MONCh uses the term transformation and even innovation rather sparingly in describing defence products and programmes introduced to the community. But after a walkabout on the SOFIC conference floor and visit to the exhibition floor booth of UK-based Airborne Systems Limited, I am ready to declare the company’s ATAX efforts have the opportunity to elevate the technology baseline of the airborne delivery sector and transform these missions. This effort appears to be evolving none too soon. As some observers were again ready to consign strategic airdrop to the dustbin of history, earlier this month the US resumed strategic airdrops into southern Afghanistan, reflecting the deteriorating security conditions in the country. Indeed, a US Air Force C-17 conducted the type’s first airdrop into Afghanistan in 18 months.
Fast forward to Airborne Systems’ successful live drops dubbed “ATAX” – the Rapid Rig/De-Rig Aerial Delivery System for air delivering single and sequential cargo and vehicle loads. The author watched several videos at the booth with Mark Hennessy the company’s business manager, depicting these successful ATAX test and evaluation missions.
A press release provided by Mr. Hennessy further explained the “ATAX Rapid Rig/De-Rig Aerial Delivery System’s simplistic design overcomes the challenges that are associated with the aerial delivery of military assets, that are much needed to support todays modern service members in the harshest of environments.”
Mr. Hennessy similarly emphasized that significant time is lost in the preparation and rigging of vehicles, to the extent that valuable assets are quite literally “tied-up” waiting for potential deployment. In short, the traditional approach to aerial delivery requires considerable rigging time and expendable material, takes up valuable (usable) space and has a substantial environmental impact on the drop zone.
Enter ATAX, which is designed to eliminate the use of EDM (Energy Dissipating Material) allowing vehicles to be driven onto the platform and rigged in a matter of minutes (without the need for tools or specialist lifting equipment). “With no EDM to remove, the de-rig of the load is quicker still, most importantly reducing the time that personnel are exposed to threat and minimising the amount of debris left on the drop zone. Post-delivery, ATAX is easily disassembled and quickly readied for recovery, all packing down within the footprint of a single 8ft [2.4m] module,” the document added.
ATAX successfully delivers this advantage by the use of tried and tested, reusable airbag-deceleration packs that slot into the platform. The flexible, modular construction of ATAX allows for the quick configuration of multiple loads, whether it be miscellaneous stores, vehicles or small/large inflatable boats. “Deployable from multiple aircraft (including C130, C17 or A400M) ATAX will transform the landscape of Aerial Delivery,” the document declared.
Beyond these aircraft, ATAX holds the potential to be scaled – permitting air delivery from other military aircraft, including the C-295 and others.