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Airdrop is a method of air delivery in which items including weapons, equipment, humanitarian aid or leaflets are delivered by military or civilian aircraft without landing.Developed during World War II to resupply otherwise inaccessible troops, they are themselves usually airborne troops, airdrop can also refer to the airborne assault itself.
Early airdrops were performed by dropping or pushing out padded packages from aircraft.Later, the small crate containing the parachute was pushed out of the aircraft's side cargo door.Later, cargo planes were designed with rear access ramps that could be lowered in flight, allowing large platforms to be pushed out from behind.As aircraft got bigger, the U.S.Air Force and Army developed low-altitude extraction, allowing vehicles like light tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other large supplies to be delivered. Promotional flyers are another common airdrop item.Airdrops evolved to include huge bombs as payloads.The 15,000-pound (6,800-kg) BLU-82, nicknamed the "Daisy Cutter" for its ability to turn dense forest into a helicopter landing zone in one blast, was used in the Vietnam War and most recently in Afghanistan.Nicknamed the "Mother of All Bombs," the 22,600 lb (10,250 kg) GBU-43/B was deployed to the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War. Cargo aircraft like the C-130 or C-17 are used as bombers to deliver these palletized air-dropped weapons.
In 2021, the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully demonstrated the Rapid Dragon pallet cruise missile deployment system with the characteristics of "bomb bay in a box", which allows cargo aircraft to act as a stand-off cruise missile carrier, safely away from threats independent one-time launch.The system can be loaded and deployed like a traditional pallet airdrop, and then the parachute module deploys the missile using preprogrammed coordinates or targeting data transmitted from allied units.The module requires no additional training, and after the system is launched in the cargo bay, the aircraft can resume its mission as a transport.During peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, food and medical supplies are often airdropped from United Nations and other aircraft.
The type of airdrop refers to the way the airdrop load is lowered to the ground.There are several types of airdrops, each of which can be performed using a different method.A low velocity airdrop is a type of load delivery involving a parachute, which is designed to slow the velocity of the load as much as possible, ensuring that it hits the ground with minimal force.This type of airdrop is used for delicate equipment and larger items such as vehicles.A high-speed drop is a payload delivery involving a parachute to stabilize its fall.A parachute will slow down the load, but not to the extent of a low speed airdrop. High-speed airdrops are used for durable items such as ready-to-eat meals for the military.Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) is a variant of high-speed descent, where the aircraft comes close to making touchdown without actually touching the ground, throwing the load at a very low altitude (as shown below C-130 drop tank).A free fall airdrop is an airdrop that does not have a parachute at all.A common example of such airdrops is the aerial leaflet propaganda used in psychological warfare.