Fort Hood’s only airborne unit, Charlie Company, 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, tried out the Army’s newest parachutes on a breezy, sunny morning Nov. 19.
The paratroopers floated down from the Black Hawks 6,000 feet above them toward flares billowing blue and green smoke, used to alert those in flight of changing wind direction.
The new chutes, the RA-1, will replace the MC-4 free fall parachutes.
The RA-1 chutes are larger, with greater capabilities.
“Small characteristics were changed,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Ford. These include added and rearranged holes in the canopy and a change in material and size, allowing the chutes to carry 150 more pounds than previous ones.
“The old parachutes were designed for free fall use,” Ford said, adding the aircraft had to drop the jumpers directly over the landing spot and they came straight down.
The new chutes allow for manipulation by the user.
A soldier can travel farther distances and guide where they go, a technique Ford calls “steering.”
The results are significant.
“The glide ratio went from 2.5:1 to 4:1,” said Jim Arnette, a member of the Personnel Airdrop Team Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment for the RA-1 Parachute System and a retired master sergeant with special forces.
The glide ratio change means the soldiers can jump from the aircraft in an area as far as 25 kilometers from their landing destination. A great amount of freedom is given to the aircraft and jumper through this improved technique.
The landing has changed with the new chutes, too, making it a standing landing that is much softer than the previous method.
“It’s a lot safer, especially for nighttime jumps,” Arnette said.
Each paratrooper spent 8-10 minutes in the air, performing two jumps each.
“The guys love it,” Arnette said. “It’s leaps and bounds beyond the old (parachutes).”
The RA-1 has numerous benefits that improve the unit’s capabilities at Fort Hood and the Army as a whole, Ford said.
“These can be used by anyone who trained at basic airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga.,” Ford said.
Soldiers will no longer be required to attend additional training, making Fort Hood units more self-sufficient, with internal jump masters.
“It will greatly benefit special operations units,” he said. “We’ll be more effective and more mission ready ... and cost-effective.”