Infantry: February 28, 2001


The US Army is looking for a new parachute to replace the venerable T10, and is testing the XT11 (which creates a square canopy with openings in the corners) and XT12 (an improvement on the basic T10 design). A new chute will enter service in 2005. The point of the exercise is to reduce the speed at which paratroopers descend from the current 21 feet per second to a more moderate 16 feet per second. This would give a paratrooper in a combat jump from 500 feet an extra seven seconds to deal with any problems. Troops jump from 800-1200 feet in practice, with a reserve chute that can save their lives if the main chute fails. But combat jumps are made at 500 feet, and some paratroops actually jumped into Grenada from 375 feet due to the inaccuracy of aircraft altimeters. Reserve chutes are not issued as there is no time to deploy them if the main chute fails. The new system is intended to allow the use of reserve chutes even in combat jumps, since there would be time to do so. The slower landing speed should also reduce sprains and broken bones by a sizable fraction, giving a unit on the ground more troops to use in combat and fewer jump casualties to protect.--Stephen V Cole


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