlighting the value of the XCDS method in having the best placement for the soldiers.
“Our goal is to get the people on the ground what they need, where they want it,” Elms said. “Plus, since we’re trying to build a positive relationship with the local people, we want a more accurate airdrop method that reduces the risk of a stray bundle damaging their homes and crops.”