FORT BENNING, GA -- Airborne Soldiers should expect to see a new parachute system in the next few years that will replace the T-10 model that has been in use since the 1950s.
The Advanced Tactical Parachute System is expected to decrease the landing impact velocity for jumpers, provide a more reliable reserve system than the Modified Improved Reserve Parachute System of the T-10 and improve the harness.
"We were looking for a parachute that will lower the rate of descent and lessen the impact with the hopes and expectations that this would result in a reduction in injuries," said Joe Jones, combat development specialist with the Directorate of Combat Developments.
Rate of descent is the speed at which jumpers fall to the ground.
The T-10 has been modified a number of times but has reached the limits of its growth. A new approach had to be taken, Jones said, resulting in an entirely different design.
The ATPS canopy is not circular in shape, as the T-10 is. It is a highly modified cross-shaped canopy with an inflated diameter 14 percent greater than that of the T-10, with 28 percent more surface area.
The reserve unit is a cone-shaped, center-pull deployment system. It includes apex scoop pockets at the top of the canopy and skirt assist lines at the system's hem to promote fast opening during low-speed malfunctions.
The main container bag is made of Cordura, an abrasion- and water-resistant fabric.
Both the ATPS main and reserve canopies are made of low-porosity ripstop nylon with Teflon-coated suspension lines.
The entire system weighs 51.2 pounds, compared to the T-10's 44 pounds.
The 14-percent weight increase earns jumpers a 25-percent reduction in rate of descent. The T-10's rate of descent is 22 to 24 feet per second, causing a strong landing impact. The ATPS' rate of descent is 16 feet per second, reducing the landing impact by 53 percent.
The T-10 parachute system was designed when the total weight of a jumper and equipment averaged 300 pounds.
During Operation Just Cause, more than 4 percent of Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, suffered jump-related injuries - 28 Rangers and their equipment weighed between 350 and 435 pounds.
"The T-10 was originally intended for jumpers who didn't weigh what Soldiers weigh today and wasn't intended to carry the loads that Soldiers carry today," Jones said.
Other advantages of ATPS are the reserve system and the harness, said Jones. The ATPS reserve offers improved reliability, he said.
"The ATPS has a reliability of .95, compared to the .75 to .80 of the T-10," he said.
The reserve is also equipped with enhanced deployment techniques, which equal low opening shocks. It may be deployed using either hand, offers a soft loop closure and has a rate of descent of approximately 26 feet per second with low oscillation.
The biggest advantage in the improvements of the harness is the attaching point of the reserve parachute system, said Jones.
When a T-10 reserve is activated, the opening forces are located in the waist area; essentially, this bows the jumper, he said. ATPS reserve risers connect to the harness in the shoulder area. Now when the reserve canopy opens, the opening forces are passed down through the long axes of the body, minimizing the bow effect.
The harness is also fully adjustable and is compatible with the current and future battlefield equipment.
The T-10 and ATPS are mass tactical parachute canopies, meaning they are not steerable. Because these are not steerable, distribution is managed by exit sequences and timing, aircraft altitude and speed, wind and canopy drift characteristics, Jones said.
Because ATPS is not a steerable parachute, test developers are still trying to increase the obstacle avoidance variable while in the sky or on the ground, said Maj. Jason Craft, assistant program manager of personal airdrop systems at the Natick Research Laboratories in Natick, Mass.
"The bottom line is that ATPS reduces jump injuries to airborne Soldiers so they're in better condition to go into combat operations," Craft said.
The ATPS is being tested at Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., and will be fielded between 2005 and 2006.