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Advanced Tactical Parachute System (ATPS)

Changes in DOD requirements are forcing the redesign of some parachute systems. As the amount of equipment carried by the U.S. soldier has grown, the increased weight translates into higher descent speeds, which in turn increases the likelihood of landing injuries. 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.

To address this problem, the U.S. Army is developing a new personnel parachute called the Advanced Tactical Parachute System, which is designed to lower the paratrooper's descent speed to lessen the potential for injury. The Advanced Tactical Parachute System (ATPS) program is being developed as a parachute system developed as a result of an XVIII Corps top priority airdrop need and user requirement to reduce parachute injuries. The ATPS includes main parachute, reserve parachute and harness to replace the venerable T-10 parachute system. ATPS will produce the airborne soldier with unparalleled safety and enhance combat performance of the "First to Fight."

The ATPS will serve the same combat environment as the T-10: 500 ft AGL minimum planned altitude deployed from aircraft traveling at speeds of 130-150 Knots. ATPS will provide marked improvements in all areas. Rate of Descent will be reduced by 25% from 21 ft/sec to 16 ft/sec. This reduction in Rate of Descent will result in a 40% reduction in impact energy and a significant reduction in landing injury. The ATPS will also incorporate an advanced reserve parachute and an advanced harness. The reserve parachute will provide a dramatic decrease in rate of descent over the T-10 reserve. The ATPS Harness System will include shoulder mounted main and reserve parachute riser attachments, added comfort pads, and an integral equipment release, improving all aspects of harness performance.

The US Army RDECOM, Natick Contracting Division has a requirement for a commercial non-maneuverable troop personnel main parachute canopy which has a rate of descent (ROD) better than the T-10D (less than or equal to 20 feet per second (fps)) to in tegrate with the Advanced Tactical Parachute System (ATPS) reserve and harness subsystems. It has been determined through Government developmental testing that the performance characteristics of the main canopy in the current ATPS configuration were not acceptable to the Government. The Government intends to evaluate commercial non-maneuverable troop personnel main canopies from those offerors in the competitive range to verify the potential of a commercial non-maneuverable troop personnel main par achute canopy meeting the ATPS performance requirements described herein while staying within the performance and operational boundaries established by the Army as described in Field Manual (FM) 3-21.220. These performance requirements contain both threshold (must be met) and objective (should be met) requirements . If both threshold and objectives are not specified, the stated requirement will be considered as threshold.

The commercial non-maneuverable troop personnel main parachute canopy when integrated into the ATPS system shall be required to perform combat operations at 500 feet above ground level (AGL), with plus or minus 125 feet aircraft altitude holding error; shall be required to be operational for training jumps at a minimum planned jump altitude of 800 feet above ground level (AGL), with plus or minus 1 25 feet aircraft altitude holding error; shall be able to operate from the C-17 and C-130 aircraft (threshold) traveling at airspeeds between 130 and 150 Knots Indicated Airspeed (KIAS) at altitudes up to 7,500 feet above sea level (ASL) and be certifiable on all Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine aircraft currently certified for static line operations (objective); shall function in accordance with all performance requirements during airdrops occurring when surface winds reach up to 13 knots; shall not exceed the following geometric dimensions when packed: 15 inches in back pack thickness, 17 inches in width and 23 inches in height, to ensure compatibility with air craft seats; shall be capable of use and storage in climate categories; hot, basic and cold as defined by Army Regulation (AR) 70-38; shall not require an increase in quantity, quality or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) needs of support personnel, or adversely impact the facilities related to physical maintenance, inspection, packing or repacking of parachutes.

Shall be able to apply tension to canopy for parachute packing on the current packing table length of 48 feet, inclusive of the ATPS pack tray and harness. The canopy width during flat fold shall not extend over the packing table width (36-inches) so the air channel is not adversely affected; shall eliminate or adequately control safety issues related to the operation, maintenance or storage o f this system; shall emphasize jumper safety and survivability; shall be maintainable by MOS 92R (rigger) personnel at the Direct Support Level; shall not contain any inherent health hazards in the system design. The main parachute canopy recovery subsystem shall weigh no more than 36.5 lbs. (threshold), 31 lbs (objective), inclusive of the ATPS harness, pack tray; shall provide a rate-of descent of no more than 20 fps or no less than 16 fps at ground impact during sea level, standard day conditions with a parachutist weighing 332 lbs. including accompanying equipment, but exclusive of the ATPS; shall allow simultaneous exit from all jump doors without controlled exit procedures, without main canopy damage or entanglement with other parachutes before first vertical; shall have a packing rate not to exceed 17 man-minutes per parachute or at least 25 parachutes per day/parachute packer; shall have a maintainability of not more than 4.8 hours mean time to repair (MTTR); shall have a reliability of .9993 (expressed as the probability of the parachute functioning properly in the operational environment); shall be compatible with the ATPS harness, main pack tray and the Army's 15 foot Universal Static Line (USL) and snap hook.

If another D-bag is used, USL shall be able to attach to the D-bag without modification; shall have a peak opening force of 10 g's or less, 95 percent of the time at 7,500 feet ASL without canopy damage; shall deploy, inflate and stabilize within 275 feet of altitude loss from aircr aft exit. The maximum oscillation angle between second and third vertical shall not exceed 10 degrees (objective) or 15 degrees (threshold) from vertical, 95 percent of the time; shall give the jumper the ability to maneuver to avoid other jumpers and trav el horizontally to avoid other jumpers or obstacles by use of a riser slip.

Maneuverability shall be similar to the current T-10 capability; shall have a minimum shelf storage life of 4.5 years, a minimum service life of 12 years, and combined shelf stora ge and service life of 16.5 years. The main canopy shall permit repack cycles of not less than 120 days; shall be inherently non-gliding (similar to T-10 aerodynamic characteristics); shall have no adverse impact on existing airborne unit's force str ucture; e.g., shall not require substantive changes to the airborne unit's ability to conduct operations, provide maintenance or ensure support for this system. The canopy shall be a one-for-one replacement of the T-10 Main for units currently perfor ming mass tactical airborne operations (including training operations); shall not require any special logistical considerations beyond those already provided for support of the existing T-10 Main (threshold). Shall also support the separate maintenance and replacement of the main recovery subsystem (objective). ATPS will be designed for use and maintenance under the Standard Army Logistical Support LSA/LSAR proc esses. These processes will be used to determine and define maintenance and support required by the system. The materiel developer and the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) proponent will develop a complete training subsystem specifically designed to support all phases of training from basic airborne through sustainment training, to include New Equipment Training (NET) for user testing and initial fielding.

Team Airborne Soldier, responsible for Personnel Airdrop Systems, and part of the Research Development and Engineering Command, Natick, MA, completed market research into the feasibility and commercial availability of main parachute canopies, which can be purchased and integrated with the existing Advanced Tactical Parachute System (ATPS) harness and reserve. The market research included all US and foreign made canopies and resulted in the identification of 5 canopies that are potentially an improvement over the current T10D parachute.

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.

In order to determine which canopy is the most suitable for integration with ATPS, the team conducted a "fly-off" from 7-18 June 2004, at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ, which determined the performance characteristics of each of these main canopies. The goal is to identify a canopy with an effective Rate of Descent (ROD) of approximately 18 feet per second (fps) and integrate it with the ATPS harness and reserve for a complete system. The fly off was structured in particular to evaluate the following performance characteristics: 1) Rate Of Descent (ROD); 2) Obstacle avoidance; 3) Altitude loss; 4) Oscillation; and 5) Opening shock. There were five candidates participating in the "fly-off". During the competition, mannequins will be used to collect technical data on performance. An evaluation of parachute packing and maintenance procedures were also conducted.

The competition made Airborne Soldiers one step closer to receiving the eagerly awaited Advanced Tactical Parachute System (ATPS), which helps reduce the risk of injury during landing. The ATPS reflects the most advanced design change to a standard airborne personnel parachute since the T-10 was introduced in the 1950s.

The competition/technical evaluation was conducted during June 7-18, 2004, at the Yuma Test Center. Canopies from five manufacturing candidates were used in 87 test drops. The data collected during the test drops examined the rate of descent (ROD), opening shock forces, altitude loss to stabilization, ability to avoid obstacles in mid-air and on the ground, oscillation angle, and packing times. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) spent equal time with each vendor learning the integration of each main canopy with the current ATPS harness and reserve. SMEs also analyzed each canopy's logistical and integration impacts to the field.

Two canopies out of five entries were chosen for the final phases of the ATPS competition. Para-Flite's model MTR-1C and Irvin Aerospace's model 8mLLP (8 meter Low Level Parachute) were officially selected following deliberations during Phase II of the Technical Evaluation Board meeting on August 3, 2004.

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 MTR-1 is a semi-cruciform parachute that has been in development since 1993. The biggest advantage for the MTR-1 is the reduction of injuries that result from using it. The chute has zero oscillation, meaning parachutist doesn't swing back-and-forth during the descent. This provides a better landing position for the jumper. The parachute also has a slow rate of descent which helps reduce injuries. The parachute can hold up to 380 pounds and has an unlimited deployment height. The parachute does have a drawback, however. The jumper has very little control with the MTR-1. The parachute has two toggles that allow the jumper to rotate 360 degrees, but does little to guide the parachute. This became evident during test runs when several jumpers were unable to land in the drop zone and instead landed in the nearby trees.

Following analysis of collected data and deliberations, the two finalists were notified of their selection and of corrections required to their respective main canopies. For the Para-Flite canopy, corrections consisted of Logistical/Rigger related functions. For the Irvin canopy, corrections consisted of either changing current packing procedures or possibly modifying the parachute pack length by about two feet at each end. Corrections to the two canopies were verified through a Design Validation (DV) test to determine if the products are ready to proceed to Development Testing (DT), which will encompass engineering type testing.

At the conclusion of the "fly-off", two of the five candidates were expected to conduct an Early Operational Assessment (EOA) at Fort Bragg, NC, in November 2004. The Airborne Special Operation Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) used their test jumpers during the EOA to give a subjective analysis on the performance of the two canopies. The results of the analysis were to be provided to the Combat Developer at U.S Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning, GA, and the Program Executive Office-Soldier, at Fort Belvoir, VA, which was to make the selection for the ATPS main canopy.

The planned Early Operational Assessment (EOA), which subjected the two selected canopies to user evaluation, was not held in November 2004 as scheduled due to the board's detection of a dual door deployment issue. The dual door issue became apparent when projected trajectories of all main canopies (with a diameter greater than the currently used T10) significantly increased the probability of collisions during main canopy deployment sequence from the C-17 aircraft. To reduce risk, board members recommended that the dual door performance step be evaluated during a DV mannequin test. If the DV test phase was completed successfully, the EOA will take place with live jumpers at Fort Bragg, NC.

Government testing was expected to begin in March 2005 and end in May 2007. Testing includes DV, EOA, developmental testing (DT) and operational testing (OT), during which all Operational Requirements Document (ORD) requirements will be evaluated. As of October 2004 it was expected that the winner would be chosen in May 2005.




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