The Army’s new medium brigades, designed so they can deploy
overseas and be ready to fight within 96 hours, currently would
need 300 hours just to have their ammunition transported by air
and delivered to the combat zone.
The reason that it takes 300 hours is not because of the flying
time, but rather the cumbersome process of unloading ammunition
pallets from airplanes and moving them to areas where Army logistics
trucks can pick them up and get them to the front lines.
The Army now believes it can cut the 300 hours down to less than
100. That would be accomplished through the use of special pallets,
three versions of which currently are in development. These pallets
would be customized to fit inside Air Force aircraft cargo compartments
and also would be sized to hold the Army’s standardized ammunition
cargo beds, called flat-racks or CROPs (containerized roll-in/out
platforms). The CROP fits inside a 20-foot ISO container.
There are three pallet designs competing for a contract award,
explained Douglas M. Chesnulovitch, project engineer for ammunition
logistics at the Army’s Armaments Research Development and
The $1 million project was funded jointly by the Army’s Training
and Doctrine Command, the Army Materiel Command and by the contractors
competing for the award.
One design, called the “shoe,” is made by a Michigan-based
firm, AAR Cadillac Manufacturing. Another concept, developed by
the Boeing Company, is called the “slipper.” The third
system is a roller platform for air delivery (RPAD), also made by
AAR Cadillac and by a British firm called Joloda International.
Unlike the shoe and the slipper, the RPAD goes on top of the CROP,
explained Chesnulovitch in an interview. It is used to transfer
463L standard Air Force pallets from the back of an Army PLS truck
to an Air Force cargo-loading vehicle.
The PLS is the palletized loading system truck, used by the Army
to haul ammunition containers.
The RPAD and the shoe complement each other, he said. The Army
sometimes transports supplies on a CROP and other times on 463L
pallets. The shoe, the slipper and the RPAD are compatible with
both, said Chesnulovitch.
All three technologies were tested in early to mid-December at
Pope Air Force Base, N.C. “Based on those trials, the Army
will decide whether to acquire these items,” he said. “It’s
my belief that the prototypes offered by the contractors offer us
great capability. It will be up to the program manager to decide.”
That will be James Sutton, the Army’s program manager for
heavy tactical vehicles. “[The new pallet devices] make for
faster and easier loading into the aircraft,” he said in an
interview. Flat-racks thus can be loaded and fastened into C-130,
C-141, C-17 or C-5A cargo aircraft without a lot of tie-down equipment,
such as straps and cables.
Sutton’s office expects to assume management of the program
by January 2001. He said the Army could purchase up to 90 shoe devices
for each interim brigade combat team (IBCT), two of which are being
stood up in Fort Lewis, Wash. “We are awaiting funding for
the first year of the program,” said Sutton.
There are 70 CROPs in each brigade, so Chesnulovitch speculated
that the Army will need 140 shoes or slippers for both brigades
in 2001. A smaller number, maybe 30 to 50, of RPAD devices could
be purchased as well.
The current process for delivering ammunition by air is “slow
and laborious,” because it requires special fork trucks to
transport the supplies from the point of debarkation in the airfield
to the ammunition area, said Paul Chiodo, acting associate technical
director at the Armaments Research Development and Engineering Center.
“We have to unload planes, move the load by truck to the [ammo]
area, and then to the PLS trucks,” said Chiodo. “That
is extremely time consuming.”
The Army’s PLS CROP was not designed to travel in the aircraft.
Typically, the CROP has to be moved from the PLS truck onto a forklift.
The forklift moves the CROP to an Air Force aircraft loader. The
loader then transfers it onto the cargo airplane, where it has to
be manually chained down.
The AAR Cadillac Manufacturing Co. is under contract for the development
of a shoe prototype, called the M3 CROP shoe, said Stephen W. Peckham,
the company’s vice president for military sales. AAR has a
patent pending for this product.
The M3 CROP prototype unit was tested last month at Fort Bragg,
N.C. It is 20 feet long by 9 feet wide and 8.3 inches high. It weighs
The shoe’s competitor currently is in development by the
Boeing Co. “Our product, which we call ‘slipper’
is a play on words, because it’s lighter than the original
‘shoe’ program,” said Dan Page, Boeing’s
marketing representative for the C-17 heavy-lift cargo airplane,
which is made by Boeing.
“The Army asked us to help ... to make it quick and easy
to move [ammunition CROPs] from the PLS truck on to the C-17 without
using material handling equipment, such as an aircraft loader or
a forklift,” Page said in an interview. The only additional
piece of equipment needed, he said, is an adapter for the truck.
The slipper project started out as a Boeing-funded effort, but
is now receiving Army funding to demonstrate the technology, Page
said. The company has built several prototypes, which are being
tested at military installations.
This is how the slipper works: Each ammunition CROP is attached
to a slipper device—two rectangular pieces of metal connected
by two cables along the long end of the rectangle. The slipper is
lifted (by a person) off the CROP and placed onto the ramp of the
C-17, and locked in place. Then the PLS truck backs up and aligns
with the ramp. The PLS crane lifts the CROP and sets it on one of
the two rectangles on the ramp of the C-17. Then, as the CROP is
pushed on to the C-17, the slipper acts as an interface between
the CROP and the rails, helping move the cargo onboard.
Boeing expects to compete for an Army contract award. But whether
or not it will build the pallets has not been resolved, said Page.
If the Boeing design wins, the company may license it to another
According to Page, the slipper only works with the C-17. The design
is customized, said Page, because the C-17 system of rails and locks
Chesnulovitch, however, said that both the shoe and the slipper
will work in all aircraft. AAR’s shoe design, he explained,
was tailored to the 108-inch width of the C-130. Boeing designed
the slipper to accommodate the 88-inch width of the C-17 so the
Air Force could put CROPs side by side inside the C-17, he explained.
“The widths are different, but all pallets will operate on
all Air Force aircraft. It’s just a matter of what kind of
tie-downs [that] we would have to employ.”
Even though the slipper was customized for the rails and locks
of the C-17, it could be loaded onto a C-130 and be tied down, said
Chesnulovitch. The Air Force, meanwhile, has to certify that these
platforms can be used on aircraft, he said. “We are attempting
to get the Air Force players on board the program, once they have
had a chance to look at our systems and data.”