Paras winning their wings is in free fall

#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
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
Mr_C_Hinecap said:
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:
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!

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".
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?
 

Cutaway

LE
Kit Reviewer
#6
Carcass said:
Didn't they used to do some of the jumps from old barrage balloons?
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,
A serving Para officer said new troops arriving at battalions without wings were being "treated like second class citizens".
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
chocolate_frog said:
Not sure why the Balloon jumps were binned, but they used to be the first jumps the trainees did.
Was it not something to do with the unacceptable number of pile ins they had from ballons?
 
#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
ViroBono said:
Mr_C_Hinecap said:
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:
Indeed - who knows when we may next have to take the Suez Canal...
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
in_the_cheapseats said:
chocolate_frog said:
Not sure why the Balloon jumps were binned, but they used to be the first jumps the trainees did.
Was it not something to do with the unacceptable number of pile ins they had from ballons?
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
Darth_Doctrinus said:
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.
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.
 
#16
The way that army parachute training is run needs a good looking at really. Four weeks to get in eight descents is a p1ss take. Why can't they do more jumps from a skyvan? Why does the TA course take only half the time even if they only do one less jump? Why cant they bring back the balloon? (arguably the best bottle test) Why cant they buy a dedicated airframe for the PTS?

On my course in 1997 even then the aircraft were always being called away for some 'job' or other. With that and the weather 99% of the course was spent rolling around on mats and hanging around waiting.

Maybe the PJI's could travel round the in role units and conduct all the ground training b0llocks there. Then the blokes could be bussed to a DZ where a C130 can land ie Dalton bks on any day that looks like having a suitable weather window. issue and fit chutes, pile on the airframe, leap out, airframe lands, repeat till it gets too dark, bus back to unit. If you get in eight jumps in a six month period you get your wings. Jobs a goodun. Isnt this how the French do it?

I'm not going to get into the 'do we need them or not' argument but if you are going to train parachutists ffs do it with the minimum of arrseing around
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
#17
One solution would be for there to be more flexibility shown on the aircraft tasking. There are currently loads of crew training flights each month, to train and refresh the aircrew in para role sorties. Unfortunately they are booked around the tea and toast times in the respective messes of the aircrew, and not the timings required for the ballast in the back.

If these were retasked to mount from BZN or the para course pax bere bussed to Lyneham there would be at least 6 or 8 sorties a montha that could be used.

I am sure that the RAF can come up with all sorts of great "crew duty" type excuses why this could not happen. It is however daft that we have trainees that cannot jump due to aircraft shortage, but the overstretched Bns are constantly being instructed to provide bodies to fill their (the RAF) training requirements.
 
#18
The reason the Regular course is twice the length of the TA course, 4 weeks to 2 weeks, is that the Regular soldier will go to PTC with no previous experience of anything to do with military parachuting. However, his TA counterpart will have done a great deal of ground training on the mats to get to the level at which he can be signed off by an APJI that he had passed landings 1 -5 - i.e. he can do PLFs in all the relevant directions stationary and moving from ramps of differing heights. He will also get a fair amount of introduction to the parachute, main and reserve, and, if available, be shown videos of parachuting. Futhermore, he may get the chance to get up in an aircraft if his unit are jumping - in effect getting some 'air experience'. Consequently, he will arrive at PTC far more prepared that his regular counterpart who will have spent the first 2 weeks of his course learning how to land and roll, etc, etc. When i was at PTC we turned up on the Sunday and jumped on the Wednesday afternoon - it's not rocket science after all.

As for turning up at Bn without your wings - passing P Coy is one thing, but when you've got the BBC the rest of the blokes know that you've got something about you, i.e. you've stood in the door. If you haven't done it, you'll never know what that means.
 
#19
If the crabs pulled their fingers out and actually strived for a bit of efficiency and cooperation with their 'customers' I am sure they could do a beatup in house like the TA do then do all training and descents in less than 10 days.

As said above it is definately NOT rocket science

Intro to the reserve? Yeah this goes on the upper d rings like this......if anything goes wrong apart from a HUP pull the red handle.

Okay thats five minutes gone, how long are we here for? Four weeks.........

If they made the courses shorter they could run more and have a better chance of getting blokes through. Or even relocate to somewhere where the weather is almost guaranteed to be good with low winds?

You've got to feel sorry for the baby paras going to battalion with no wings. I bet they dont get much grief.
 
#20
Why don't the stupid buggers just land and come down the steps like everybody else?

Typical Para, making a mountain out of a molehill.

Suez is not ours anymore and I can't remember the last time Aldershot needed saving. They didn't drop into Kuwait or Basra so why bother with them at all.

Give me standard line Infantry anyday. Far more flexible without the chip on each shoulder, light role, followed by saxon and Warrior, not just bleedin shankes pony like Para Regt.

You know the saying "Only 2 things fly etc"
 

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