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Image:USMC Paratrooper.jpg
An American Paratrooper using a MC1-B series parachute

Paratroopers are soldiers trained in parachuting and generally operate as part of an airborne force. Paratroopers offer a tactical advantage as they can be inserted into the battlefield from the air, thereby allowing them to be positioned in areas not accessible by land. This ability to enter the battle from different locations allows paratroopers to evade fortifications that are in place to prevent attack from a specific direction, and the possible use of paratroopers forces an army to spread their defenses to protect other areas which would normally be safe by virtue of the geography. This ideology was first practically applied to warfare by the Soviets, however during WWII, they were overstretched in their battle with Germany, and the elite paratroopers were mainly used on land. Paratroopers were first used extensively in World War II (and in German service, were referred to as Fallschirmjäger.) A common use for paratroopers is to establish an airhead.


[edit] Types of military parachuting

In World War II paratroopers most often used parachutes of a round design. These parachutes could be steered to a small degree by pulling on the risers (four straps connecting the paratrooper's harness to the connectors) and suspension lines which attach to the parachute canopy itself. German paratroopers, whose harnesses had only a single riser attached at the back, could not manipulate their parachutes in such a manner. Due to the limited capacity of period cargo aircraft (eg. Ju-52) they rarely, if ever, jumped in groups much larger than 20 from one aircraft. In American parlance, this load of paratroopers is called a "stick", while any load of soldiers gathered for air movement is known as a "chalk".

Not all paratroopers used parachutes during a drop, but flew in on gliders. This enabled larger equipment (vehicles, cannons, etc.) to support the assault.

Today, paratroopers still use round parachutes, or round parachutes modified as to be more fully controlled with toggles. The parachutes are usually deployed by a Static line. Mobility of the parachutes is often deliberately limited to prevent scattering of the troops when a large number parachute together. Some military exhibition units, but most often special forces units, use "ram-air" paragliders which offer higher ability to turn and maneuver and are deployed without a static line from high altitude.

[edit] Paratrooper forces around the world

Image:Jeep-parachutable-img 1024.jpg
Parachutable jeep of the 1st RPIM of the French Army

[edit] Basic paratroop safety

American paratroopers receive training in a number of areas to ensure they arrive in the battlefield safely. They are taught about how to respond to a premature deployment of their parachute in the aircraft, the need to push their static line into the hands of the safety or jumpmaster to prevent the line from becoming entangled around the next jumper and proper procedures in case the aircraft has an emergency. The five points of performance, a system of steps taught to paratroopers to be performed while jumping in order to successfully reach the ground from the aircraft, are also observed.

[edit] Five points of performance

Before each airborne operation a jumpmaster runs through the "Sustained Airborne Training" script, which contains a number of points of performance. While the script is recited paratroopers perform the actions they will do when jumping from the aircraft, while being observed to ensure they are done correctly.

The first point of performance is "Proper exit, check body position, and count". Here, the eyes are open, the chin is on the chest, elbows are tight into the sides and the hands are over the ends of the reserve parachute with fingers spread. The body is bent slightly forward at the waist, with the feet and knees together and knees locked to the rear. This body position ensures the jumper does not tumble on leaving the aircraft and ensures the parachute deploys correctly. On exiting the aircraft a slow count to four thousand (one thousand... two thousand...) is executed and if no opening shock is felt the reserve parachute is immediately activated.

The second point of performance is "Check canopy and immediately gain canopy control". To gain canopy control of the MC1-1D parachute, the jumper reaches up, secures both toggles and pulls them down to eye level, simultaneously making a 360-degree check of his canopy. To gain canopy control of the T-10D parachute, the jumper reaches up, secures all four risers and simultaneously makes a 360 degree check of his canopy.

Once control of the parachute is gained, the third point of performance is "Keep a sharp lookout for all jumpers during your entire descent". This covers the three rules of the air: always look before you slip, slip in the opposite direction to avoid collisions, and the lower jumper has the right of way. A fifty-foot separation must be maintained to all jumpers all the way to the ground.

The fourth point of performance is "Slip/turn into the wind and prepare to land". At approximately 200 feet above ground level a check is performed below the jumper and then the equipment is lowered.

When jumping with an MC1-1D parachute, the turn into the wind is performed approximately 200 feet above ground level. If the wind is blowing from right to left, the right toggle is pulled and the elbow locked. Once facing into the wind the toggle is let up slowly to prevent oscillation. If the wind is blowing from the jumpers rear to their front, either toggle can be pulled. If the wind is blowing from the jumpers front to their rear, only minor corrections need be made to remain facing into the wind.
When jumping a T-10D parachute, the slip into the wind is performed at approximately 100 feet above ground level. If the wind is blowing from left to right, the jumper reaches up high on the left risers and pulls them down into their chest, holding them until landing. If the wind is blowing from their rear to their front, they will reach up high on their rear risers and pull them down into their chest and hold them until they land. If the wind is blowing from the jumpers front to their rear, the front risers are pulled down into the chest and held until landing.

After the jumper has slipped or turned into the wind, they assume a prepare to land attitude by keeping the feet and knees together, knees slightly bent, elbows tight into the sides, chin on the chest and eyes open.

The fifth point of performance is "Land". A parachute-landing fall is made by hitting all five points of contact: balls of feet, calf, thigh, buttocks, and the pull-up muscle. One of the canopy release assemblies is activated while remaining on the ground to prevent being dragged across the ground by the parachute. The harness can then be removed and the trooper is ready to move on.

[edit] Technique

It is worth noting that military static-line jumps range from 800 to 1,200 feet. Combat jumps (into Panama, for example, during Operation Just Cause) are executed at lower altitudes, typically just over 500 feet. These low altitudes decrease the time aloft for paratroopers (thus decreasing the chance of being shot) and also minimize the opportunity for drift-related hazards (e.g. entanglements, leap-frogging).

[edit] Malfunctions

There are two types of malfunctions - a complete malfunction and a partial malfunction. A complete malfunction means the parachute does not provide any lift capability; therefore the reserve must be activated. There are several types of partial malfunctions with the action depending upon the severity and the effect of the malfunction.

[edit] History

For a history of paratroop forces see Airborne forces.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

es:Paracaidista fr:Parachutisme militaire it:Paracadutista he:צנחן ms:Askar Payung Terjun no:Fallskjermsoldat pl:Wojska powietrznodesantowe fi:Laskuvarjojääkäri sv:Fallskärmsjägare zh:空降兵


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