US Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD)
US Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD)

US Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD)

Some of the nation’s elite Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Special Forces Group have finalized testing the U.S. Army’s new Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD). Preparation for the PFD test started in mid-April 2021 with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate performing intentional water landings in Jordan Lake, North Carolina, according to Maj. Camden S. Jordan, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) executive officer. The rehearsals took place for the multi-tiered and complex infiltration technique before final testing in June.

New Equipment Trainers from Fort Lee, Virginia instruct maintainers from across the airborne community on the proper maintenance and packing of the Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD).
New Equipment Trainers from Fort Lee, Virginia instruct maintainers from across the airborne community on the proper maintenance and packing of the Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD). (Photo by Mr. James L. Finney, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“Planners synchronized early with local emergency management, law enforcement and state wildlife agencies to help support the Army’s water operations on Jordan Lake. Located just West of Raleigh, North Carolina, Jordan Lake is one of North Carolina’s most pristine waterways, so these agencies provided swift water rescue teams, emergency medical technicians, small boat support and assisted in routing boaters away from the water drop zone while airborne operations are underway,” said Jordan said.

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An Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate test jumper conducts a combat equipment buoyancy test during the early stages of Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) testing.
An Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate test jumper conducts a combat equipment buoyancy test during the early stages of Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) testing. (Photo by Mr. Barry W. Fisher, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Military planners try real hard to keep airborne operations away from bodies of water. Paratroopers can engage high value targets near large bodies of water so they must be equipped accordingly for safety. With flotation bladders that can be inflated using an internal carbon dioxide (CO2) gas cylinder or an oral inflation tube, once employed in the water, the PFD becomes critical in saving lives. The PFD must suspend a combat-equipped jumper in a “lifesaving” posture for an extended period following an airborne infiltration.

An Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate soldier prepares to enter the water prior to the start of Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) pool testing.
An Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate soldier prepares to enter the water prior to the start of Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) pool testing. (Photo by Mr. James L. Finney, Audio Visual Production Specialist, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Operational testing with Soldiers during early June saw participating paratroopers undergoing intensive training cycles geared toward preparing for deliberate water operations. That training began with new equipment training (NET) so the Soldiers could practice the proper rigging techniques and activation procedures required using the PFD. The rigorous NET training test jumps required the test Soldiers of 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Special Forces Group to complete a full combat water survival test (CWST) conducted in Fort Bragg’s Mott Lake.

A 3rd Special Forces Group operational Soldier undergoes vertical wind tunnel training prior to live airdrop of the Parachutist Flotation Device (PDF).
A 3rd Special Forces Group operational Soldier undergoes vertical wind tunnel training prior to live airdrop of the Parachutist Flotation Device (PDF). (Photo by Mr. James L. Finney, Audio Visual Production Specialist, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

The the U.S. Army’s new Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) is much easier to rig for static line operations. ABNSOTD used the PFD test to train parachute riggers from across the airborne and special operations community in the proper maintenance and care of the new life-saving apparatus once they return to home station. This “maintainer” training included system maintenance, repacking, repair, proper storage, handling, as well as rigging and employment during water landings. The PFD was easy to pack and required no special tools or materials to maintain.

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment participating in testing the Parachutist Flotation Device undergo combat water survival training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina's Mott Lake.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment participating in testing the Parachutist Flotation Device undergo combat water survival training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina’s Mott Lake.(Photo by Mr. James L. Finney, Audio Visual Production Specialist, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based ABNSOTD plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems, and equipment to the Warfighter. The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood, Texas, and its mission ensures systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which they train and fight.

US Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD)
A soldier assigned the 82nd Airborne Division prepares for a water landing in Jordan Lake, North Carolina while participating in the Parachutist Flotation Device (PFD) operational test. (Photo by Mr. James L. Finney, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
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