By Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Love, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — Certified test paratroopers of the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate completed operational testing for the Next Generation Static Line (NGSL) parachute systems.
For a potential modification or replacement of the T- 11, they trained with the C-17 Mannequin Rack System and metal mannequin dummies before moving on to live drops.
ABNSOTD owns two of the few Mannequin Rack systems in the Army inventory.
“The Mannequin Rack Systems allows us to rapidly test several parachute systems in a relatively low-risk operation and test jumpers work in four-man teams in order to safely operate the system,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Copely, ABNSOTD test parachutist.
“Prior to the airborne operation, we run lots of rehearsals on the ground to ensure we get it right in the air.”
Testing also included the current standard parachute system, the T-11, which U.S. paratroopers are all too familiar with.
Multiple operational demonstrations were done using the C-17 Mannequin rack system.
The parachute systems came from five different vendors, each with some unique characteristics.
“Each system has its own unique capabilities and characteristics, all with the same goal in mind — to safely lower a paratrooper and their equipment to the ground,” said Mr. James “JC” Cochran, ABNSOTD test officer.
Video and still photography collected during the demonstration was used to help determine the way forward for the possible next parachute fielded to U.S. Paratroopers.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone mindful of new testing protocols.
“The new normal test day now begins with social distancing, temperature checks, and medical screening,” said Master Sgt. Melloyd Carter, ABNSOTD test NCO.
“Consequently, paratroopers are a very hard demographic to socially distance,” he said. “Our goal is to keep the Soldiers participating in testing socially-distant and safe during every phase of our operations.”
“Upon arrival each morning, participating Soldiers were given temperature checks by ABNSOTD staff and assigned to a specific work bubble for the day,” Lt. Col. Derek Johnson ABNSOTD Test Division chief added.
“This ensured that the operational Soldiers had minimal exposure to support staff and employees not directly involved with their mission.”
“Operational Testing is about Soldiers,” said Col. Brad Mock, ABNSOTD director.
“It is about making sure that the systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight.”
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas, and its mission ensures systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which they train and fight. Test unit Soldiers provide feedback by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based ABNSOTD plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems, and equipment to the Warfighter.