What's PCADS™ & Where'd it come from?

PCADS™ - Precision Container Aerial Delivery System

PCADS is the result of a partnership between Saint Industries Inc (SII), the Boeing Company C-17 Phantom Works and the USAF to solve the problem of aerial tanker capacity during multiple outbreak situations around the world.  In 2008, we won $2.32M in Congressional Funding to develop a CDS Firefighting system for the USAF, it was approved by USAF AMC  (OUE) in 2018, and has been deployed internationally since 2016 with the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Lucky Squadron in Thailand.                                                                       

Read more about our detailed history in OUR STORY

PCADS is a highly engineered multi-patented liquid bulk air drop system enabling the user 24/7 Aerial Firefighting, Humanitarian Aid & Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.  PCADS can be rapidly deployed day or night, during extreme weather and with zero visibility by combining GPS guidance and aerial surveillance intelligence with military precision air drop SOP.            


PCADS is a roll on/roll off (RORO) 275 gallon bladder, cap and sleeve ballistic bundle system, or Container Delivery System (CDS).  Designed for use with all military & civilian fixed wing and rotor aircraft with cargo roller systems such as C-130/L-100, CASA 295, Chinooks, Ospreys, as well as, the new Embraer C-390 (Chart Below).   


 See our Blog Post about ANG and PCADS  NGAUS DOM OPS


How is PCADS safer?

PCADS are released at higher altitudes, above the danger, with our patented HALO Time Delay to deploy at 200-300 ft above ground (AGL) using a level flight profile with no dive bombing necessary.

Since September of this year, there were 7 crashes of firefighting aircraft; 3 helicopters & 4 airtankers.  In a study by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWGG) between 1990-2016 there were 480 firefighter deaths during wildland fire operations and in that assessment, aircraft and vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death.  Current research shows that wildfires can have 130mph updrafts/65 mph downdrafts in smoke plumes creating a very dangerous environment for aircraft that have to deploy under 300ft above ground to be effective.  (WFT - Drafts)

Did you know that the USAF has never lost aircraft due to fatigue cracking in the wings?   That only happens in Aerial Firefighting operations from the stress of dive bombing that require releasing loads at 200 feet above the ground to be effective.  Aerial Firefighting is in a class of its own regarding FAA requirements and these aircraft have less stringent maintenance requirements vs military grade inspections.  The USAF contends that commercial maintenance and inspection plans are insufficient to ensure safety and need to be more vigorous to avoid anymore crashes, due to the massive increase of stress on the airframes.  Recent updates with the latest USFS contracting of NEXT-GENERATION airtankers and certifications required for contract approvals seem to be heading in the right direction.

In order to avoid safety issues that hinder traditional aerial firefighting, such as dive bombing, we designed PCADS with SAFETY as our primary goal.  We achieve that goal by combining our patented HALO (time delay) and Intrinsic Vertical Restraint (IVR) systems operated by active military aircraft which meet and exceed all federal safety requirements. IVR ensures the loads are secure and pilots can takeoff, cruise and land safely with full loads.  The other major safety advancement PCADS brings is the SAFEST flight profile for operations eliminating dive bombing for deployment.  By eliminating dive bombs PCADS is able to massively reduce airframe stress, potential crashes, in addition to, avoiding the unstable air with increased temperature and decreased air density near ground level during fire season, especially in mountainous areas.  PCADS is the only system capable of this due to the patented HALO Time Delay, no other system can deploy from High Altitudes and release at whatever altitude is preferred based on coverage levels like PCADS.


PCADS eliminates spotter aircraft, small aircraft are needed to lead large air tankers to their targets to pop smoke to mark deployment location.  During fire season operations are typically in mountainous terrain with temperatures well above those of a normal day and air density is much lower than at sea level.  This creates unsafe and dangerous flight profiles for these smaller less powerful aircraft and can lead to crashes, (See WFT - Drafts).  PCADS are deployed with precision using a variety of aerial surveillance such as drones, satellites, or ground based spotters with GPS guidance, so we can SAFELY and most effectively deliver the wet stuff on the hot stuff decreasing the BTUs helping ground crews with containment.

For more information about Enhancing Aerial FireFighting Effectiveness, please see our blog post about how the RTAF are using SPOC, Jedis and PCADS to become more effective PCADS-SPOC-JEDIS

How many gallons can PCADS deliver per drop or sortie and with what type of aircraft?

PCADS delivery volumes range from 1375-11,000 gallons of liquid media, depending on aircraft.  A C-130J has a 5,500 gallon capacity, (20 PCADS), which is 37.5% more than the newest 4,000 gallon Retardant Aerial Delivery System (RADS) and MORE THAN DOUBLE  what MAFFS system can drop.

PCADS requires aircraft with cargo roller floors and aft bay doors like C-130 and C-17 (chart below).

How is PCADS the most cost effective Large Air Tanker solution?

Simple, no Call When Needed or Exclusive Use contracts needed and availability is charged at the USAF hourly not private commercial rates.  Operations are similar to Air National Guard MAFFS Missions, but with less personnel and more than twice the amount of chemicals delivered per sortie, with both direct attack or suppression chemicals.  PCADS can be stored on the shelf at no cost for up to 10 years and staged when needed during fire season to always be ready.  PCADS is an ideal tool when aerial assets are unavailable due to extreme weather such as high winds and poor visibility, as well as, night ops helping to reduce the BTUs of the fire for the ground crews to finish containment.


Traditional aerial firefighting operations are privately owned and operated with older, usually former commercial airliners or repurposed war birds like C-130s.   When they are converted for airtanker use, there are significant costs involved such as AMP upgrades ($14M) and modernization for avionics/cockpit, and structural modifications like wing upgrades that can cost $9M-$18M per aircraft calculating on average 40,000 hours of labor, then the tanking systems are $3M-$5M, plus additional air support such as lead/spotter planes, and large mobilized ground teams.  

Did you know that the cost so far to convert 1 HC-130 from the Coast Guard to a RADS (4,000 gallon) air tanker has already cost over $48,000,000, for just one aircraft and the life expectancy is less than 20 years?

For more about Aerial Firefighting please checkout the 2019 Guide from CAL FIRE

2020 Reuters Air Attack Article 


Where can PCADS have a base of operations


A PCADS operating base or temporary Forward Operating Base (FOB) can be setup at any airfield.  FOB can be rapidly deployed to minimize the distance to each drop zone and maximize overall program effectiveness.  PCADS require no tools to build and any airfield capable for transport aircraft operations that has a water source will work.



How many Large Airtankers (3,000 gallons +) are available in the US for Aerial FireFighting vs PCADS


There are less than 30 Large Airtankers available on either Call When Needed (CWN) or Exclusive Use (EU) contracts and as a backup 8 Air National Guard MAFFS operations.  The USAF has over 600 C-130 H/J & C-17 aircraft and over 500 Chinooks with cargo roller systems that are ideal for PCADS operations.

PCADS do not require expensive retrofits, large ground operations and internal tank systems that cost $3M-$9M are no longer needed, along with unsafe dive bombs.  Did you know that PCADS are approved for use with ANG C-130s like MAFFS and have been deployed overseas on live fires for over 3 years with no incidents or safety issues?

Do you have Questions for our team?  Contact us at: BringTheRain@SaintIndustries.com


Please see Our Story & BLOG for more information about PCADS!

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