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Cheshire Steve

1950s Heavy Air Drop, MSP Development

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The Medium Stressed Platform was the backbone of vehicular air drop for something like 40 years, yet when I started researching its development history it has been surprisingly difficult to find information. Even the Paradata museum have yet to turn anything up, and I have aired the topic on Land Rover Series 1 and 2 boards, so I thought to ask here. Maybe someone on this forum was involved.

 

I think the MSP goes back to c1952 and was experimented with using leased USAF Fairchild Boxcars (C-119s), but I don't know if it was ever rolled out. The MSP seems different from the USAF drop platforms, so no idea who thought it up. Any info welcome.

 

When the Beverley aircraft production started in 1955, the 3rd and 4th made (XB261 and XB262) were allocated to A&AEE Boscombe Down (July 1955), and it seems XB261 was used for air drop development, whereas XB262 more on flight characteristsics. XB261 was to stay at Boscombe until 1971, XB262 went for hot and cold trials, though was back at Boscombe in the late 50s before moving to an operational role in 1959. XB259 was also at Boscombe in Feb 1956. An article in Flight magazine in 1961 on the Blackburn Delivery System (used to extract the MSP) stated that the experimentation on the heavy drop was carried out by AATDC/A&AEE in conjunction with Blackburn and GQ Parachutes (who I think were the makers of the impact absorbing air bags under the MSP as well as the main parachutes). The Paradata Museum hold the AATDC records but it seems there is a gap in the 1956-1958 period, the curator there told me "if the trials were during a politically sensitive era then they may not have kept any at all".

 

Arnhem Camp, Watchfield was also involved in heavy drop in the 1950s, with RASC rigging MSPs there with Rover Mk 3 and Rover Mk 5 and trailer, trucking them to RAF Abingdon and then Beverleys flying them back to the the Watchfield DZ. Was this part of the experimental program, or was it operational roll-out and para/pilot training? 16 Para Heavy Drop Coy was formed at Watchfield in 1961. Rigging diagrams must have existed for vehicles on the MSP but none have turned up. Clive Elliott has found a Feb 1957 EMER specific to the Rover Mk3/5 air drop (internal lashing points).

 

Picture below thought to be taken at Watchfield at same time an RASC promotional film was being made.

 

94BP17.jpg

 

Given extraction of a heavy platform is exciting from the pilot's perspective, I assume all aspects must be well tested and certified. However I have no idea where to find info on certification. I do know that the Beverley wasn't certified for dropping the MSP at the time of the El Gamil raid during the Suez crisis (Nov 1956), and they had to rely on 7 Hastings aircraft dropping Jeeps using platforms reputed to have been dug out of a museum. So when was it certified, and were there separate certifications for different vehicles?

 

Very grateful for anyone who can fill in the gaps, or point me to the right information sources, and happy to share what I have found so far with anyone interested. Also very interested to speak to anyone with a Rover Mk 3 or 5 thought to have been air-dropped.

 

Steve

Edited by Cheshire Steve
Better with a pictiure

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Pretty sure JADTEU evolved from JATE, and JATE and its predecessor information is held by the Paradata people who I am already in touch with. http://www.paradata.org.uk/units/joint-air-transport-establishment

 

They initially reported they couldn't find anything on MSP development - which was quite a surprise ! When I was able to provide them with some more detailed info and the fact the AATDC was involved, they said they held the old AATDC records and would have another look as they have some uncatalogued material. I am hoping their second attempt will reveal something.

 

I have also looked on the National Archives on-line. I am not sure if their index simply reflects the info that the Paradata people hold. That appears to show a 3 year gap in AATDC records/reports (1956-1958), similar gap for A&AEE Boscombe Down. Might be able to piece together info on the gap by looking at 1959 info, which might always give clues about earlier work. Best info I spotted in the National Archive was AIR 66/123 from 1952 "Platform dropping: parachute extraction, tie-down release and air bag deceleration" which could well give the origins of the MSP.

 

Steve

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Just a thought Steve there may be some dates & info of interest in EMER AERIAL DELIVERY EQUIPMENT R 010 - R 319.

 

That is quite a big section covering the various elements of MSP. I'm afraid I don't have any of it, I do have EMER ADE A 001 which is the detailed index, unfortunately it is dated 2003 & Section R became obsolete.

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Thanks for the additional Info Clive.

 

I append below the EMER Clive found previously on the internal lashing eyes fitted to Rover Mark 3 and Mark 5 for air transportation. I had associated this with air drop, but looking afresh I see it is for all air shipment. Locally fabricated, each from 3/16" by 6" mild steel, and secured by 2BA screws. It is dated Jan 57, I think I previously stated Feb 57 - flakey memory ! Estimated 3 hours to make and fit. The amendment to only modify Rover Mk 3 and Rover Mk 5 was issued on 17 Oct 1966 (info on that from John Mastrangelo).

 

EMERQ027-2.jpg

 

For those interested in the MSP, some of its details are revealed in a patent application by Blackburn (UK 820968 Dec 1956) who designed a competitor drop platform, and referred back to the current drop platforms for comparison purposes.

 

MSP width 84 inch, length 192 inch (16ft), maximum loaded weight 18,000lb, platform weight 1400lb including the lashings and the inflatable bags used underneath the platform to absorb the landing shock. A typical load was a Land Rover and trailer. The heavy stressed platform at that time was 24ft long and 3570lb, but as far as I can tell that was still undergoing experimentation and trials as late as 1961.

 

Steve

EMERQ027-1.jpg

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Probably the reason you are finding a "history gap" is because MSP were forgotten about other than a dust out of base-line data as other vehicles came on line.

 

Things went "air-liftable" using helicopters quite fast when helicopters were fitted with more powerfull engines. Pull back from middle-east after Suez to north German plain, that left carrier based helicopters out of European theatre.

 

Have you read the book by Mark J. Cook The Half-Ton Military Land Rover (the Lightweight) ?

 

Although Mark does not set it out in chronological order for MSP as such (there is a very good clear photograph of a Sankey & Champ 14BE29 strapped down on a MSP). If you were to read the story of helicopter and aircraft transport (by actually landing freighter and disgorging) , then you would probably come to the conclusion that MSP was still around but very much held in reserve for about 30 years as a instructional relic - just in case.

 

I can't recall ever seeing a photograph of a Lightweight on a MSP , possbly 90" & there were the special adapted "piggy-back" 90" , not certain but IIRC that was for two units on a MSP ?

Edited by ruxy
spelin

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No, have to admit I haven't read the lightweight book, but thanks for the recommendation. The lightweight didn't arrive until about 1968/69 IIRC which is about 10 years after the era I am interested in. I might put the book on my Xmas list.

 

I take the point though that maybe the MSP type air-drop was largely replaced by landing them from helicopters, and that air-drop went out of use, but don't know when that was. Presumably they used the Bristol Belvedere or the Wessex, as the Chinook didn't arrive until much later. However, I would have thought a Hercules would have a lot more range than a helicopter when carrying a vehicle. So for some operations the aircraft drop might still be required.

 

From what I read the MSP had to be replaced when the Dash4a system came with the Hercules C130J which came in service in something like 1996, but how often it had been used over the last 40 years is something of which I have no idea. Maybe we just didn't have the sort of operations that required it.

 

Steve

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Other vehicles were tested but compromised , hence the Lightweight to meet requirements (reduced weight when stripped for helo lift / reduced width to 5ft o'all for two abreast in aircraft. The RM did actually use Citroen 2CV ,,

Edited by ruxy
spelin

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when the museum of army transport had the Blackburn Beverley XB259 we had a fully kitted MSP with a series 2a 109

and trailer maintained by 47 AIR DISPATCH on display

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Thanks for the extra info,

 

Blackpowder : Interesting though those are, I don't think those are the 16 foot long MSP but rather the earlier 'crash pan' type that they used at El Gamil from the Halifax because the MSPs weren't certified for the Beverley. If the MSP evolved from them then we need to find the missing link. To me the MSP looks like a separate development.

 

Ruxy : As regards helicopter transport replacing air drop, I have spoken to someone involved in this and he says that a Wessex could just handle a competely stripped airportable (no doors, not even a windscreen), and that really it all became more practicable when the Chinooks came along way later. Certainly the range was rather limited with that sort of suspended load. There wasn't much of that nature going on in the 1950s.

 

Wally : Interested that you had an MSP then, did you have any supporting paperwork about the MSP history?

 

Lets restrict this back to the origins of the MSP in the c1950s, with a touch of the early 1960s, and not drift into the 1970s or 1980s. What I am concerned about are its origins and the development, testing, and certification carried out in the 1950s. So that is before the Argosy and the C130 Hercules came along. Although the whole story is an interesting one, and I am surprised there isn't a book or two on the topic.

 

Steve

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STEVE the museum held quite a lot on air despatch mostly from former members of AD as well as 47 air despatch

besides pictures items that were dropped including the wicker baskets for dropping cats feline for the catching of rats

also instruction books for preparing things for despatching like the MSPs as well as trials reports dating from the 1950s

onwards where they are now is any ones guess the RLC MUSEUM l hope took them when the museum of army transport closed as it is part of their CORPs history but so much is reported as lost and still comes to light at local car boot sales

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Thanks for the extra info,

 

Blackpowder : Interesting though those are, I don't think those are the 16 foot long MSP but rather the earlier 'crash pan' type that they used at El Gamil from the Halifax because the MSPs weren't certified for the Beverley. If the MSP evolved from them then we need to find the missing link. To me the MSP looks like a separate development.

 

Ruxy : As regards helicopter transport replacing air drop, I have spoken to someone involved in this and he says that a Wessex could just handle a competely stripped airportable (no doors, not even a windscreen), and that really it all became more practicable when the Chinooks came along way later. Certainly the range was rather limited with that sort of suspended load. There wasn't much of that nature going on in the 1950s.

 

Wally : Interested that you had an MSP then, did you have any supporting paperwork about the MSP history?

 

Lets restrict this back to the origins of the MSP in the c1950s, with a touch of the early 1960s, and not drift into the 1970s or 1980s. What I am concerned about are its origins and the development, testing, and certification carried out in the 1950s. So that is before the Argosy and the C130 Hercules came along. Although the whole story is an interesting one, and I am surprised there isn't a book or two on the topic.

 

Steve

 

Depends, early days Wessex HAS1 ,, twin engined HU5 from 1964 this kicked in the possibility of air-portable 88" , after a few years , there was no need to strip fully down (possibly only if a FFR Unitary radio kit fitted , possibly not)

 

Well , that is wrong info. It all depends on the HU model & engine , the BIG lifters started with the twin-engined Gnome.

 

Not that I know a great amount on helo. LoL

 

1967

 

 

 

If a Wessex can lift a 109" , screen,sticks & hood removed , then it can lift the heaviest unstripped Lightweight - the 24 volt FFR

 

Here are a few benchmark figures uplifted from the military user manuals :-

 

109" 12 volt (lightest) unladen with coolant , oil, 20 gallon of fuel = 1680 kg

 

-------------

 

in comparison :-

 

88" Lightweight FFR (heavier than 12 volt GS) unladen with coolant , oil, 20 gallon of fuel 1510 kg

 

 

-do- stripped , 5 gal. fuel , no spare wheel 1214 kg

Edited by ruxy
amd.

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I have a nice photo of 75mm pack howitzer, airborne trailer and ammo on palletised platform with chutes which appears to have just landed but i think is staged...

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STEVE the museum held quite a lot on air despatch mostly from former members of AD as well as 47 air despatch

besides pictures items that were dropped including the wicker baskets for dropping cats feline for the catching of rats

also instruction books for preparing things for despatching like the MSPs as well as trials reports dating from the 1950s

onwards where they are now is any ones guess the RLC MUSEUM l hope took them when the museum of army transport closed as it is part of their CORPs history but so much is reported as lost and still comes to light at local car boot sales

 

Wally, this is very interesting. 47 Coy was the air despatch people at Watchfield right in the period when all this development was going on. Their records should answer the question as to whether they were actually involved in trials at Watchfield, or whether they were just training people for using the platform, as well as many other questions. Of course they may have been involved at Boscombe. I will approach the RLC museum and ask if they are aware of receiving this info.

 

Did you have a catalogue/index of the paperwork side? Just to know what documents existed at your museum will improve the chance of tracking them down. I do hope they are just heaped up somewhere in storage and not disposed off.

 

Steve

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STEVE there was separate index for all subjects as some like military railways port and maritime covered hundreds of items of books photographs and so on whether the people involved in sorting the archives knew or cared what they were dealing with l do not know there are many tales of what happened during that period other avenues you may like to try are 47 AIR DESPATCH at LYNEHAM who were the successors to 47 AIR DISPATCH COMPANY l always found the people there were more than helpful when it came to their history another avenue is of course the AIR DESPATCH ASSOIATION who also are a great bunch of blokes they have there own news letter l wish you well with your research

 

REGARDS WALLY

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Is this the sort of thing you mean?

 

Photo caption is "Safely on the ground - a gun crew of the 33rd Parachute Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery running to unlash their gun"

 

33rd-ParaFieldRegt-RA.jpg

 

This is zoomed in a bit onto the load - the rest of the pic merely has more parachutes and men.

 

Tim

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You can see lots of pictures of MSPs in this thread on the 1959 AATDC trials. That includes dropping artillery (17 pounders, howitzers), Ferret scout cars, Champs, etc. I should think the Rover Mk3/5 air drop was routine by then and they were busy finding what else they could drop.

 

I can't figure out the relative roles of Old Sarum v Boscombe Down in all this.

 

Steve

 

http://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/500547-beverley-c1-xh122-30-sqn-1959-a.html

 

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I've just found this thread and I may be able to add some detail.

The missing link between the Crash Pan system and the MSP was the Paratechnicon, this was a fully faired in stressed platform with an airbag landing system that was developed for the Halifax and enlarged for the Hastings. The earliest reference to the MSP I have is in a 1950 AADTC catalogue when it describes the 7000 lb stressed platform, which as has been mentioned was developed by dropping from the USAF C-119; I also have the AP for the C-119 MSP installation.

 

The MSP did die with the K model Herc going out of service although adding outriggers to widen it for the Dash 4a side guidance of the J model was contemplated.

 

I have somewhere photos of a HALO MSP trial that went wrong which will be of interest to those who think Pink Panther Landrovers are cool - not after a freefall of 12000 ft without the main parachutes deploying they're not.:nut:

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Section D page 2.jpg

This is the page from the 1950 AATDC catalogue of Airborne Forces equipment with the origins of both the MSP and the HSP

Origins of MSP.jpg

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Bingo ! Well done Aeronut. I have no doubt you are right, the Paratechnicon .. a good name to search for, and the GAL freighter that paperwork refers to is what became the Beverley.

 

So it look like an AATDC invention c1950, that all fits.

 

I have also had some good new from the Assistant Curator at the Airborne Assault Museum, who has had someone digging through previously uncatalogued material and has turned up a lot of AATDC information "which has numerous references to trials of various drops equipment. There are 6 pages, listing nearly 60 files, some are only a few pages, others are anything from 20 to over 100 pages long. There are also some photo's."

 

I asked if this material might have come from The Army Transport Museum, and the response was "The majority of what we hold appears to have been in the collection for some time and actually dates from the trials and is predominantly imagery rather than documentation. The majority of this sort of material appears to have to come to the old archives in Aldershot as the various trails units were wound down."

 

So I am now rather looking forward to visiting and viewing what they have got, but it sounds like a lot of material to look through including photos - I really couldn't have asked for more.

 

Steve

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Plate D-3.jpg

These are the two plates refered to.

I was one of the aerial delivery trials engineers at Boscombe Down from 1987 to 2002 and when told to tidy out the office I couldn't bring myself to throw this sort of thing away.

You might also like the before and after shots of the Halo MSP I mentioned.

HALO MSP postdrop.jpgIt went straight in with only the extractor/stabiliser parachute deployed - someone forgot to remove the safety pins from the hitefinders that were supposed to release the main parachutes.

Plate D-2.jpg

HALO MSP pre drop.jpg

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