Paras winning their wings is in free fall

Discussion in 'Infantry' started by Mr_C_Hinecap, Mar 13, 2006.

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  1. From the Telegraph today:

    The number of paratroopers able to parachute has fallen dramatically since the invasion of Iraq because the air transport arm of the RAF has been unable to provide enough aircraft.

    Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number to have successfully completed the parachute course at Brize Norton has plummeted from 92 per cent in 2003 to just under a quarter last year.

    Hundreds of soldiers, who have to complete the arduous P Company selection before going to parachute school, have returned to their units without their coveted wings.

    The figures are even worse for Territorial Army paratroopers with only one person - a medical student who reported sick and was granted extra time off - getting through last year. In 2003, 93 per cent of TA paratroopers passed.

    The RAF has been blamed for lacking flexibility in providing aircraft, but Air Force chiefs say their fleet of 50 C130 Hercules has a priority to deliver supplies to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    To qualify, a trainee paratrooper must complete six drops at the Parachute Training School followed by two drops with his unit before being able to sew the famous wings on the Para smock.

    As a trainee, a soldier is not able to continue in the Parachute Regiment if he refuses to jump, and no one can remain in the Paras for an extended period without getting their wings.

    Col Simon Barry, a former commanding officer in the Parachute Regiment, said many RAF parachute instructor officers had been "less than flexible and committed to providing the training that Airborne Forces require".

    "It is time to review the whole system completely and put it somewhere that can be relied upon to deliver."

    He suggested hiring other aircraft to dispatch parachutists rather than "the overworked Hercules". He said: "It is just amazing that we cannot put all this together and make it work."

    A serving Para officer said new troops arriving at battalions without wings were being "treated like second class citizens".

    He added: "If you turn up with wings and the red beret, however 'green' they might think you are, there is nothing anyone can say about you not being a Para."

    Major Gen Julian Thompson, a Royal Marine who commanded a brigade of paratroopers in the Falklands war, said the figures were "indicative of the overstretch" in the military.

    "It indicates that aircraft availability is at rock bottom, which makes you ask yourself what else is at risk."

    A TA soldier who has tried on three occasions to complete the course said people would be put off from making the substantial effort to get through P Company if they had to "wait in the queue for years to get their wings".

    A spokesman for the Army Training and Recruiting Agency, which provided the figures, said the low pass rate was due to "lack of aircraft availability, inability to jump due to adverse weather conditions and disruption stemming from Operation Telic [the Iraq invasion]".

    He admitted that the Forces were "juggling with scarce resources".

    An RAF spokesman said 30 Hercules were available every day but operations and humanitarian efforts took precedence over training.

    He added: "We don't believe that people not getting through their parachuting course will have an impact on operational capabilities."

    Methinks an RAF spokesman was rather brave making that last comment - silly bugger. :roll:
  2. Ord_Sgt

    Ord_Sgt RIP

    Well lets be honest when was the last time the Paras actually jumped in anger - Suez I believe. So its not exactly a big deal really.
  3. Indeed - who knows when we may next have to take the Suez Canal...

    The reality, of course, is that this situation is simply another element of overstretch and underfunding. The Paras should be whinging to to Comrade Reid rather than the RAF, though I would be surprised if CGS hasn't already done so.
  4. That's gonna come back and bite him in the ass!

    Rather a rash statemnt coming from an educated man. Like the PJI's have any say in the day to day tasking of aircraft?!
  5. Didn't they used to do some of the jumps from old barrage balloons?
  6. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    The balloon was flogged off to the Nepalis when some clown decided that a truck and three Crabs was much more expensive than hiring a civvy a/c, pilot and maintenance.

    Many people pointed out the folly of this stunning idea only to be ignored.
    Hunting Aviation couldn't/wouldn't deliver the goods and has now been binned.

    Which leaves the Hercs...
  7. If the hercs are needed on Ops then they have to go to the Ops. The RAF are in a catch 22 position. Would the Paras not also whinge if they were left somewhere because the aircraft was being used for parachute training?

    If there isn't enough aircraft then they need to find an alternative. What about a skyvan? The two jumps in unit would probably have to be done by Herc for realism, I would have thought.

    This part is more telling,
    Why rince the younguns for something that is not their fault and beyond their control? Yes, the sprogs always get a bit of buffeting when they join, as they are accepted within the unit fraternity, but perhaps someone needs to get a grip of those treating them as second class citizens. Otherwise it wont be a lack of wings that the Paras experience, more a lack of people to put them on.

    Not sure why the Balloon jumps were binned, but they used to be the first jumps the trainees did.
  8. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    Was it not something to do with the unacceptable number of pile ins they had from ballons?
  9. Outstanding drills, that man! :D
  10. If we really needed parachute trained troops then the airframes would be made available, just goes to show that the whole airborne thing is historical in the same way that the Household Cav still have horses.
    Great to have but not entirely necessary.
  11. Getting rid of our airborne capability would be nonsensical in the extreme. Yes - it's been a while since it's been used wholescale, but the costs of maintaining that capability are far less than they would be if we had to resurrect it at speed - which Sod's Law would tend to suggest is exactly what would happen if we did scrap it.

    The trick is to reinforce the capability with a meaningful additional slice of firepower and mobility to enhance the rapid shock effect of 100s of British paratroopers falling from the sky onto the enemy objective. Get that cracked and we might see a greater use of these fine soldiers.
  12. Somebody better qualified may be able to correct me but I thought if someone made an operational jump you automatically earned your wings. As happened to ATO dropped into the Atlantic to defuse bombs on the QE2 and Navy Bomb Disposal guys dropped into to Suez to clear underwater mines.

    So if a Bn has to be dropped somewhere all the wingless-ones will earn them the moment they leave the door. Doesn't make the current situation any better though.
  13. Not really: I used to be able to get 5 jumps a day from a baloon without any hassle: as there is no slipstream there can be no twists etc and it is the safest way to jump.

    Problems included: the baloons were old and needed replacing, as did the winching vehicles etc. These are all rather costly and would have appeared on a CAPEX (capital expenditure) budget, but renting the alternative comes under a different budget line with no resultant depreciation costs (i.e. losses) to factor in.

    Then there was the small fact that the buggers were filled with hydrogen and there was a rumour in the late '80s that the IRA were considering putting a couple of tracer rounds through one from the motorway near Weston-on-the-Green.

    Some lads found it harder to jump from a baloon than from a plane; it was nice and quiet and you could hear your mates on the ground and see individual flowers (and the pigs and the traffic). With the Herc, especially on a Bn training drop, loads of people would have been puking up, the plane was hot and smelly and you couldn't wait to leave!
  14. I'm with Filbert Fox here. I 'um' and 'ah' about the need to maintain capability - perhaps we do. But the history (very short - 1940 to 1956) of airborne assault shows massively disproportionate expenditure of logistics and combat power against the returns - except for casualty 'returns'!

    Any defended airspace would take its toll of slow, heavy transport a/c, and I can't believe anyone would think the risk from SAM worthwhile, even in a non 1st world country such as Iraq (and although 82nd AB did indeed drop, its ground forces and journos were on the scene beforehand). Look at Op Plunder, as an historical example (the Rhine crossing), when 17th AB took 40% casualties, almost entirely over the DZ, and then the remainder while doing the airborne thing: which of course is institutionally and logistically rooted......i.e. fighting courageously with light wpns against massive armoured odds...... but does the bravery vindicate the method of employment? Kosovo showed the sensible use of para; rapid insertion by heli on key terrain. Heli also allows the carriage of heavy wpns that allow them a fighting chance too.

    Go on then, this is the bit where you say 'fcuk off, hat', and ignore what I've said........ :lol:
  15. Can't say I agree but like you I admire the regiment. You will always need an organisation like the Parachute Regiment for the soldiers who want to join it. For that reason alone we have to keep the skill alive. When you consider the investment made in 16 Air Asslt Bde no one will be changing our policy on high readiness forces in a hurry. Maintaining a parachuting capability even at battle group level is hideously expensive. Even the Americans can only put in a brigade(-) in one go and even then it is felt that the cost/benefit ratio is not worth it. Hence no airborne assault on Baghdad Airport although it was trailled massively by the airborne establishment in both their and our armies at the time.

    However, parachuting is no longer an act of war - SF operations excepted. On Op BARRAS A Coy 1 PARA went in by helicopter because you have to have your combat power concentrated quickly. Parachuting does not allow you to do that. Read your history - Eben Emael was a great success - parachute troops landed by glider all your troops in one place when you need them. . Crete was so nearly a failure and would have been if allied decision makers had kept their heads. Normandy, Op MARKET GARDEN were not glowing successes and only achieved what they did because of the quality of the soldiers involved. The Rhine Crossing? It was all over bar the shouting by then.