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Austere Cargo Offload and Onload System


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Trusted AI and Autonomy;Advanced Computing and Software


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop a system capable of working with the 463L Pallet Cargo Handling System to offload and onload cargo pallets from aircraft in austere and standard environments.


DESCRIPTION: Numerous government and private industry groups have experienced the challenges of material handling in an austere environment where normal methods, supported by local infrastructure, are sparse or non-existent. Current technology designed to be supported by local infrastructure does not translate well to austere environments for a multitude of reasons.   Austere environments can be expected to include non-paved surfaces, rolling terrain, poor access to local material handling equipment, poor access to local energy sources including suitable fuel, and tight access to airfields and aprons. Furthermore, existing onload/offload equipment is large and heavy, prohibiting transport with the cargo. In a future fight, it is expected cargo aircraft like C-130s and C-17s will have to increasingly rely on austere bases that are smaller and lack modern aerial port amenities.   In order to align with operational imperative 5 (see Reference 1), resilient basing, a system needs to be developed that allows for easy offload and onload of cargo in the 463L Pallet Cargo Handling System (see Reference 2) on C-130s and C-17s. Current systems like modern forklifts are too large and heavy to bring in with the cargo, and too expensive and vulnerable to stage ahead of time or leave behind at these remote, unserviced airfields.  In addition, the system to be developed needs be transported with the incoming cargo aircraft. The maximum allowable physical size of the system should be limited to the capabilities of a single standard 463L pallet position.


PHASE I: This is a Direct to Phase 2 (D2P2) topic.  Phase 1 like proposals will not be evaluated and will be rejected as nonresponsive.   For this D2P2 topic, the Government expects that the small business would have accomplished the following in a "Phase I-type" effort via some other means (e.g. IRAD, or other funded work). It must have developed a concept for a workable prototype or design to address at a minimum the basic capabilities of the stated objective above.  Proposal must show, as appropriate to the proposed effort, a demonstrated technical feasibility or nascent capability to meet the capabilities of the stated objective.  Proposal may provide example cases of this new capability on a specific application.  The documentation provided must substantiate that the proposer has developed a preliminary understanding of the technology to be applied in their Phase II proposal to meet the objectives of this topic.  Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results.


PHASE II: Develop a new method or system to offload and onload cargo from aircraft that utilize the 463L Pallet Cargo Handling System that will work in austere locations.   i. Develop and demonstrate a method or system, compromised of one or more pieces of equipment, that is capable of handling a 10,000 lbs ISU 90 standard container ii. Develop and demonstrate a method or system that can transport a 10,000 lbs ISU 90 standard container from the cargo bay of the aircraft 500 ft away from the flightline iii. The method or system should be designed to function in an austere environment that could include, but is not limited to salt fog, packed dirt runways and aprons, lack of other common support equipment, and sparse fuel and electrical power availability iv. Develop matrix of operational tradeoffs relating to employing the new system  v. Generate Interface Control Document (ICD) and overview descriptions in parallel with the system development. vi. System needs to be deployable with the inbound cargo aircraft, weigh less than 10,000 pounds and fit, in the transport configuration, onto a 463L pallet position or smaller. vii. System needs to be rapid deployable and ready to offload or onload cargo with 10 minutes of the plane coming to a stop and lowering the ramp.  Complete the design of the system, demonstrate performance of a prototype system through field testing, and deliver the prototype for subsequent evaluation by the government.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The Government has an interest in transition of the demonstrated concept to airfield operations and cargo delivery, but offer options for weapons loading and other aerial port operations in both austere and well-supported locations. Solutions may have application to commercial air cargo operations, warehouse material handling operations, and construction.



  1. Department of the Air Force Operational Imperatives,
  2. J. Schroeder, C. Martinez, G. Galloway; USAF Pallet and Dunnage System Evaluation, 1997
  3. Management and control of Intermodal Containers and System 463L Equipment, Defense Transportation Regulation – Part VI


KEYWORDS: Contested Logistics, austere operations, austere environment, aerial port, logistics, cargo handling, forklifts, material handling equipment (MHE), onload, offload, combat offload

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