The Birth of Military Parachuting
Winston Churchill first introduced parachuting into the Armed Forces in 1940 when a small Airborne Assault was planned for the Tragino Aqueduct in Italy. The Operation was so successful that an expansion of the Airborne Forces was immediately ordered.
Shortly after, No 1 Parachute Training School (PTS) was formed. Airborne troops who were trained at No1 PTS participated in many parachute drops such as Operation Overlord during D-day in Normandy on 5 June 1944 and Operation Market Garden in Arnhem on 17 september 1944.
All British Airborne troops are trained at No1 PTS by Royal Air Force Parachute Jumping Instructors (PJI's) of the Physical Education branch.
The Basic Static Line Parachute course lasts for three weeks where the troops complete a minimum of six jumps, culminating in a night descent from 600ft with equipment weighing around 118 lbs. These jumps are carried out using the Low Level Parachute (LLP). This method of Parachuting allows a large concentration of soldiers to be despatched into a drop zone very quickly.
The other types of Static Line Parachuting utilised by the British Armed Forces are the 22ft Steerable and the Static Line Square. Both parachutes allow small patrols to be inserted into specific areas. The operation of both of these parachutes requires further training and are predominantly used by amphibious units.
The final and most specialised form of Static Line Parachuting, used only by the Special Forces is High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). Parachutists exit the aircraft at up to 25,000ft where the parachute deploys immediately. Because of the glide ratio of the canopy the soldier can travel long distances to the drop zone using GPS (Global Positioning System). This method enables the parachutist to enter a specific hostile area without detection.
Many Parachute Jumping Instructors strive to attain the coveted Military Freefall Instructor (MFFI) qualification, which allows the Instructor to train selected Special Forces soldiers in High altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachuting. This involves jumping from heights of up to 25,000ft using personal oxygen systems and carrying up to 350 lbs of equipment and weaponry. HAHO (High altitude High Opening) parachuting allows specialist teams to be inserted into an area using a blanket of stealth.