YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) is home to all manner of parachute testing, with spacious and instrumented ranges large enough to accommodate even the world's largest cargo parachutes.

YPG has long been on the cutting edge of developmental and operational testing of new airdrop capabilities, including the Extracted High-Low Speed Container Delivery System (EHLSCDS), currently undergoing testing here.

Unlike conventional cargo parachute drop systems that use gravity to slowly drop bundles from the back of an aircraft at airspeeds of up to 150 knots, EHLSCDS uses a developmental G-15 cargo parachute along with an extraction parachute to have the capability of rapidly dropping bundles at airspeeds of up to 230 knots, keeping them in a tighter pattern and greatly reducing the aircraft's exposure time over a drop zone.

"In order to get a tighter grouping they use an extraction chute to get the payload out a lot quicker," said Andrew Colunga, test officer. "This is particularly for low-level air drops."

The benefits of such a parachute system are significant. Troops on the ground have depended on air drops as a vital means of receiving supplies, particularly in harsh terrain that lacks ground transport infrastructure or where snowy winter months make mountainous roads impassable. Earlier this decade, more than 75 million pounds of cargo, a record amount, was parachuted to troops in Afghanistan. Improved accuracy ensures these vital supplies reach their intended recipients intact and on target. An aircraft dropping EHLSCDS bundles flies in much faster and at a lower altitude than in typical airdrops. In theater, that means less time that cargo planes are in the threat zone-- and less dispersion for the dropped cargo, which makes it easier for them to be safely recovered before an enemy can respond.

Ensuring these vital cargo loads come in safely means new rigging procedures for bundles prior to loading, as well as tests on new designs for the rigged bundles' tie-downs and the parachute's deployment bag.

While the EHLSCDS means a tighter-patterned drop once the materials are out of the plane, dramatically greater force is exerted on the bundles when first extracted. YPG testers have been gathering data on the effects of this extraction force on bundles of water bottles, filled water barrels, and ammunition cans filled with sand to ensure they reach Soldiers on the ground in serviceable shape. Once back on the ground, these items are easily inspected for dents or leaks. The testers and recovery crew then fold and pack the parachutes into kit bags, which are loaded with the drop items onto the backs of large trucks and transported back to the proving ground's air delivery complex for further inspection.

"We do full inspection and maintenance, and time how long each of these things takes," said Colunga. "We give this data to the product manager for use in the item's training manual."