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C4iSR: Air

UK A400M tactical parachuting capability delayed

09 October 2019
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Airbus demonstrated a ‘slim sticks’ parachute drop of 80 French and Belgium paratroopers on 7 October. The British Army uses a different parachute system and so requires a separate bespoke clearance effort. Source: Airbus

A target date for the clearance of the United Kingdom to use its Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters for tactical parachuting of airborne forces has yet to be set, a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman confirmed to Jane’s on 9 October.

This includes the clearance of the launching of paratroopers simultaneously out of the side doors of a low flying A400M – a technique known as ‘sim sticks’ – which is considered key to the successful rapid delivery of paratroopers from low altitude to combat situations. UK paratroopers use the unique, IrwinGQ, Low Level Parachute (LLP), which requires a bespoke UK trials and clearance process if it is to be used safely from the A400M.

Since 2015 Airbus has been working to solve slip stream issues that have prevented ‘slim sticks’, and potentially result in paratroops being dangerously tangled together as they exit the A400M.

On 7 October Airbus Defence and Space announced it had successfully carried out the first ‘sim stick’ jump from an A400M by 80 French and Belgium paratroopers at the Ger Azet drop zone in southern France, whichthe company described as a “major achievement”.

The MoD spokesman told Jane’s , “Recent Airbus trials to evaluate ‘sim stick’ appear promising but the final trial report has yet to be published. The UK is watching the position closely and results will be scrutinised to determine the extent they meet the UK’s operational requirements.”

The UK had originally been working toward a two-stage roll out of tactical capabilities, with airdrops of some types of cargo pallets being introduced from late 2017 and advanced tactical capabilities – including ‘sim sticks’ jumps – to allow the dropping of the British Army’s battalion-sized Airborne Assault Task Force taking place between 2018 to 2022.

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