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Civilian001
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Icon 1 posted 22 May 2021 00:18
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Was reading the Ottawa Citizen today and came across this article..

They make some point about likely hood of large airborne drops... but come on.. get rid of the airborne? [Mad]

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http://www.canada.com/search/site/story.asp?id=669E8ABD-BA42-46B9-921E-D9EFB14197B4

Parachute troops face extinction
Days of large-scale deployment of airborne units are over: report; Move would be a severe blow to army's morale

David Pugliese
The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, May 21, 2021

They may have served with distinction in war zones from D-Day to Afghanistan, but Canada's paratroopers are going the way of the dodo.

A report prepared for senior military officials and obtained by the Citizen recommends eliminating the army's parachute capability. If acted upon, the move could be a severe blow to the morale of some soldiers who view parachuting as a symbol of combat-readiness and esprit de corps.

The study, produced 17 months ago, recommended cutting the parachute companies in units based in Edmonton, Petawawa and Valcartier, Que. It also called for the closing of the Canadian Parachute Centre in Trenton. Any remaining parachuting skills would be moved to the air force and kept only for search-and-rescue missions.

Army officials say no final decision has been made on what to do with the paratroopers. But Col. Howie Marsh, an adviser to army commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Jeffery, said the days of large-scale parachute drops of airborne troops are over.

"It is likely there would be insertion of small numbers of people by parachute, but the parachute-type company or the unit drop -- I don't think is going to survive in the future," said Col. Marsh, who is helping develop the army's strategy for the future.

Although the Canadian Airborne Regiment was disbanded in 1995 by the Liberal government during the aftermath of the Somalia mission, the military has retained a parachute capability in its three light infantry battalions. Paratroopers from Canadian Forces Base Edmonton were recently involved in the missions against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, although they were transported by helicopter rather than parachuting into the area.

As well, the soldiers killed during the recent accidental bombing of Canadian troops in Afghanistan by a U.S. aircraft were paratroopers.

Brig.-Gen. Vince Kennedy said any decision on what to do with a parachute capability in the Canadian Forces will have to wait until after the government-ordered defence review is completed. That is expected to be finished by the fall.

As far as the army goes, parachuting will still be needed to insert troops onto battlefields, but whether that continues in the form of parachute companies in the light infantry battalions still has to be decided, Brig.-Gen. Kennedy said.

Last week the army announced it wants to expand the light infantry battalions in terms of numbers of soldiers, but it did not mention the parachute aspect of those units.

According to the report prepared for the Armed Forces Council, the Canadian military no longer has a requirement to drop large numbers of soldiers or equipment into war zones, and "the retention of a standing parachute capability is not essential."

The Armed Forces Council is made up of generals and is a key advisory group for the Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Ray Henault.

Another memo from the office of the military's director general of strategic planning argued that there is also no need to have even the capability to quickly retrain soldiers for a parachute role. "Since we do not feel we need a combat para capability, we also do not feel we need a way to re-generate it quickly -- any more than re-generating an aircraft carrier capability," according to the memo.

It costs the Canadian Forces around $16 million a year to keep its parachute capabilities. Shutting down the parachute companies in the light infantry battalions would save $6.6 million a year.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Stewart, a former member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, said it would be a mistake to get rid of the paratroopers. "The savings are so minimal," he said. "It's peanuts compared to everything else you would get from it."

Although he acknowledged it is highly unlikely Canada would conduct airborne operations in the future, he said such units produce soldiers that are "a bit extra special." Airborne soldiers are mentally and physically tough as well as possessing an esprit de corps and a "can do" attitude, said Mr. Stewart.

He noted that most armies in the world still maintain parachute units, likely for those very reasons. During the Falklands War and during a recent rescue mission in Sierra Leone, Britain sent paratroopers to do the job, Mr. Stewart added.

The military report acknowledged that parachuting is a "morale issue" for the army and could help in retaining and recruiting soldiers.

But retired army colonel Doug Bland said the army doesn't have the extra money for paratroopers. "It is important to have high-readiness forces but they don't have to go by parachute," said Mr. Bland, chairman of the Defence Management Studies program at Queen's University.

Helicopters have become the mainstay of moving units around war zones.

Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
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portcullisguy
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Icon 1 posted 22 May 2021 03:17
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Never had the desire to willingly jump out of a perfectly good aircraft that wasn't on fire or about to crash -- I can however sympathize with paras in Canada.

The airborne ability is essential not only to esprit de corps, morale, and so many intangibles, but also to the tangibles such as combat effectiveness and quick reaction to trouble areas.

Although Canadians didn't, Americans DID insert by air at least once during the Afghanistan campaign currently underway, and with positive effects.

Our JTF2 lads will still use airborne insertion whether the regulars keep the ability or not. Since most of the early JTF2 members were former Airborne Regiment blokes, I would imagine this would be a skill they would want to keep available in the pool of potential special forces candidates.

In Britain, the SAS have an entire squadron that bears a majority of its members from the Parachute Regiment, and paras are scattered throughout the entire SAS in all four squadrons.

If helicopters are the main method of transport these days, then no problem. You can parachute out of one no problem.

Paras are a different breed, and so it should remain. My crap-hat's off to them.


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portcullisguy

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Doug
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Icon 13 posted 22 May 2021 07:05
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The article is a 17 month old reprint with a few new things added. Things have changed. Besides, large scale airborne drops are a thing of the past. Three divided companies of paratroopers are obviously not going to do a major drop(people wise) Disregard the article.
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Brock
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I agree that conventional parachute drops are not really required of Canada, but Canada does require a dedicated airborne trained special operations capable unit that it not a true special force unit, but somewhere in between. This is not a new idea, but one that is already in effect in the many of our allies militaries. The British Army has its Paras. The US Army has its Ranger Battalions. The Royal Australian Army has its 4th battalion Royal Australian Regimet [Commando]. The three units named have many commonalities. First, they are all airborne trained. Two, they are all high readiness units. Three, they are not "true" special forces units, but hilghly trained airborne infantry units used for specific roles. To be fair to the US Army Ranger battalions, they are the most specially trained of the three units. The Rangers are not used for general peace support operations whereas 4 RAR (CDO) and the Paras are.

These aiborne infantry units are useful in a mcuh wider variety of roles than true dedicated special forces units and are far less expensive. Quite often airborne units provide heavy support to special forces units, becuase they often train together and have similiar, but not identical, mission mandates. For example, the US Army Rangers provided support to the US Army Delta Force during the failed peace support operation in Somalia. The British Paras provided heavy support to the British SAS in Sierra Leone in the fall of 2000 to rescue British Army hostages; no rescue would have occurred without Para support or a higher death toll would have resulted.

Needless, to say conventional airborne infantry units may indeed be a thing of the past, but limited special operations capabale airborne infantry battalions will continue to be required in the short and long term. Therefore, I believe that some form of semi-specialized airborne commando unit--not unlike the CAR--is required to complement the JTF 2, but not replace it. I would suggest that any new CAR-like regiment have a much more focused mandate and have a defined selection process that will better weed out any "rambo-types" that attempt to get in so that disciplinary problems do not become a problem again.
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ParaMoe
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Icon 17 posted 22 May 2021 16:28
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You know what? I think that the officer who wrote this article is not a paratrooper and therefore is quick to decide on what the capabilities of a paratrooper are.
Whether it be a large scale drop, or a small unit behind enemy lines a Little Group of Paratroopers, WILL cause stress and havoc behind enemy lines. Highly motivated, keen, trained hard and the williness to fight makes paratroopers an awsome asset to have and employ.
I've worked within units who are not paratroopers and let me tell you the initiative to get things done and the ability to fight hard is not there. Only in a para unit will you find a tough spirit that is hard to break.
If anyone thought about getting rid of the AIRBORNE well did they think how much moral WILL suffer? Good soldiers want to be challanged, a Para unit is made up of volunteers. If you take the Paras away how challanging will it be to maintain vehicles all day in a mechnized unit. Trying to get recruits is hard enough for the CF. Keeping guys in is even harder. So if the powers that be say shut down the Airborne, well they are going to loose a lot of good soldiers real fast. [MG]

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para
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I fully agree with paramoe and I dare somone to argue for getting rid of the para coys! [Mad]
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rceme_rat
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Icon 1 posted 22 May 2021 22:07
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Elite units can have many roles - they don't have to be airborne any more than they need to be clearance divers. They do, however, need to be relevant. Otherwise, their only reason for existence is their own perpetuation.

If the strategic analysis leads to the conclusion that parachuting is a desirable skill but that unit-level AB ops are highly unlikely, then we should disband jump coys. If JTF2 requires AB skills, it can use para trg as part of the selection process. SAR can do the same. (Does the raise the question of whether we end up contracting out the Para Centre, though, doesn't it?)

Other discussions have indicated airmobile ops is likely to replace AB ops. This will cost more, not less, than AB ops -- probably safe to assume we won't be acquiring this capability in the short term, even if we really need it to maintain credible combat presence among our allies.

As suggested above, this could all be the result of political in-fighting within the military. We can't afford to let that happen - there is no point bickering over limited resources. We don't need another Vernon, e.g., leading us to an sharp end force that can't support itself, or any of the many possible outcomes that reflect personal fiefdoms over mission-oriented realities.

What we really need is a "big picture" analysis of what our military is expected to do, what roles are to be fulfilled, what skills are required, and what resources are necessary to make it happen. This has to be balanced against what funding the government is prepared to give. Take note of the recent (unscientific) Globe & Mail poll indicating only slightly more than 50% of Canadians think we should have an immediate increase in military spending. We can't expect more resources, and we know that we can no longer do more with less.

I'm skeptical of such a White Paper level review ever happening under this govvernment.
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fortuncookie5084
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Icon 17 posted 26 May 2021 17:18
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This article is flawed right to the core. It is an undeniable truth that large numbers of troops with all manner of equipment (the Yanks man-jump the Stinger missile!!) and vehicles can he inserted far behind enemy lines with, to steal a line from A Bridge Too Far, "thunder-clap surprise." I feel compelled to remind any non-believers that the United Stated dropped a company sized fighting force in Afghanistan which not only successfuly completed a raid against an armed enemy but seized the airfield as well, allowing themselves to be airlifted out by three C-130's about one hour later. I'm sick of Canada's "we can't do it" excuses. I hate to think the Americans are better but they sure showed the military community that mass para drops are still a great way into the bad guy's back yard.
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rceme_rat
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Icon 1 posted 26 May 2021 19:51
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A company-sized drop is not a mass para op. It is the kind of para op contemplated as still being likely.

The comment regarding the US drop in Afghanistan is incredibly ironic -- in stating that a sub-unit sized drop shows the world that mass para ops remain essential, you only emphasize how small our military is and how little we understand large-scale operations.

When we stopped studying Corps '86 on the basis that we were better off studying how to use what we had (rather than what we would hope for should we ever go to Europe en masse), we committed ourselves to studying tactics, not strategy.

Major decisions in large forces revolve around divisions - we can't put one together before a major op is concluded. Since we don't have a deployable division, we don't study how to use it. So be it - but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that we are preparing for mass ops of any kind.

Anything less than a drop of a complete division is not a mass para op. A brigade drop might be a large scale operation, but it hardly contemplates mass ops. Indeed, the heyday of para ops was in WWII, when everyone saw what a mass drop really was.

This distinction does not render our para training meaningless. Indeed, if we are consciously focusing on small-unit ops, one could say that all soldiers should do basic para, since it appears that small-unit ops is the future of AB tasks. Perhaps the real conclusion from the Council's report is that we are not consciously focusing on small-unit ops, since the recommendation re para forces seems based on a large force concept.

[Incidentally, this focus on smaller units also explains why we have no real understanding of logistics -- we don't have enough ground forces to create a serious logistical problem (consider the problems faced by the US in supplying food, fuel, ammo and repair parts in the Gulf War). If we did study larger ops, we would be trying to grow a larger tail, not a smaller one -- the logistics problems you experience on ex will only be magnified in the real world.]
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spacemarine
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Icon 1 posted 26 May 2021 21:57
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The 2REP showed what a small para drop could do in Kolwezi, 1978. They jumped and saved thousands of whites that were being slaughtered by the Katanga (?) rebels.
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fortuncookie5084
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I see rceme's point about just what is a true mass drop. As you can see I'm a product of the mid-late 1990's Canadian Forces.

I still consider 3 hercules flying abreast to be a mass drop. I do agree that the likelyhood of a true mass drop (10-20 000 troops) to be almost impossible. But company-sized drops are entirely realistic as long as they can either get out fast (like in my example) or have heavy follow-on forces relieve them. Plus, let us not forget, 2eme REP may have a storied history and get some fancy missions, but if Canada were to get a juicy mission we would excel at the task.
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Fus
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Icon 16 posted 28 May 2021 09:22
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Weird,

A few guys in my unit were just offered a jump course...
Good article concerning the jump course and light infantry in general.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/correspondent_vernon/20020527.html
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rceme_rat
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Interesting article. No disputing the comment that troops that train together under difficult circumstances will come together like no others. That doesn't mean those circumstances have to be under 'chutes, though. Any tough training will do, and that training should be done at all units, not just para units.

Quite frankly, parachuting itself is not really that difficult. I've done it, and landed safely all five times. We drop cargo, and it seems to find the ground. If we need to drop troops, they can be trained to hit their targets using steerable square 'chutes as suggested. The difficult part is what you have to do once you are on the ground.

The technological hurdle is developing a highly steerable 'chute which can handle the load of a fully-equipped infantryman, while providing the fast descent rate necessary for military ops. Ideally, it will be as small in area as current 'chutes so as to remain relatively less visible.

Once again, I'd note that the kind of ops mentioned in the article as the future of para seem to be smaller, not larger, teams. The other interesting point in the article is the argument that we need to maintain capabilities in a variety of ops - light, medium and heavy. Either that, or we had better get ready to saying "NO" when asked to support missions for which we are not equipped or trained.

Finally, for those who wonder about the credibility of journalists -- Mike Vernon, the article's author, is a former PPCLI officer and RMC grad (mid-80s) who came by his military interest the old-fashioned way -- he followed in his Dad's footsteps for a while.
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Jungle
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All right !!! A mass drop does not necessarily mean thousands of troops are going at the same time in the same place. "Mass drop" is used when troops exit the aircraft from both side doors, putting a number of troops over a relatively small area. The largest drop I was involved in was 540 jumpers over the same Drop Zone in a few minutes and believe me, it WAS a mass drop!!! All WW2 drops went in over a number of DZ's, never was a Division dropped on a single DZ.
Now about the parachute, you cannot use a square for large drops (see mass drop above) because there is a great risk of entanglements in the first few seconds of flight with troops going in different directions. The next generation "mass drop" parachutes will enable the jumper to turn and choose the side on which he will land, but it will still follow wind drift to avoid collisions between jumpers.
Finally, journalists, no matter what their background, are in it for the scoop and to make money, no matter what!!! [Canadian]
(read comment below, it is still relevant today)


Parachute jumping tests and hardens a soldier under stress in a way nothing short of battle can do. You never know about others. But paratroopers will fight.
- Field Marshall Montgomery
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rceme_rat
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Any group of soldiers who are told that what they are doing is extremely difficult, that they are the only ones who can do it, who are encouraged to think of themselves as an elite, who are led by similarly-minded NCOs and officers, and who are trained to fight, will fight. They don't have to be paratroopers. This doesn't take away from our jumpers. They get the kudos they deserve and have borne the brunt of a slagging they don't (i.e., Somalia fall-out).

The question that is raised by this discussion, as in many other discussions on this board, is one of priorities -- what does the government expect the military to do and what are they willing to accept as the costs (either in dollars or forgone capabilities). These things have to be decided at a high level, and I don't think this government is prepared to give the military the explicit direction necessary to allow real planning.

[ 29 May 2002, 15:03: Message edited by: rceme_rat ]
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