Home » British paratroopers practise high readiness with allies in Estonia

British paratroopers practise high readiness with allies in Estonia

One of the hallmarks of a gold-standard drop, achieved on Saturday, is the ability to drop groups of soldiers, referred to as “sticks”, from both port and starboard doors simultaneously.

However, unlike this drill, part of Nato’s massive Swift Response exercise, the transport aircraft would be likely to approach a real battle wingtip to wingtip, rather than one after the other, to get all the troops on the ground as quickly as possible.

Had the soldiers been using British parachutes, they could have jumped even lower than 1,000 feet, because they are quicker to open than the American model.

At a real push, the troops could jump from 500 feet, according to Squadron Leader Si Huntley, who was helping to coordinate the exercise.

“I don’t like jumping really,” said Cpl Keld, who has completed nearly 20 jumps.

“The build-up’s the worst – hours of planning and putting on the kit and getting checked.

“But when the doors come open and you get hooked up and the lights come on, it’s show time.

“Everyone’s hyped up; there’s a nice energy in the plane; the atmosphere changes.”

These non-steerable parachutes – in truth not radically different from those used at Arnhem in 1944 – can safely support about 160 kg.

It means the lighter paratroopers tend to get lumbered with heavy equipment such as mortars and machine guns when they jump.

‘Washing machine effect’

Bombardier Ryan Shaver, of 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery, jumped alongside his infantry colleagues.

Responsible for coordinating with fast jets and attack helicopters once on the ground, he has to show the same physical and mental stamina as the Paras.

Describing the jump, he said: “You have this washing machine effect when you leave the aircraft and then everything goes completely silent.

“Then you’re looking around, seeing who you’re closest to and trying to get the best landing you can possibly get.”

“I got twisted around a bit today,” the 29-year-old added.

“I felt like a rag doll.”

“Once on the ground you spend about five seconds thinking, ‘am I ok’”.

“Then you think, ‘ok, what next?’.”

Whilst it has always been an elite skill in which they were fiercely proud, the reality is that for generations of paratroopers, particularly those involved in counter-insurgency warfare, jumping has had little relevance to their operational lives.

But with escalating tensions in Europe, the focus is changing.

“I wouldn’t say it will never happen, because we don’t know what will happen,” said Bombardier Shaver.

“But with a conventional operation, there’s every opportunity that it could.”