The U.S. Army has successfully tested a new unmanned aerial delivery platform designed to conduct resupply missions when overland delivery is infeasible or undesirable.
The Army said in a release that in February 2023, the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) tested the GD-2000 glider (glider disposable 2000 lbs.). This glider, developed by Yates Electrospace Corporation, is an alternative to the current means of supply delivery into diverse environments. Implementation of the glider will result in enhanced capabilities of the Special Forces detachments deployed through varied, and often restrictive, terrain.
Timely and accurate resupply is imperative to the success of combat operations.
This success does not only lie with the operators on the ground but also with utilizing emerging technology. The GD-2000 is a glider platform that Special Operation Forces innovators hope will revolutionize aerial delivery to Green Berets in the field.
“It’s an autonomous aircraft that carries 1,500 pounds of payload,” said Chip Yates, CEO of Yates Electrospace, and the creator of the glider. “It flies for 15 minutes, flares and lands where you want it,” he continued.
Traditional supply delivery systems can be more cumbersome and more detectable by the enemy when compared with the glider. It was birthed out of a request from the U.S. Marine Corps as an alternative to the Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS). JPADS tend to be both larger in size and have limited ability to maneuver through the air, making them less accurate, especially over long distances or in high-wind conditions.
“What this glider does is give us a much greater [travel distance] and a much greater glide ratio into a target,” said a Special Forces detachment commander, whose team tested the glider.
The GD-2000 is a small aircraft designed to land at a precise location while being released from a greater distance than traditional supply drops. The glider can travel up to 40 miles once released and is completely disposable once on the ground, allowing it to be left in denied or contested territory without compromising the security of the Soldiers receiving the supplies or the technologies or techniques employed by the U.S. military.
“If we are able to get [the glider] up to 40,000 feet we’re looking at [travel distances] in excess of 25 to 30 miles. That’s a pretty unique capability and not matched by anything we currently have,” the commander said.
This would also allow for aerial delivery to remote islands that require a greater level of precision to reliably reach their destination. With some modifications, the designer of the glider claims it can also land and be recovered in a maritime environment, further enhancing resupply capabilities to the sort of small islands often found in the Indo-Pacific.
During the testing, the GD-2000 carried a 1,000-pound payload and was airdropped from a C-27J plane. During several drops, the glider landed within 30 meters of its intended target at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The hull of the aircraft was still intact and protected the cargo inside.
“[The glider] gives us the ability to drop this from a plane outside of controlled airspace into international air space and fly resupply in from an unmanned autonomous craft. It’s a huge enhancement to the mission” the commander said.