In theater, ground troops depend on airlifts for resupply, and in the worst conditions time can be a matter of life or death.
When opened at high altitudes, a large payload from a cargo plane could take 25-30 minutes to reach the ground. Conversely, a payload falling with only the braking power of an initial drogue parachute falls an average of 1,000 feet every five seconds.
The second half of the equation is precision, and YPG has long tested parachutes guided by the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) to ensure the troops’ materials, no matter what it is, lands in their hands, not the adversaries.
One of the latest of these high tech parachutes tested here is manufactured by a Canadian company called Mist Mobility Integrated Sysytem Technology (MMIST). This company’s Sherpa Provider parachute system can safely land items of various sizes suing either round or ram air parachutes.
“The systems are designed for 100 pounds to 10,000 pounds of guided delivery to a spot, but the minimum we’re doing is 500 pounds,” said Salomon Sanchez, test officer. “They want to test their different systems under different configurations.”
MMIST has tested at YPG since 2002, and plans to do so for the forseeable future.
“Obviously you have a lot of infrastructure here that is advantageous to us,” said Alexandre Cote, Vice President. “The load building is premium-class: when we test elsewhere, we have to build all of our own loads, and it’s very arduous. This saves two to three weeks of work for us.”
“They have a fully-configured aircraft and the advantage of a large drop zone which gives us a lot of altitude,” added Trevor Fitzpatrick, manager of parachute systems. “They have recovery systems and trucks and payload loaders to load the systems. It’s basically one-stop shopping.”
Currently, engineers are pushing the system’s envelope, performing drops that take the system close to its limits.
“Deployment conditions for parachutes vary greatly once you get into higher altitudes,” said Fitzpatrick. “Having already done preliminary testing on next-generation experimental systems at 10,000 and 12,000 feet, we’re now essentially doubling that up to 25,000 feet.”
On one recent day, the company combined two entirely different scenarios:
“We’re dropping absolute max on a small system and absolute minimum on a heavy system,” said Fitzpatrick.
The rigged air drop bundles were carefully loaded into a white C-130 aircraft in the pre-dawn hours and took to the air after giving the ground crew prepared to witness the drop a chance to get into position.
After several dry passes, the bundles were released. Within minutes of the final landing, a parachute recovery team arrived on the drop zone to carefully untangle and pack the parachutes, then tie them into bundles which were loaded onto large flat bed trucks. Today’s test was a mixed bag: one system performed exactly as planned.
“It was as close to flawless as we could find,” said Fitzpatrick.
Meanwhile, one of the other bundle’s parachutes had a catastrophic failure, with the canopy shearing away from their risers in the intense conditions. No people or cargo were hurt as it fell on the isolated drop zone, and engineers were already looking forward to gathering the ill-fated drop’s in-flight data to make the necessary improvements to prevent a recurrence.
“That’s why we test,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re here to move the state-of-the-art forward to provide the best possible product for the War Fighter.”