US Special Forces are testing GPS navigation technology to help guide parachuted soldiers and supplies to the correct location, writes Rob Coppinger.

At the US Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, the airdrop technology team is evaluating three military free fall (MFF) navigation systems.

Special Forces soldiers are to use the MFF system during high-altitude, high-opening parachute jumps, which take place above 25,000ft (7,620m) and many kilometres from a target.

Bad weather and obscured landing areas result in soldiers arriving at the wrong location and the GPS guidance is expected to resolve this. "Once they are on final approach within a kilometre [the soldiers] should be able to identify the target," says US Army project officer Daniel Shedd.

A next-generation prototype should be ready in six months. That will link a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a GPS unit to a head-up display attached to a soldier's helmet. The PDA could show a map with alternate target locations and windspeeds.

Windspeed information would also aid automatic parachute guidance systems for the Joint Precision Aerial Delivery System, which will deliver supplies.

The technology has been developed in co-operation with European armed forces.

Source: Flight International