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Airbags make military equipment deployment faster

Swatches | October 1, 2023 | By:

The Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System (RRDAS) has 10 reusable airbags. It is shown during testing, cushioning a heavy equipment drop.
The Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System (RRDAS) has 10 reusable airbag modules. It is undergoing testing and is expected to greatly reduce the quantity of honeycombed cardboard required for airdrops. This will also make equipment mobilization much faster. Photo: Mark Schauer/U.S. Army

In remote regions when time is of the essence, a new airdrop system using reusable U.S.-made airbags will potentially get soldiers out of harm’s way faster.

Currently, heavy equipment and material loads between 5,000 pounds and 22,000 pounds are parachuted down to soldiers using a system that includes honeycombed cardboard material to cushion the impact. The paper is crushed upon touchdown, and it then has to be cut away from a vehicle’s tires before the vehicle can be driven off of the steel airdrop pallet. The new Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System (RRDAS), tested in Yuma, Ariz., has 10 reusable airbag modules that self-inflate while it’s descending and uses much less of the honeycombed paper, lowering de-rigging time by 2.5 hours. 

The system also has outriggers to keep the delivered equipment from flipping over upon touchdown.

The prototype of the RRDAS system, ATAX, was tested in Yuma in 2020–21, which led to the development of the RRDAS. Developmental testing of the RRDAS was expected to wrap up this year. It is planned to be deployed in fiscal year 2025, with additional testing at Yuma following feedback from operational testing for two years at Fort Bragg, N.C. Testing will also investigate heavier load weights and longer platforms.

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