G-12 Cargo Parachute
At the beginning of Operation Provide Promise, eight aircraft (six US, one German and one French) were loaded with bundles daily. In the wintertime, because of the necessity of the relief items, the mission increased to 16 aircraft (12 US, 3 German and 1 French) nightly. To accomplish the expanded mission, the 5th Quartermaster Detachment employed more than 200 soldiers, to include 30 additional riggers from US Army-Italy, nearly 100 soldiers from other US Army Europe units, 30 Reserve Component soldiers from Georgia, and 20 allied soldiers from France and Germany.
The two main types of airdrops were high velocity for airdrop altitudes of 10,000 to 18,000 feet and free drops for situations when ground convoys could not reach towns to distribute the food and supplies. The high-velocity method consisted of the Container Delivery System (CDS), a 26-foot ring slot parachute on top of an A-22 container. There were over 200 different CDS food and medical configurations developed for this operation.
When the operation expanded, the demand for the 26-foot ring slot parachute surpassed the quantity on hand. After conducting several tests, a larger parachute, the G-12D, was used. This parachute, 64 feet in diameter, cost $2,500, roughly five times more than the 26-foot ring slot. Part of the decision to use the G-12D parachute was based on a stock of 26,000 of these parachutes in Europe that were starting to deteriorate. With the smaller 26-foot parachute, one bundle was attached. The larger G-12D parachute allowed riggers to connect one to four loads on a single parachute.
The G-12D is a standard low-velocity parachute designed to drop heavier loads from a much lower altitude than what Operation Provide Promise airdrops required. To change this low-velocity parachute to a high-velocity one, the riggers had to modify the G-12D. This procedure adds about 10 minutes to the packing process. Instead of taking 1 soldier 30 minutes to pack the 26-foot parachute, the G-12D took 3 soldiers 49 minutes. After the rigging, the G-12D's modification gave the parachute the same capabilities as the 26-foot parachute, but the G-12D could handle twice the weight.
In the case of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, initial usage rates for G-12 cargo parachutes were very high, which caused a concern that the current inventory and production could not keep up with demand. Cloth suppliers to the parachute industry responded by producing long lead-time textile materials without a contract in order to have the material available quickly.
The intensity of the operation waned faster than many predicted, as did the usage rates for G-12 cargo parachutes. For a period, cargo parachute orders were not guaranteed, even though suppliers had adjusted production systems to accommodate order surges. However, a solicitation for the G-12 parachute worth $19.2 million was released in March 2002 and was awarded in June 2002. The $19.2 million order was large by industry standards - requiring the manufacture of 5,566 cargo parachutes. The average cost of the parachutes was almost $3,500 per unit.
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