US Military Ordering Low-Velocity Cargo Parachutes
Low-velocity parachutes are so named because they’re used for cargo airdrops made below about 1,200 feet, with the cargo aircraft flying at low speed as parachute-rigged containers roll out the rear ramp. US Army Soldier Systems Natick developed them in 2006, aiming to offer a lower-cost low altitude system that did not require specialized parachute manufacturers. US Army PM FSS engineer Bruce Bonaceto’s designs hit those targets, and low velocity parachutes have been doing the same on the front lines. They’re generally used to deliver basic supplies such as gas, ammunition and food to troops in rough terrain and isolated locations, without having to use a more expensive high-altitude GPS-guided parachute system like JPADS, or a more expensive standard parachute like the G-12.
As one might imagine, demand is high in Afghanistan, and some of the small business contract recipients are an interesting set of stories in and of themselves…
Winners and Business Stories
Mills Manufacturing Corp. in Asheville, NC wins a contract with a maximum value of $54.9 million (SPM4A7-12-D-0082). Mills has specialized in military parachutes since the Korean War. The ISO 9001 certified firm is strictly a build-to-print manufacturer, working from government designs. Their major corporate initiative has been around lean manufacturing and kaizen, which managed to produce the same amount of output with very little overtime in 2011, versus almost 2,000 hours of overtime per month clocked in 2010.
Multiple industrial directories show Niche, Inc in New Bedford, MA as a private company categorized under Equestrian Related Leather Articles, with a web site for “Barnstable Riding” that’s located at the same physical address. Their government business has been increasing steadily over the past 4 years, with specialties in parachutes and tie-down equipment.
Paranetics specializes in military parachutes. In early 2010, the company contacted NIST’s Arizona Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate, to help them increase their rate of production without sacrificing quality and lead time. Arizona MEP conducted a Basics of Lean [Manufacturing] workshop in Spanish for all company employees, plus a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) event and Kaizen for a better work-cell layout. The firm has since been able to raise its production rate.
Contracts & Key Events, 2011 -
The US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Richmond, VA manages these contracts. Unless otherwise noted, they are all small business set-asides.
The DLAA has clarified the terms involved. The total amount that can be awarded under this 3-year contract is $228 million, over the base year and 2 option years. Once the minimum-guaranteed quantity of 2,000 parachutes is ordered under each of the 5 contracts, the awardees will compete against one another for future delivery orders under a 50% partial small business set-aside. That means the large businesses (Saab and Niche) can only compete for 50% of the future orders, while the small businesses (BRS, Paranetics, and Mills) can compete for all of the future orders. The 5 winners out of 9 responding companies included:
Small-business qualifier Ballistic Recovery Systems, Inc. in South Saint Paul, MN wins a maximum $197 million contract, and will also perform work in Pinebluff, NC, and Pompano Beach, FL (SPM4A7-12-D-0074).
Small-business qualifier Paranetics Technology, Inc. in San Luis, AZ wins a maximum $220.6 million contract (SPM4A7-12-D-0075).
Small-business qualifier Mills Manufacturing Corp. in Asheville, NC wins a maximum $196.2 million contract (SPM4A7-12-D-0076).
Saab Baccacuda, LLC in Lillington, NC wins a maximum $117.7 million contract. the Pentagon gives the number as SPM4A7-12-D-1068, but that’s wrong. It’s (SPM4A7-12-D-0078).
Niche, Inc. in Lillington, NC wins a maximum $106.7 million contract (SPM4A7-12-D-1077). DLAA did not say so, but it’s possible that this contract is in fact SPM4A7-12-D-0077. DID is checking.
March 27/12: The DLAA issues a set of firm-fixed-price, partial set-aside, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contracts for “low cost, low altitude parachutes” on behalf of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, running to March 24/13. There were 7 responses to the FBO.gov proposal, and all recipients qualify as small businesses.
Paranetics Technology, Inc. in San Luis, AZ wins a contract with a maximum value of $54.9 million (SPM4A7-12-D-0082).
Niche, Inc. in New Bedford, MA wins a contract with a maximum value of $22.2 million (SPM4A7-12-D-0083).
Aug 24/11: BRS Aerospace in South St. Paul, MN receives a firm-fixed-price, maximum $7.8 million contract for low velocity parachutes, revising their recent award to about $29 million “based on urgent and compelling requirements in direct support of operations in Afghanistan.” Work will be performed in Minnesota, Florida and North Carolina for the US Army. The contract runs until Dec 26/11 (SPM4A7-11-C-0595).
July 27/11: BRS Aerospace in South St. Paul, MN receives a firm-fixed-price, maximum $21.2 million contract for low velocity parachutes, which will be made in Minnesota, Florida and North Carolina for the US Army. The contract runs until Dec 26/11 (SPM4A7-11-C-0595).
July 27/11: Niche, Inc. in New Bedford, MA receives a maximum $19.75 million contract for low velocity parachutes for the US Army. The contract runs until Dec 26/11 (SPM4A7-11-C-0596).
July 22/11: During the During the 2011 International Airdrop Symposium at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, airdrop statistics show a sharp increase. Half-way through 2011, more than 39.5 million pounds of cargo have been airdropped in Afghanistan. In 2006, the year of the first GPS-guided JPADS airdrop, only 3.5 million pounds was airdropped for the entire year.
JPADS is part of that growth, but not the big driver in and of itself. Cheap low-velocity cargo parachutes are much bigger contributors. USAF.
June 7/11: Niche, Inc. in New Bedford, MA receives a maximum $51.2 million firm-fixed price contract for the US Army. The contract will run to Feb 12/12 (SPM4A7-11-C-0513). The FBO.gov notice describes the parachute order as an “unusual and compelling requirement.”
June 7/11: GMA Cover Corp. in Port Huron, MI receives a maximum $14.7 million firm-fixed price contract for the US Army. The contract will run to Feb 12/12 (SPM4A7-11-C-0514). The firm includes a number of military and paramilitary specialties related to forward deployment, and includes contract manufacturing.
June 7/11: Paranetics Technology, Inc. in San Luis, AZ receives a maximum $22.1 million firm-fixed price contract for the US Army. The contract will run to Feb 12/12 (SPM4A7-11-C-0515).