Soldiers from the Airborne Test Force were testing a potential new glide modification system for the RA-1 military free fall parachute during a practice jump just before Yuma Proving Ground Commander Col. John Nelson’s change of command ceremony. The test, which began in May and ended in July, consisted of 228 jumps.
Soldiers from the Airborne Test Force were testing a potential new glide modification system for the RA-1 military free fall parachute during a practice jump just before Yuma Proving Ground Commander Col. John Nelson’s change of command ceremony. The test, which began in May and ended in July, consisted of 228 jumps. (Photo Credit: Mark Schauer) VIEW ORIGINAL

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground is home to all manner of parachute testing. Recently, elite jumpers from its Airborne Test Force completed the initial testing for a potential new glide modification system for the RA-1 military free fall parachute.

Sgt. 1st Class Cody Lavalla explained that the test was conducted under the direction of Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, which is part of the Army Futures Command and thus plays a role in the Army's modernization effort.

"The RA-1 military free fall parachute has been fielded for about six years now," said Lavalla, who is the air drop operations noncommissioned officer for the Airborne Test Force. "Like any item or piece of equipment in the Army, they are always looking to improve it."

The test, which began in May and ended in July, consisted of 228 jumps, including the ones performed during both YPG Commander Col. John Nelson's change of command ceremony and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Millare's change of responsibility ceremony.

"In that time frame we did all those jumps and provided feedback to the customer as to what our thoughts were on the system, how it performed and did it meet expectations," Lavalla said.

The potential modification being tested was a glide system that added another set of toggles that when pulled, instead of going forward, the jumper’s parachute will come down vertically while staying pressurized without collapsing the canopy.

"With a glide modulation you set yourself up on your final approach, and if you need to land closer than you would at full flight you pull down on the toggles lowering your forward drive and let up at approximately 100 feet above the ground before you land,” Lavalla said.

Having this type of capability will help jumpers increase accuracy, land in areas with tall obstacles such as trees or buildings and insert themselves into much smaller drop zones than is currently possible safely with the current RA-1.

The reason for doing test jumps during the two ceremonies, according to Lavalla, is that Cox Field is a much smaller area to land compared to the normal drop zones they use, and it was an opportunity to show off the glide motion capability.

"There were trees, buildings and other obstacles, which are things you normally wouldn't want in such close proximity to a drop zone," Lavalla said. "The system provides the ability to avoid things you could potentially impact and still land accurately in a small area."

Airborne Test Force training instructor Jose Castillo added that the feedback provided by the jumpers is currently being evaluated and more testing will likely be required on the glide modification system before the Army makes a decision about it.

"This is just the initial stage of testing," said Castillo. "There is more testing that will need to be done."