Current technical standards for the manufacture of cord for use in parachutes are published by the Parachute Industry Association. The US military MIL-C-5040H standard required the material to be nylon.
Despite the historic association of paracord with airborne units and divisions, many military units have access to the cord. It is used in almost any situation where light cordage is needed. Typical uses include attaching equipment to harnesses, as dummy cords to avoid losing small or important items, tying rucksacks to vehicle racks, securing camouflage nets to trees or vehicles, and so forth.
US Military issue paracord was purchased with reference to a technical standard MIL-C-5040H, which was inactivated in 1997. This standard described six types: I, IA, II, IIA, III, IV. Types IA and IIA have no core. Type III, a type commonly found in use, is nominally rated with a minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds, thus the nickname "550 cord".
Type III 550 lb (249 kg) 30% 225 ft (69 m; max. 6.61 g/m) 7 to 9 32/1 or 36/1
US military has no overall diameter requirements in its specifications, in the field Type III cord typically measures 5⁄32 inch (4 mm) in diameter.
The fibers for the outer sheath must be colored using an approved dye; the dye cannot compromise the structure of the fibers or the finished product. The undyed fibers are twisted tightly to make the inner yarns -- 3 bundles of fiber per core yarn. The sheath is then plaited over the yarns. The number of yarns are determined by cord type; type III would have 7-9 yarns. The cord is steamed to tighten the cord. This step is crucial to parachute use since the extra bit of stretch helps to absorb the shock when the parachute is deployed.