New parachute system for SA’s elite soldiers

A demonstration of the new parachute system.

The SA Army and more specifically 44 Parachute Regiment in Bloemfontein, has taken delivery of a new parachute system for the country’s elite soldiers.
The new High Altitude Parachute System (HAPS) can be used for both high altitude low opening (HALO) and high altitude high opening (HAHO) jumps. The final training and acceptance of the system, which also include parachute simulators, have already begun on August 15 at 44 Parachute Regiment, and will be completed by 2 September.
The General Officer Commanding of SA Army Infantry Formation, Major General Rudzani Maphwanya, took possession of the system at Tempe. He said the new system will help in the country’s unique ability to get specially trained soldiers on the ground behind enemy lines. Maphwanya said the new system will benefit South Africa’s Pathfinder and Special Force units to compete favourably with other world class airborne units. The system will enable South Africa’s elite soldiers to do strategic reconnaissance and battle behind enemy lines. Maphwanya said the older high altitude system that was used was obsolete and cumbersome. “Now we have world class equipment that is to the need of the airborne soldiers.” The equipment demonstrated included special thermal clothes, suits, helmets, radio, oxygen bottles and other instruments for high altitude parachute jumping.
Lieutenant Colonel Laurel Thatcher of 44 Parachute Regiment said the old system was cumbersome and limiting in terms of height and the time parachuters can use oxygen at extreme heights. The new system gives a parachuter 80 minutes of breathing air, while the old system only gave 15 minutes. The type of parachute now used will be more versatile and can carry more weight giving soldiers the capability to jump with more equipment.
Explaining the parachute simulators, Thatcher said this system was also developed in South Africa. He said previously the instructor would tell or order a trainee about something during the jumping process and the trainee had to react. This did not give a trainee a lot of time to make a decision on his own.
With the simulator it gives the parachuter a three dimensional environment with feedback to the harness. The benefit of this is that the instructors can now programme specific circumstances into the system during a specific “jump”. Thatcher said now the parachuter must make up his own mind on how to react. “In the past a jumper could get away with an excuse that he did not hear the instructor properly or could not understand him or even the language.” Now he can see what is happening around him through the three dimensional goggles and can react to what he sees and feels through the simulator. – André Grobler