AFRL munitions experts teamed with engineers from Systima Technologies, Inc., under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop a Covert Resupply (COVRES) dispenser. The team based its design on an existing Wind- Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD™). The COVRES system, which will enable air delivery of critically needed supplies to troops who are under fire or otherwise isolated, uses the novel employment concept illustrated in Figure 1. As shown, the event sequence begins with (A) high-altitude release, and progresses as follows: (B) a WCMD tail unit provides nearprecision inertial guidance, (C) a drogue chute deploys 25 seconds prior to ground impact, (D) the drogue chute deploys the main parachute, (E) a crushable nose minimizes landing shock, and (F) quickrelease clamps enable easy access to the cargo.

Figure 1. COVRES employment concept
With the exception of the parachute container and crushable nose, the design of the COVRES canister (see Figure 2) emulates that of the WCMD, maintaining the same outer moldline, total weight, and center-of-gravity location. This matchup allows streamlined integration and certification of COVRES on a wide variety of attack, fighter, and bomber aircraft that are already qualified to carry the WCMD. Each COVRES canister can soft-land over 400 lbs of supplies, and the system's capacity may eventually exceed 700 lbs. The WCMD tail unit provides inertial guidance from aircraft release to parachute deployment, which allows the delivery platform a standoff distance of several miles. The potential exists for incorporating more accurate Global Positioning System guidance, and researchers are also investigating the possibility of implementing an extended range kit (wings) that would further increase the delivery aircraft's standoff distance.

The team designed the COVRES system to minimize not only the dangers to the delivery aircraft but also the potential disclosure of friendly force locations on the ground. In fact, the canister's release from a high-flying, fast aircraft several miles from the landing zone and the parachute's deployment approximately 25 seconds before softly impacting the ground are COVRES' two major covert features. Furthermore, once the canister reaches its destination, a person can rapidly, easily open it with just bare hands. The design team envisions COVRES as adaptable to a wide variety of payloads, including loads comprising semistandard configurations (e.g., medical supplies, ammunition, radios, and batteries) or those configured for a specific mission.

The COVRES system successfully met all test objectives during recently completed initial flight testing. A delivery aircraft released the canister at a medium altitude while flying at an airspeed less than Mach 1. A pulsed- Doppler radar system successfully initiated the parachute deployment sequence at the intended altitude, which, in turn, decelerated the COVRES unit until the canister reached its terminal velocity just prior to ground impact. Test results confirmed the landing g forces were well within the design criteria for payload survival.

Operational users have been interested—and involved— in COVRES' development since early in the SBIR effort. While multiple approaches already exist for troop resupply, the covert features of the COVRES system make it particularly appealing to the operational community. AFRL researchers are currently planning SBIR enhancement efforts to conduct additional flight testing and ultimately achieve aircraft carriage/release certification.

Mr. John Bailey, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, visit http://www.afrl.af.mil/techconn_index.asp. Reference document MN-H-06-04.


Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Horizons Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2006 issue of Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Horizons Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.