FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate conducted a rigorous operational test recently on the new Military Free Fall Advanced Ram-Air Parachute System, a nondevelopmental item that is about to replace the nearly 20-year-old MC-4 parachute system for all service branches, according to the test officer.
Supported by 30 static line qualified paratroopers from Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash., and 50 military free fall paratroopers from the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th Special Forces Command Groups, directorate testers conducted the test to validate the system’s effectiveness, suitability and safety, said Roderick Manke, test plans analyst.
“The RA-1 is an individual soldier’s parachute system consisting of a main parachute, reserve parachute, harness and container,” Manke said. “It is designed to allow insertion by both military free fall and double bag static line techniques depending on mission deployment requirements.
“The system also allows for an increase in the jumper’s rigged weight of up to 450 pounds,” he continued. “Additionally, the system is designed to deliver jumpers safely from aircraft flying at elevations from 3,500 feet above ground level to 25,000 feet mean sea level with an objective to go to 35,000 (mean sea level) after follow-on testing.”
The main parachute will deliver the jumper safely to the ground during combat and training airdrop operations, Manke said, while the reserve parachute will function across a wide range of parachute malfunctions. The harness container is designed to fit the fifth through 95th percentile soldiers and houses both the main and reserve canopies.
The test team consisted of Manke, an operational research system analyst, data manager, data collector, T-34 chase plane and pilot, photographer, videographers and an instrumentation technician. The player unit soldiers were required to undergo new equipment training to include fitting, donning, doffing, recovery, aircraft exit procedures and packing the main canopy.
Members of test and evaluation command’s integrated product team from the Army Evaluation Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Developmental Test Command, Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, Ariz.; and ABNSOTD developed the design using performance specifications detailed by the team, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the combat developer, Manke said.
Using drop zones at Laurinburg, Clinton and Raeford, N.C., and Fort Carson, Colo., paratroopers executed test jumps from U.S. Air Force C-127, Joint Cargo Aircraft, U.S. Army CASA 212, C-23 Sherpa, Pilatus Porter and contracted Twin Otter aircraft at altitudes from 5,500 feet above ground level to 12,500 feet mean sea leavel in day and night conditions, he said.
“Our test team collected raw data, and we have provided our report to the evaluators at the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground for their final evaluation report to support a milestone C, full materiel release type classification-standard,” Manke said. “The program manager is scheduled to begin fielding the RA-1 in the third quarter of fiscal year 2014.”
“I’d call this a successful endeavor as we were able to collect the right amount and right kind of data to support the evaluators,” said Col. Mark Edmonds, director of the directorate. “And by selecting a nondevelopmental item, we will be able to accelerate the acquisition process and get the equipment to soldiers a lot faster.”