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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: March 23, 2001
No: 01-22

Micro Rappel System

NATICK, Mass. -- Instead of slinging a load of rope over their shoulders with an extra harness attached separately, soldiers can have it all in one lean, simple package with the micro rappel system.

The micro rappel system provides soldiers, primarily Military Police Special Reaction Teams and Special Operations Forces, with compact, lightweight equipment to enter or escape buildings. In contrast, the standard military rappel system is heavy and bulky, and the equipment is carried in separate bags or containers.

"Not every soldier carries the standard rope," said Barry Hauck, project director for Product Manager-Soldier Equipment at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick). "With this system, everybody can carry the rope. This supplements the mission and gives them added capability."

The micro rappel system provides commanders an alternative in emergency situations, and it gives special operators a less cumbersome rope that's not as likely to interfere with the mission, said Joe Jones, combat developer at Fort Benning, Ga.

With the micro rappel system, the soldier fastens the nylon belt, which holds at each end a strap that pulls out and wraps around each thigh to form a "seat." Attached to the belt is a nylon container about the size of an ammunition pouch that holds a descender, carabiner and 80 feet of 5 mm rope made with Kevlar in the center surrounded by a nylon shell and, when necessary, is protected by a sheath of fabric for high-abrasion surfaces, such as brick. Tensile strength of the rope exceeds 5,000 pounds.

Besides being stronger, the 5 mm diameter size was chosen over the 3 mm and 4 mm primarily because of the psychological factor in using what appears to be shoestring, said Hauck. Users have the option of letting the rope slip through the eyelet at the top of the bag or unzip the top and drop the entire length of the rope.

"Some people feel better knowing that the rope is going to reach to the bottom as they drop from a window, rooftop or steep terrain, and want that ability to toss down the rope," Hauck said.

The Army standard climbing rope is 11 mm diameter polyester that weighs more than 6 pounds per 100 feet. By comparison, the micro rappel system rope weighs less than 2 pounds per 100 feet. All together, the micro rappel system weighs less than 3 pounds.

"The rope has evolved to a one-size-fits-all to models with a specific purpose," said Jones. "In planned operations where bulk and weight are not overriding factors, soldiers will still use the standard rope."

Operational testing was completed last year. Soldiers tested it in Alaska, at the Ranger Training Center in Georgia, and at the Mountain Warfare School in Vermont. The abrasion sheath and new descender are pieces that may be excluded, according to Hauck.

The system is expected to be available for unit purchase by this summer, authorized by the common table of allowances. 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 web site at