The U.S. Army is testing a new fighting load system for paratroopers, designed specifically for airborne operations.
"The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel (ABN-TAP) was developed with the paratrooper in mind and will allow the paratrooper a greater degree of comfort, mobility and safety during static line airborne infiltration operations," said Rich Landry of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.
Previous fighting load system designs interfered with the fit of the T-11 parachute harness and moved T-11 reserve activation handle further away from the paratrooper's grasp.
The ABN-TAP, which is similar to the old Load Bearing Equipment or LBE, enables soldiers to rig the fighting load under the parachute harness but below the reserve parachute.
"This will allow paratroopers to properly adjust the T-11 parachute harness to their specific sizing requirements and keep the T-11 reserve parachute handle well within reach," said Sgt. 1st Class Ian Seymour, Test NCO from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, or ABNSOTD.
The ABN-TAP design actually draws its lineage from the older LBE system used with the T-10 and MC1-1 parachute systems by paratroopers for decades.
Soon after the Global War on Terror began, all branches of the armed services rushed to modernize field equipment to meet the rigors of modern combat and allow for the constant presence of body armor, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief at ABNSOTD.
"With the vest/plate carrier systems seeing overwhelming soldier acceptance, the task of providing the paratrooper with a modern design compatible with current parachute systems is challenging to say the least," Tracy said.
The ABN-TAP bridges this gap by providing both new and old capabilities to the paratrooper.
Tracy explained that this new fighting load system allows not only for rigging under the parachute harness and reserve, but can be rapidly adjusted to serve as a "chest rig" design upon landing.
"Ground troops consider this to be the most efficient design under current operational conditions," said Tracy.
"Operational testing using airborne paratroopers, collects data which truly allows the Army to evaluate the suitability and safety of the ABN-TAP when worn during static line airborne operations and follow-on missions," Tracy said.
Before testing soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization with the system, fitting and proper rigging of the ABN-TAP with the T-11 parachute system.
Soldiers then conducted parachute jumps from a C-17 aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Sicily Drop Zone at Bragg.
Upon completion of testing, the ABN-TAP could potentially be issued to Army airborne forces worldwide.
"Any time soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future soldiers will use in combat," said Col. Brad Mock, the director of all the Army's Airborne testing.