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UK looks to French parachutes to solve A400M capability gap

British Army paratroopers (pictured dropping on Ukraine during an exercise in 2020) will begin trials of IrvinGQ Mk 1 and EPC parachutes in August. (Crown copyright)

A gap in UK low-level parachuting capability caused by the early retirement of Royal Air Force (RAF) C-130J Hercules transports could be filled by purchasing parachutes used by French airborne forces.

There had been fears that the British Army's current IrvinGQ Low Level Static Line Mk 1 parachute system would not be cleared for use from the Airbus A400M transport on time for the retirement of the last of the RAF's 14 C-130Js in March 2023.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Janes on 28 July, “The A400M Capability Programme has successfully accelerated the estimated delivery dates for Low Level Parachute (LLP) capability to 2023, meaning there will not be an LLP capability gap as the C-130J retires.”

The UK's March 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy earmarked RAF C-130Js for retirement.

A senior ministry source told Janes on 28 July that UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ordered his ministry to purchase a batch of Ensemble de Parachutage du Combattant (EPC) static line parachutes, which are used by the French airborne forces for low-level mass insertion missions from the A400M.

The British Army's Parachute Regiment and RAF experts will begin trials of IrvinGQ Mk 1 and EPC parachutes in August to ensure at least one type of parachute is ready for use by UK airborne forces from the A400M by March 2023, the source said.

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