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Transforming Military Parachutes: The Role of AI and Stealth in Safety and Effectiveness

A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag (or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift). Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong fabric, originally silk, now most commonly nylon. They are typically dome-shaped, but vary, with rectangles, inverted domes, and others found. A variety of loads are attached to parachutes, including people, food, equipment, space capsules, and bombs.

Military parachutes are designed for use by military personnel in airborne operations. These parachutes are designed to be durable and reliable, allowing soldiers to safely jump from airplanes or helicopters and land safely on the ground. Military parachutes come in different types, including round parachutes, square parachutes, and ram-air parachutes.

Military parachutes are typically made from high-strength, lightweight materials such as nylon and Kevlar. They are rigorously tested and inspected before use to ensure they meet strict safety standards. Parachute training is an important part of military training, and soldiers are trained extensively in parachute jumping techniques and safety procedures.

The Soviet Union was the first to drop airborne troops into battle. During WWII, the Germans used airborne troops to capture Norway in April 1940 and then France in May 1940. The Japanese dropped airborne troops during several battles in the Dutch East Indies during 1941-1942. In North Africa during 1942, the 509th Parachute Infantry was the first American unit to conduct an airborne operation during Operation Torch. In Europe, United States airborne operations would be launched behind enemy lines into France during Operation Overlord, the landings at Normandy. In the Pacific on September 5, 1943, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment dropped onto New Guinea to secure an airfield during Operation Alamo.

For in-depth understanding on Parachutes  technology and applications please visit: Innovative Parachute Systems for Extreme Sports and Military Applications

Parachute technologies

Parachute technologies refer to the various innovations and advancements in parachute design, materials, and deployment systems. Some of the notable parachute technologies include:

Traditionally, parachutes were round (dome-shaped) and, with their dangling suspension lines, looked a bit like jellyfish as they fell. They had vent holes that allowed air to escape, which helped to prevent them from rocking about as they came down, and their lines provided very basic steering. They are typically used for personnel drops and cargo deliveries.

  1. Ram-air parachutes: Ram-air parachutes are one of the most common types of parachutes used today. They have a rectangular shape and are designed to provide greater stability, control, and performance by utilizing a series of cells along the leading edge that inflate as air flows into them. The inflated cells create an airfoil shape that generates lift and allows the parachute to glide through the air, which is much more steerable and controllable than a dome-shaped parachute.  Ram-air parachutes are commonly used in skydiving and BASE jumping, as well as in military and emergency applications. They are used for special operations and for delivering troops and equipment into combat zones.
  2. Square parachutes: Square parachutes are another type of parachute that are commonly used in skydiving and BASE jumping. Unlike ram-air parachutes, square parachutes have a square or rectangular shape and do not utilize cells to generate lift. Instead, they rely on the shape and design of the canopy to provide lift and control. Square parachutes are often preferred by experienced skydivers due to their greater control and maneuverability.

 

Round chutes are still widely used by military paratroopers, because they work well for dropping lots of people together, in a fairly small area, at relatively low altitudes; paratroopers are simply trying to get to the ground quickly, not show off their skydiving technique.

Some modern parachutes are classified as semi-rigid wings, which are maneuverable and can make a controlled descent to collapse on impact with the ground.

Parachutes use motors and planetary gearheads to drive the parachute’s mechanical mechanisms. On-board guidance, navigation, and control system incorporate an integrated GPS and inertial navigation system to continually adjust to the flight characteristics of the system, as well as the weather conditions throughout the flight, to control the system to a pre-programmed altitude and position.

Parachutes are actually three chutes in one, packed into a single backpack called the container. There’s a main parachute, a reserve parachute (in case the main one fails), and a tiny little chute at the bottom of the container, called the pilot chute, that helps the main chute to open. Once you’re clear of the plane, you trigger the pilot chute (either by pulling on a ripcord or simply by throwing the pilot chute into the air). It rapidly opens up behind you, creating enough force to tug the main chute from the container. The main chute has to be carefully packed so the ropes that connect it to your harness (known as suspension lines) open correctly and straighten out behind you. The main chute is designed to open in a delayed way so your body isn’t braked and jerked too suddenly and sharply. That’s safer and more comfortable for you and it also reduces the risk of the parachute ripping or tearing.

Automatic activation devices (AADs): Automatic activation devices are a type of parachute technology that are designed to automatically deploy a reserve parachute if the main parachute fails to open or if the skydiver is unable to deploy it themselves. AADs use sensors to detect the skydiver’s altitude and speed, and will automatically deploy the reserve parachute if certain thresholds are met. AADs are often required by law for certain types of skydiving, such as in military or emergency applications.

Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong fabric, originally silk, now most commonly nylon. Other fabrics, such as Dacron and Kevlar, have recently been used for parachute canopies, but nylon remains the most popular material. More specifically, parachutes are made of “ripstop” nylon that is woven with a double or extra-thick thread at regular intervals, creating a pattern of small squares.

China tested a new rocket-booster parachute system in June 2021

China tested a new rocket-booster parachute system during a recent launch from the southwest of the country, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said. The system was tested on June 3 when the meteorological satellite Fengyun-4B was sent into a geostationary orbit via a Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province. Developed by an institute under the corporation, a 300-square-meter parachute helped the rocket boosters to land in a predetermined location, narrowing the range of the landing area by 70 percent.

 

The Army is finding new ways to airdrop loads large and small, even in urban terrain

The Army is testing and developing better ways to get supplies to soldiers in far-flung, austere places in both big and small packages.  Recent work by soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, tested a parachute system that delivers equipment as large as a vehicle at lower altitudes and with fewer parachutes.

 

Members of the 151st Quartermaster Company, 11th Quartermaster Company and 82nd Financial Management Support Unit, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, did those tests with the Advanced Low Velocity Airdrop System-Dual Row Airdrop System. The G-16 cargo parachute will give loadmasters a way to airdrop at lower altitudes. That will reduce the number of parachutes they need for those types of loads.

 

“The G-16 cargo parachute will provide expeditionary delivery of military equipment and supplies which in return allows operational units to perform speedy recovery before their follow-on mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Juan Cruz, ALVADS-DRAS Test Noncommissioned Officer with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate. The ABNSOTD conducts the Army’s operational testing for joint airborne contingency and special operations forces.

 

Another effort would give airdrops a more nimble way to deliver supplies at longer ranges to soldiers, especially in smaller packages for those stretched out across a near-peer battlefield. The Autonomous Aerial Resupply into Dense, Urban, Complex Terrain, or AAIRDUCT, started in March 2018 and expects to conclude by fiscal year 2021. The tech demo they’re providing through the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center aims to find multiple “areal delivery technologies” that would support urban operations. Those include the Multi-Use Aerial Dispersing System, which can be used to deliver scatterable media or aid supplies to a civilian population.

 

And two new variants of the Joint Precision Aerial Delivery System are being developed to autonomously deliver cargo from 10- to 500-pound payloads. But it’s more than just a smaller load, it’s a new way to guide in packages when enemy troops are jamming GPS. “The JCTD will focus on navigation in a GPS-denied environment, enhanced parachute control to increase accuracy and the ability to autonomously drop sensors from a JPADS to reduce the need for traditional hand emplacement,” according to a CCDC release. But that will require advancements in airdrop mission planning. The researchers conducted their first operational tests in August, using MADS to deliver psychological operations materials specific to U.S. Central Command.

 

Stealth Parachutes

Stealth technology has proven to be one of the effective approaches to enhance the survivability of Aircrafts. Aircraft/helicopter designers are making them stealthier by reducing their signatures; viz. visual, aural, infrared (IR), and RADAR cross section. Advancements in stealth technologies, as demonstrated by the very low RCS of stealth aircraft such as F-117, B-2 and F-22, make such targets extremely difficult to detect. Now militaries are employig stealth material on parchutes.

 

Canadian Company develops Real-time invisibility cloak for military use

Canadian company, Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp, has created a paper-thin material that makes objects “invisible”. The portable material does not require an energy source and has been marketed for military use. The material, Quantum Stealth, resembles a gadget from a Mission Impossible film. It works by bending light rays, rendering objects behind it invisible. It also blocks ultraviolet, infrared and shortwave infrared waves.

 

The company says that its ultrathin, light and mobile form makes it ideal for military action. A video clip demonstrating the Quantum Stealth showed how it could potentially cloak over tanks and other military hardware. The light-weight material can be bent and folded and is designed to be carried in a soldier’s backpack, and it can also be used to make parachutes. Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp, known for its camouflage products, has already applied for a patent for the Quantum Stealth material. It has also applied for patents for a holographic-like display system.

 

Russia Developing ‘Stealth Parachutes’ Invisible To All Night Vision Devices

The Russian military is now looking at “stealth” parachutes that would allow the paratroopers to be invisible to night-vision goggles and strike deep-down the enemy defenses.

 

According to Tass, a firm called the Technodinamika Group is pioneering the technology. “The effect of chemical spraying for making the parachute invisible for night vision devices on the physical properties of basic fabrics used in the manufacture of parachute systems’ canopies and cords and, correspondingly, the possibility of their use in producing materials for the canopies of parachute systems, are now being studied,” said Igor Nasenkov, the Technodinamika chief said.

 

The reports further said that the stealth effect is achieved by applying special saturating techniques at the stage of producing polyamide threads and fabrics. Already today there are samples of materials for the manufacture of parachute backpacks that will be invisible for night vision devices. A major advantage of the parachutes would be to carry out a potentially undetected nighttime air-assaults. It would also enable large numbers of infantry to infiltrate an area with less chance of being detected.This could pose a threat to the US night vision supremacy. The US military has achieved combat success by using one of the most effective and technically advanced night-vision goggles in the world. That is where the well known US military saying “we own the night” comes from.

 

The company also introduced parachutes for Russia’s Ratnik combat gear which are equipped with a unique suspension system that would prevent a soldier’s accidental drowning when landing on water. “The rapid release parachute locks are used in the new suspension system for the D-10 parachute system. A full cycle of tests has been completed. The suspension system has been reconfigured for the Ratnik combat gear and can be promptly adjusted for each individual soldier,” told Nasenkov, at the Army-2020 international military forum is organized by the Russian Defence Ministry. In June 2019, the Southern Military District’s press service reported two paratroopers drowned during an exercise in Crimea when they landed into the water after parachute jumping. The troops deployed to Crimea landed into the water and failed to get rid of a parachute harness. An investigation was launched to know the causes of the incident.

 

“However, even if parachute materials are stealthy, it might not mean the heat signature emitting from soldiers themselves would also be undetectable,” wrote Kris Osborn of The National Interest.  “Therefore, the actual tactical utility of stealth parachutes may ultimately be somewhat marginal, given that thermal sensors will likely have little trouble detecting the heat signature emitting from the humans dropping with the parachutes,” he added.

 

However, he fails to mention that the thermal sensors also have a limitation of range and beyond this few miles range both parachutes and soldiers will be stealthy. Further militaries have devised new unifroms for soldiers which can reduce thermal infrared signature further limiting the range of infrared sensors. In late 2012 SSZ Camouflage Technology, AG, and Milliken and Company joined forces to bring apparel weight fabrics with infrared signature reduction to the US military, Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies. By significantly reducing the thermal infrared signature of soldiers wearing these fabrics, this technology goes beyond the current visual and near infrared range (NIR) to provide concealment in the mid wave infrared range (MWIR) and long wave infrared range (LWIR) thus reducing the risk of detection from thermal infrared imagers. Therefore, the actual tactical utility of stealth parachutes may  be much more that estimated by Osbrone

 

Agility Prime Researches Electronic Parachute Powered by Machine Learning

The Air Force’s Agility Prime program awarded a phase I small business technology transfer (STTR) research contract to Jump Aero and Caltech in April 2021 to create an electronic parachute powered by machine learning that would allow the pilot to recalibrate the flight controller in midair in the event of damage.

 

“The electronic parachute is the name for the concept of implementing an adaptive/machine-learned control routine that would be impractical to certify for the traditional controller for use only in an emergency recovery mode — something that would be switched on by the pilot if there is reason to believe that the baseline flight controller is not properly controlling the aircraft (if, for example, the aircraft has been damaged in midair),” Carl Dietrich, founder and president of Jump Aero Incorporated, told Avionics International.

 

This technology was previously difficult to certify because of the need for deterministic proof of safety within these complex systems. The research was sparked when the Federal Aviation Administration certified an autonomous landing function for use in emergency situations which created a path for the possible certification of electronic parachute technology, according to Jump Aero. The machine-learned neural network can be trained with non-linear behaviors that occur in an aircraft in the presence of substantial failures such those generated by a bird strike, Dietrich said. Once trained with these simulated failures, the controller could select the appropriate control laws.

 

“The neural network would learn new operating limits and effector gain mapping in the presence of these simulated failures,” Dietrich said. “The adaptive aspect of the controller would in effect select the appropriate pre-learned control laws that the DNN discovered through the training of the simulated failures. The goal is to optimally map the original command structure of the baseline controller onto the new controller with the fundamental limitations of the new plant model — so the aircraft response would be as close as possible to what the pilot expects — thereby improving the probability of a safe landing.”

 

This technology is still in early-stage work, Dietrich said, however, Caltech has created similar adaptive controllers which could help in the development of the electronic parachute. “This particular research could lead to the first application of an adaptive/ML controller to a piloted aircraft in the form of a recovery function (or ‘electronic parachute’) if it is carried forward through Phase III,” Dietrich said.

 

The electronic parachute could be trailed on Jump Aero’s electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, JAI eVTOL, which is still within the preliminary design stage, Dietrich said. Jump Aero was launched in January 2020 as a solution for first responders.

 

US Army tests new parachute tech that airdrops military trucks combat-ready

The U.S. Army is testing a new reusable parachute cargo-drop system at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The new system is easier to rig and detaches after landing, allowing soldiers to quickly leave the drop zone and escape danger, according to a press release by the U.S. Army.

For resupplying troops or delivering humanitarian aid to inaccessible places, airdrops have become a common practice. Even with parachutes, heavy military vehicles or equipment pallets can cause a painful shock upon landing.

Drop parachute systems use cardboard in the shape of a honeycomb on the bottom of the steel pallet to lessen this. On impact, the honeycomb breaks up, absorbing the energy rather than dispersing it to the payload.

The honeycomb, chutes, and restraints must be assembled, and the system is one-and-done. After the drop, the cardboard needs to be removed from the pallet and thrown away.

This takes up valuable time that soldiers would rather use to find cover before hostile forces arrive.

One of the solutions being tested by the U.S. Army is the Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System (RRDAS). This technology replaces a significant portion of the cardboard with the help of a series of fabric airbags folded beneath the pallet.

These airbags spread out and expand under atmospheric pressure after the cargo falls, compressing to absorb the shock.

The reusable bags can carry loads of up to 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) and inflate at the height of only 750 feet (230 meters).

The system also includes features to ensure that an airdropped vehicle lands upright. Outriggers are RRDAS components that help keep top-heavy cargo upright when it collides with the ground.

The honeycomb reduced rigging and de-rigging times by 25% and 40%, respectively, in tests.

“We will be able to increase the load of the payload and the length of the platform so we can drop heavier and longer items,” said Rohe.

“We’ll be testing on and off at Yuma for several years to come.”

 

Military Parachute Market

The Military Parachute Market size was valued at USD 1348.1 Million in 2021 and is expected to grow by 6.17% from 2022 to 2029, reaching nearly USD 2176.4 Million.

Militaries have employed military parachutes to transport troops and supplies into battle.

Large military planes frequently use parachutes to drop supplies and cargo over distant military locations. In general, the military uses a variety of parachutes, including square parachutes, ram-air parachutes, and round parachutes.

The special forces around the world also use high altitude high opening (HAHO) parachuting. This involves expert parachutists deploying their steerable chutes at a high altitude.

Parachute help soldiers to glide long distances to their target and approach those areas of enemy territory that it would be too dangerous to fly a plane over. Unlike high altitude low opening HALO jumpers, HAHO parachutists have to breathe bottled oxygen during their descent.

 

Airborne combing and para trooping exercises are increasingly being done by various armed forces to train their forces for  tough situations. Growing instances of joint para-trooping exercises and increasing air-borne combing will substantially contribute to the sales of military
parachutes. In addition, there is growing use of military parachute for troop landing and aerial delivery in emergency (disaster, war, epidemic etc.). This is the significant driver for military parachute market.

 

Moreover, there is a special emphasis of the industry to develop and produce more parachutes that are lightweight and have high load carrying capabilities, keeping in mind the requirement of military forces and the tough terrain armed forces operate. Among very few restraints for the military parachute market is maintaining quality along with striving to make canopy material lighter in weight. In case of any error in parachute, manufacturing can lead to fatal injuries for soldiers.

 

Leading Military Parachute market Players: Airborne Systems, Butler Parachute Systems, Cimsa Ingenieria De Sistemas, S.A., Complete Parachute Solutions, Inc., Fujikura Parachute CO., LTD., FXC Corporation, MAGAM SAFETY Ltd., Mills Manufacturing, Spekon, VITAL PARACHUTE INC.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/could-russias-stealth-parachutes-be-real-threat-167824

https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/10/25/the-army-is-finding-new-ways-to-airdrop-loads-large-and-small-even-in-urban-terrain/

https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/military-parachute-market-A09102

https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/us-army-tests-new-parachute-cargo-tech

 

 

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