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Airborne operations entail the delivery of ground troops and their equipment by air to their area of operations. They can also include the subsequent support of these troops and their equipment by air. Historically, and by definition, this would encompass delivery by fixed-wing powered aircraft, by glider, by parachute or by helicopter.

Almost any troops can be delivered by most of these means. However, the technical expertise and physical as well as psychological demands required by parachuting have resulted in specialist troops being selected and trained for this role. Some of the material advantages of using parachute troops, or paratroops, are: the enormous strategic reach provided by the long-distance transport aircraft used to convey them; the considerable payload which these aircraft are capable of carrying; the speed with which the parachute force can deploy; and the fact that no infrastructure such as airfields are required for their arrival. Perhaps most attractively to cash-strapped governments, the light equipment scales of parachute units’ makes them economical to establish and maintain.

There are also less tangible advantages: the soldiers selected are invariably volunteers with a willingness or even desire to tackle challenges; their selection and training produces tough, confident and aggressive troops, psychologically geared to face superior odds and to function independently from other units; and their initiative and self-reliance combined with a high level of physical fitness makes them suitable for a number of different and demanding roles.

Author: Brig-Gen McGill Alexander (2000)

33 Pages, PDF format. Download link will be immediately available after checkout.

This academic paper was published in 2003 by the Faculty of Military Science of Stellenbosch University, South Africa and is part of an accredited, peer reviewed scholarly journal, which investigates a broad spectrum of matters and issues relating to military affairs, and publishes both discipline-based and inter-disciplinary research.