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SSC-Natick Press Release

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: June 7, 2006
No: 06-22

Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems reduces aerial delivery cost for humanitarian relief efforts

NATICK, Mass. -- The PM Force Sustainment Systems (PM FSS) Cargo Aerial Delivery Team has worked successfully to address a major problem associated with humanitarian relief aerial delivery operations: How to reduce the cost of equipment that needs to be left behind when recovery is difficult or impractical?

According to Nina Shopalovich, the Low Cost Aerial Delivery System (LCADS) lead, the need for a low cost alternative to existing aerial delivery systems began to come to light in 1993.

“During Operation Provide Promise, the U.S. military worked to keep food and medical supplies from multiple countries moving into Bosnia throughout nearly four years of war. More than $31 million of standard airdrop equipment was used and was never recovered and stocks were depleted,” said Shopalovich.

In 2002, the PM FSS Cargo Aerial Delivery Team was tasked with finding a solution that would assist the U.S. military by providing a one-time-use, resupply and humanitarian relief capability for use in both low velocity and high velocity airdrop. The program, entitled the Low Cost Aerial Delivery System, would result in dramatic cost savings to the military and subsequently the taxpayer as a result of the low cost of the system components.

This requirement was met by the LCADS Team with the development of three components, each providing a low cost alternative to the standard components currently used for container delivery. Each component in the LCADS represents a 55 to 80 percent cost reduction from the corresponding standard component.

The first component, the polypropylene container, is capable of containing loads of up to 2,200 pounds and provides a low cost alternative to the A-22 Cargo Container.  This container used as its basis a design that had been developed over a number of years by engineers and technicians at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. It has now been fielded and is being used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The low cost containers have been dropped into isolated mountain villages in Afghanistan which during the winter were cut off by snow, with no way to get supplies or humanitarian aid in by trucks,” said Shopalovich. The low cost containers are also being used to resupply troops in Iraq.

The recently fielded, high velocity parachute provides an alternative to the 26-foot ring-slot parachute used to airdrop cargo from altitudes of up to 25,000 feet above ground level. The low velocity parachute, suitable for airdrop at lower altitudes, provides the low cost alternative to the G-12 cargo parachute. The low velocity parachute is in its final phase of operational testing and will be ready for fielding in early 2007.

Both parachutes were designed by Bruce Bonaceto, an engineer in the PM FSS Cargo Aerial Delivery Team, and utilize a patented “spider” design with strips of polypropylene sewn in a distinctive cross-hatch pattern and suspension lines that are knotted to the parachute “legs”.

The older, standard high and low velocity parachutes are complex in design, whereas the new low cost parachutes are simple, use readily available polypropylene, and can be produced by a wide range of fabricators with a shorter lead time.

“In emergency situations, we used to turn to specialized parachute manufacturers, whose workload often caused production to bottleneck during a surge in demand. The simplicity of the high and low velocity parachute designs, as well as that of the containers, enables the LCADS components to be produced by many small, less specialized companies,” said Shopalovich.

The increased number of suitable manufacturers enables a much more rapid response to emergency situations. The ability for companies to produce the components rapidly also keeps storage costs to a minimum. There is no need to keep large stocks on hand and the number of parachutes produced can be tailored to fit the need of a particular disaster or emergency situation.

According to Shopalovich, “These low cost components actually exceed the performance of the more expensive standard container delivery components. The parachutes have a very forgiving design and it is easy to pack and rig them. They’re popular with the troops, and we’ve started to receive phone calls from the field asking where they can obtain them.”

For more information about PM FSS, please visit the website:

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.