Driving through the Mojave Desert earlier today I spotted a couple of USAF C-130Js on a very low-level sortie over the Cords Road area of the Edwards AFB R-2508 range complex. The 418th Flight Test Squadron and the C-130 Flight Test Team at Edwards have been doing a lot of low-level, high speed flying recently to demonstrate a new airdrop technique called the HSCDS (high speed container delivery system).
Flying low north of Kramer Junction (Guy Norris)
Testing including drops from altitudes as low as 250 ft at speeds up to 245 knots compared to the more standard 140 knots. Instead of gravity dropping, the HSCDS uses a parachute extraction method. Tests also included evaluation of aircraft structural limits and crew workloads. In spite of the higher speeds and lower altitudes, the new drop system is designed to be safer than the standard cargo delivery procedure because aircraft will be less exposed to small arms fire from the ground. It will also be easier for aircrew to climb out over nearby steep terrain, and will place containers closer together and closer to the target area.
HSCDS testing as seen from inside the C-130J. U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Neill
Following initial development, the HSCDS was scheduled to go through operational test and evaluation by Air Mobility Command and the Army. The airdrop system is concurrently being tested on other cargo aircraft types at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.