US Army tests new parachute tech that airdrops military trucks combat-ready

The reusable parachute cargo-drop system can carry loads of up to 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) and inflate at a height of only 750 feet (230 meters).
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Operational testing of new the airdrop system at Yuma Proving Ground.
Operational testing of new the airdrop system at Yuma Proving Ground.

U.S. Army 

The U.S. Army is testing a new reusable parachute cargo-drop system at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

The new system is easier to rig and detaches after landing, allowing soldiers to quickly leave the drop zone and escape danger, according to a press release by the U.S. Army.

“When it flies through the air, ambient air pressurizes all of the fabric-based airbags,” said Maj. Matthew Rohe at the U.S. Army Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support.

“When it hits the ground, the airbag modules cushion the payload, so we don’t need as much honeycomb as in the current design.”

For resupplying troops or delivering humanitarian aid to inaccessible places, airdrops have become a common practice. Even with parachutes, heavy military vehicles or equipment pallets can cause a painful shock upon landing.

Drop parachute systems use cardboard in the shape of a honeycomb on the bottom of the steel pallet to lessen this. On impact, the honeycomb breaks up, absorbing the energy rather than dispersing it to the payload.

The honeycomb, chutes, and restraints must be assembled, and the system is one-and-done. After the drop, the cardboard needs to be removed from the pallet and thrown away.

This takes up valuable time that soldiers would rather use to find cover before hostile forces arrive.

Improved rigging and de-rigging time

One of the solutions being tested by the U.S. Army is the Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System (RRDAS). This technology replaces a significant portion of the cardboard with the help of a series of fabric airbags folded beneath the pallet.

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These airbags spread out and expand under atmospheric pressure after the cargo falls, compressing to absorb the shock.

The reusable bags can carry loads of up to 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) and inflate at the height of only 750 feet (230 meters).

The system also includes features to ensure that an airdropped vehicle lands upright. Outriggers are RRDAS components that help keep top-heavy cargo upright when it collides with the ground.

The honeycomb reduced rigging and de-rigging times by 25% and 40%, respectively, in tests.

“We will be able to increase the load of the payload and the length of the platform so we can drop heavier and longer items,” said Rohe.

“We’ll be testing on and off at Yuma for several years to come.”

Testing will continue this year to fine-tune the design, with full field testing under realistic conditions to follow in the U.S. fiscal year 2025, read the press release.

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