Airborne Systems, world leader in the design, development and technology of military parachutes and aerial delivery systems, said today that its presence at IDEX 2011 in Abu Dhabi had been a success. At the exhibition it announced a new addition to its family of guided precision aerial delivery systems (GPADS), with the first military application of a one-time, low-cost (disposable) ram air parachute.

Airborne Systems designed and developed a new and lower cost ram air parachute that gives commanders in the field greater operational flexibility, as it does not need to be recovered. It also reduces the equipment cost of providing aerial supplies using GPADS, a system which enables supplies to be flown autonomously and with precision to the programmed landing point.

The one-time, pre-packed parachute has the identical characteristics as the 2K FireFly™ parachute, which has already been selected as the system of choice for the US 2,000lb joint precision aerial delivery system (JPADS 2k) program. The pre-packed parachute is interchangeable with the 2K FireFly airborne guidance unit (AGU) and requires no software or other modifications.

The 2K FireFly is already in operational service, and its re-usable parachute – designed for 20 drops – cannot always be immediately recovered for re-packing. This implies that the parachute could be lost, damaged or degraded, which increases the cost of operation.

Innovative designers at Airborne Systems utilised the latest materials, designs and fabrication techniques to develop a high performance system but at a lower cost. They also used conventional sewing techniques during production which provide cost savings, while still maintaining the exact high performance capability of the multi-use parachute of the 2K FireFly. In addition, this new one-time use parachute (2K1T) is delivered to the field already packed ready for deployment, requiring simple rigging to the payload.

A comprehensive test program was carried out to prove it could survive opening shock and would not degrade in flight. Around 100 test drops were carried out, including a number from C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft, in addition to an intensive series of ground tests and analytical tests.

The 2K1T and the 2K FireFly parachutes have identical performance characteristics, allowing commanders to decide which parachute to use right up to the point at which the aircraft or helicopter is loaded for the delivery mission.

Ric Allison, senior VP of customer business at Airborne Systems, Europe, said: “This is the first time we have worked on a design effort to maintain the parachute’s performance while using materials that need to perform once only. We were pleased to be able to respond very quickly, once we identified the need for this capability in late summer 2010.

“Normally, we work to enhance performance and service life, but this time there was an operational need for a GPADS system that enables the soldier to cut free the payload and guidance system and to leave the parachute behind. We have delivered a product that meets an operational requirement and provides the same performance as the 2K FireFly.”