Resupplying troops in theater is a dangerous, but essential, part of executing any military mission. The Air Force has been instrumental in ensuring that ground troops have the supplies they need, thanks to programs like Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), where
supplies are dropped within a certain perimeter. However, when the payload lands, a convoy must pick up those supplies. With pressure to increase fuel economy, short-distance convoys and lightweight vehicles are becoming a reality. Though this saves money, convoy’s face considerable vulnerability from enemy fire or improvised explosive devices (IED). The further the drop site from the convoy’s starting point, the more threat they face and the more fuel they
There’s convincing proof that reducing fuel consumption isn’t just about economics. In November 2009, Deloitte released a report called “Energy security – America’s best defense; a study of increasing dependence on fossil fuels in wartime, and its contribution to ever higher casualty rates”, that demonstrates the development and use of alternative energy can directly reduce wartime casualties. Similarly, an Army Environmental Policy Institute
report titled “Sustain the mission project: casualty factors for fuel and water resupply convoys” calculates that a 10% reduction in fuel consumption over a five-year period could lead to a reduction of 35 fuel-related resupply casualties over the same period.
The Air Force, with help from Wright Brothers Institute – Works is working on a vehicle that may help maintain the balance between fuel efficiency and safety. The Standoff Tactical Operation Resupply Kit (STORK) is a fabric winged glider designed to deliver cargo
autonomously to a predetermined target. STORK will deploy in a stowed configuration from a cargo aircraft (i.e. C-130). Once deployed, the STORK aircraft will then transform into its flight configuration. STORK is designed to carry and deliver a payload of 300-500 lbs. with a net weight of 650 lbs. Because it requires no fuel, it’s extremely cost effective.
STORK’s other advantage is safety. It acts as a one-time use mechanism that provides essential cargo from a standoff distance. STORK increases the range from which the AF can air deliver cargo keeping the cargo aircraft pilots and crew safe from ground fire. Current capabilities (i.e. JPADS) can deliver cargo with a 3.5 : 1 glide ratio. This means the cargo travels 3.5 feet horizontally for every 1 foot it falls vertically. STORK has an anticipated glide ratio of 10:1 with a potential for 14:1. Compared to current systems, this significant
improvement in range means it can fly longer and farther, increasing safety for air and ground troops.
Wright Brothers Institute is providing the environment, equipment and expertise to assist AFRL in the creation of STORK. Computer aided design for mechanical systems, such as Solidworks models, assemblies, and drawings have been essential to STORK’s progress.
Beyond design, WBI is providing all the electromechanical architecture, critical to the unique wing deployment mechanism, tail deployment mechanism and flight control actuation systems. Testing onsite in Arizona will allow the AFRL/WBI team to iterate on the design, fabricate quickly and ultimately provide a safer resupply solution to the United States Military.