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The Army's new T-11 parachute is shown during testing. (ARMY)
The Army's new T-11 parachute is radically different from the current T-10, but one thing will surely stand out to jumpers: the two to four extra seconds of pucker-factor time they'll experience waiting for the chute to open.
Instead of the four-second count soldiers typically use to estimate when the T-10 will open once they leave an aircraft, the T-11 requires a six-second count for soldiers jumping out of fixed-wing aircraft and eight seconds when jumping out of helicopters.
Now the new parachute is official: The Army has awarded contracts to Airborne Systems North America, Aerostar International Inc. and BAE Systems to produce up to 50,000 T-11 Mass Tactical Canopy Personnel Parachute Systems. Combined, the three contracts are worth $220 million.
The T-11 — which features a completely redesigned main and reserve parachute and an integrated harness system — will replace the standard T-10, which has served 50 years.
Here's a look at the new 'chute:
• The new T-11 is coming soon to an airfield near you. The Army began fielding the T-11 this summer and plans to phase it in over the next eight years as it becomes the Army's main parachute system.
• The T-11 has a radical new look. Instead of the T-10's traditional dome canopy, the T-11's canopy is a square.
• The new chute has a stable, low rate of descent that's designed for a softer landing than the T-10 gives, to reduce landing injuries. The square shape is intended to help slow the descent.
• The T-11 can carry loads up to 400 pounds, 40 pounds more than the T-10.
• There is a disadvantage to the new design. Made from nylon with Teflon-coated suspension lines, the T-11 is a heavier load, at 53 pounds — 38 pounds for the main parachute and 15 for the reserve — compared with 44 pounds for the T-10.