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Re-Purposed Chutes Save Special Operation Command Money

U.S. Army Special Operations Command is using repurposed parachutes in its Low Cost Aerial Delivery Systems to save money and lives. (U.S. Army photo)
U.S. Army Special Operations Command is using repurposed parachutes in its Low Cost Aerial Delivery Systems to save money and lives. (U.S. Army photo)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- We are becoming a disposable society; one where it is easier to buy a new printer then buying the expensive ink cartridges. The U.S. Army Special Operation Command, or USASOC, is joining that society with its new cargo parachute systems.

With the defense budget shrinking, USASOC is trying to save every penny it can. Its latest cost-saving venture is the parachutes used in delivering equipment to Soldiers in the field. The Low Cost Aerial Delivery System, or LCADS, includes several different types of parachutes and containers, which are replacing the traditional cargo parachute and container systems that have been used for decades.

"The benefits of the LCADS are both cost and logistics" said Scott Martin, an equipment specialist for the Product Manager Force Sustainment System. "We developed the LCADS primarily to reduce operational costs and at 50 percent less than traditional parachutes. But as important was how LCADS made things more efficient for the Soldiers supporting airdrops in Operation Enduring Freedom [OEF]." 

Martin pointed out one way LCADS is more efficient is that it comes from the manufacturer pre-packed and ready to use. 

Having the parachutes pre-packed allows the riggers to focus on building bundles and getting supplies delivered to the Soldiers at Forward Operating Bases [FOBs]," he said. "With the traditional parachute and container system, after the drops they had to be collected by Soldiers, returned to the main base and either be repacked or be prepared for disposal."

This has always time-consuming, often dangerous and ultimately expensive. 

Cost-wise, the chutes are made of polypropylene plastic-like material, which is cheaper to manufacture than cotton/polyester cloth in traditional parachutes. This allows them to be a one-time use item when there's little chance of recovery (battle, terrain, etc.) They can be destroyed in the field and not have to plan for retrograde operations. 

Ironically, some LCADS parachutes are actually derived from traditional parachutes.

A specialized subset of LCADS parachutes is called Low-Cost Low Altitude, or LCLA. These parachutes allow lower than normal air drops (150-300 feet above ground level) to resupply troops in combat areas. The parachutes used in LCLA are re-purposed, out of service, T-10 main and reserve personnel parachutes. These are parachutes, which are no longer safe for use by paratroopers due to their age.

"With the fielding of the new T-11/MC-6 parachute system, the Army made a conscientious decision to re-purpose the legacy T-10 main/reserve to a one-time-use cargo parachute," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 (P) Boyer, USASOC command aerial delivery advisor. "This re-purposing initiative saved the taxpayer millions of dollars and allowed for a quick transition in order to provide necessary aerial resupply missions to the warfighter."

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