U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: January 9, 2001
New Parachute System
NATICK, Mass. -- When they stand up, hook up and shuffle to the open door of the aircraft, the combat-ready airborne soldier faces the risk of injury with every landing.
Parachuting injuries have increased because the T-10 parachute system, reliably used since the 1950s for mass tactical assaults, can't cope as well with the weight today's soldiers are carrying during airborne operations. This led to the development of the Advanced Tactical Parachute System.
The new parachute will cut the rate of descent by 25 percent from 21 feet per second to 16 feet per second. The decline in rate of descent translates into 40 percent reduction in impact energy and could trim landing injuries significantly.
"The reduction of injuries is a combat multiplier," said Maj. Joel Rieman, assistant product manager at Product Manager-Soldier Support at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick). "If someone sprains their ankle, you're losing the two soldiers who are going to help the injured one and the injured soldier."
The T-10 parachute was designed to handle a gross weight of 250 pounds. It has served the military well, but now some soldiers are jumping with nearly 400 pounds because they are bigger and carry more equipment and supplies to sustain them through the initial fight, according to Rieman.
The parachute also must be able to handle the same combat mission as the T-10, in which troops drop from about 500 feet at aircraft speeds between 130-150 knots.
An early version of the new parachute system was scrapped in favor of a simpler parachute. In eight months, the Army shut down the previous program and awarded two competing contracts for initial-phase evaluation, which is an unprecedented speed of transition, according to Rieman.
"They're using proven materials and demonstrated technology to develop an advanced canopy," Rieman said, noting that no pyrotechnics, electronics or any other complicated tools will be used to slow the rate of descent to the new standard.
A total of 58 requirements are on the operational requirements document, including the requirement for a parachute system that is compatible with the military aircraft used for airborne missions and items such as the Interceptor body armor, MOLLE rucksack and Land Warrior system.
The new parachute operates as a system consisting of the main parachute, reserve parachute and harness. Rieman said the new systems are substantially larger than the T-10, which means the fabric needs to find a way to fill up faster. Both parachutes use a less porous material than the T-10, which could increase undesirable oscillation, but the designs compensate for that.
Two main parachute systems are in contention for the final production contract.
The XT-11 developed by Para-Flite Inc., uses a modified cross canopy that removes sections of material around the edges to stabilize the descent. The current rate of descent for the main canopy is 16 feet per second, and it has improved stability, static line control and low opening shock.
The reserve canopy offers an aeroconical design based on the current British reserve canopy, can be deployed using either hand, uses a soft loop closure and has a rate of descent of 21 feet per second.
The XT-12, developed by Irvin Aerospace Inc., uses a high-drag quarter spherical and multi-slotted main canopy. Leading edge slots and sails enhance performance. Current rate of descent is 17.5 feet per second, and it will be resized to meet the 16 feet per second requirement. It also has improved stability and low opening shock, and the improved static line control is based on the proven British design.
The reserve canopy uses the main canopy's design with a soft loop closure, can be deployed with either hand and falls at a rate of 27 feet per second.
The harness for both the XT-11 and XT-12 models will be fully adjustable over the 5th to 95th percentile size range, bring improved comfort, and will be compatible with current and future equipment. The new harness will mount the reserve parachute at suspension points near the shoulders instead of the waist. This transfers opening loads along the axis of the body for improved safety.
Design validation is scheduled to take place at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., in May. The better-performing system will progress into an extensive test program to demonstrate reliability. Fielding is expected to begin in 2005.
Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.