New parachute system for SANDF airborne forces
Final training and acceptance of a new high altitude parachute system (HAPS) for the airborne elements of the SA Army and SA Special Forces is currently underway at the De Brug training area outside Bloemfontein. The delivery of the new parachute system marks the completion of Project Porthole which first saw the light of day some 10 years ago and was put on hold in 2013 because of non-BBBEE compliance. In September 2014, Lelebotse Engineering was named as the successful tenderer and today (Thursday) saw a ceremonial handover of the system to Major General Rudzani Maphwanya, General Officer Commanding, SA Army Infantry Formation. Final training and acceptance started on August 15 and is expected to be completed by September 2. Dylan Raffanti, a director of Lelebotse, said in addition to canopies, on-demand oxygen breathers, helmets, masks, GPSs, bailout bottles and 10 man console breathers for use aboard aircraft as well as other equipment, a pair of training simulators are also part and parcel of the project. These are the first of their type to be taken into service in Africa and are a further development of a parachute training simulator used by Germany’s Special Forces.
“The simulators will be used for both freefall and static line training with parachutists being given time to learn the necessary drills to get out of situations which might occur,” Raffanti said. The equipment, including 75 canopies, will be kept and maintained by 44 Parachute Regiment which will manage the simulators as part of a Centre of Excellence for Parachute Training. Special Forces will keep their own operational reserve system on location for independent operations. With the new parachute system, airborne soldiers will be able to descend from a height of thirty-five thousand feet and reach ground 15 to 20 minutes later after using the on-demand oxygen breathers. The HAPS can accommodate both HALO (high altitude low opening) and HAHO (high altitude high opening) jumps.