Special Forces Military Free-Fall Operations


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Special Forces soldiers , wearing oxygen apparatus and with night vision goggles mounted on their helmets, prepare to conduct a high-altitude freefall parachute jump. Recent military free-fall combat drops by special operations forces in Afghanistan and Iraq highlighted the need for a dedicated Advanced Tactical Infiltration Course.


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The course covers computer-guided and compass-driven navigation, night-vision rigging and emergency procedures, rigging of nonstandard combat equipment and weapons, grouping and canopy flight into unmarked or blacked-out drop zones, and the rigging, loading and deployment of GPS-guided bundles. Students will plan and execute several nighttime, oxygen HAHO operations, from 25, feet, using night-vision goggles in complete blackout conditions and navigating onto unfamiliar or unmarked drop zones.

Students learn the proper rigging of special weapons, combat equipment, night-vision goggles and electronic-navigation equipment for military free-fall standoff operations. Students will learn planning and operational considerations, tactics, techniques and procedures for HAHO operations.

Restricted U.S. Army Special Forces Military Free-Fall Operations Manual

Students will learn the necessary skills and proficiency to safely maintain stability in free-fall while wearing night-vision goggles, electronic-navigation equipment, special weapons and individual combat equipment. The jumps will also include advanced aircraft procedures to include individual exits with combat equipment, mass exits, grouping exercises and night operations.

The high altitude is usually above 25 ft above sea level. The jumpers must have oxygen feet above sea level , respirators and protective clothing in order to survive.

The advantage is that the jumpers should be able to land undetected on smaller Drop Zones DZs. This course is also presented by Chute Systems and the duration is 4 weeks. All the aircraft drills and oxygen procedures will be done in week 1.

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Special Forces Military Free-Fall Operations

Students will do a total of 20 jumps. These jumps will include night jumps and combat equipment jumps. The jumpers are equipped with specialized square parachutes that are highly steerable with good forward speed. This type of jump allows the paratrooper to glide in to their landing area, often for some distance. Up to 40km This type of jumping requires good navigational skills and knowledge of wind and atmospheric conditions.

It allows the aircraft to fly outside enemy airspace and insert them without the enemy hearing them. HALO High Altitude Low Opening requires that the aircraft flies closer to the landing zone although at a high altitude usually above 25 ft.

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These jumpers will then freefall at a relatively high speed towards the landing zone. By pulling the ripcord and deploying their parachute between feet above ground level, this technique helps the jumpers to make a near silent insertion — avoid radar systems etc. In the event that anti-aircraft cannons are active near the drop zone, the HALO technique also minimizes the parachutist's exposure to flak. For military cargo airdrops, the rigged load is cut free and rolls out of the plane as a result of gravity.

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The load then proceeds to fall under canopy to a designated drop zone. In a typical HALO exercise, the parachutist will jump from the aircraft, free-fall for a period of time at terminal velocity , and open their parachute at an altitude as low as 3, feet AGL depending on the mission.

The combination of high downward speed, minimal forward airspeed, and the use of only small amounts of metal helps to defeat radar and reduces the amount of time a parachute might be visible to ground observers, enabling a stealthy insertion. The HAHO technique is used to airdrop personnel at high altitudes when aircraft are unable to fly above enemy skies without posing a threat to the jumpers.

In addition, HAHO parachute jumps are employed in the covert insertion of military personnel generally special operations forces into enemy territory, in circumstances where the covert nature of an operation may be compromised by the loud noise of parachutes opening at low altitude.


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The jumper must use way points and terrain features to navigate to their desired landing zone, and correct their course to account for changes in wind speed and direction. If deploying as a team, the team will form up in a stack while airborne with their parachutes.

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Usually, the jumper in the lowest position will set the travel course and act as a guide for the other team members. Whilst in the British Special Forces 22 SAS , due to his extensive skydiving background, Charles "Nish" Bruce was pivotal in the original trials and development of the HAHO tactic now routinely used as a conflict insert for special forces. At high altitudes greater than 22, feet, or 6, m , the partial pressure of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere is low. Oxygen is required for human respiration and lack of pressure can lead to hypoxia. Also, rapid ascent in the jump aircraft without all nitrogen flushed from the bloodstream can lead to decompression sickness , also known as caisson disease or "the bends".

Also, a HALO jumper will employ an oxygen bottle during the jump.

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Danger can come from medical conditions affecting the jumper. For example, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use including antihistamines , sedatives , and analgesics , anemia , carbon monoxide , fatigue and anxiety can all lead to a jumper being more susceptible to hypoxia. In addition, problems with the oxygen bottle and during the changeover from the pre-breather to the oxygen bottle can result in the return of nitrogen to the jumper's bloodstream and, therefore, an increased likelihood of decompression sickness.

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