Definitions

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Airborne forces

Airborne
Military parachuting or gliding form of inserting personnel or supplies.

Purpose

Delivering personnel, equipment, or supplies.

Origins

Attributed to Italian troops on November 1927.

Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning. The formations are limited only by the number and size of their aircraft, so given enough capacity a huge force can appear "out of nowhere" in minutes, an action referred to as vertical envelopment.

Conversely, airborne forces typically lack the supplies and equipment for prolonged combat operations, and are therefore more suited for airhead operations than long-term occupation; furthermore, parachute operations are particularly sensitive to adverse weather conditions. Advances in helicopter technology since World War II have brought increased flexibility to the scope of airborne operations, and helicopters have largely replaced large-scale parachute operations, and (almost) completely replaced combat glider operations. However, due to the limited range of helicopters and the limited number of troops that can be transported by them many countries retain Paratroopers as a valuable strategic asset.

General information

Airborne forces can be divided into three categories:

  • Paratroopers — landed by parachute from aircraft,
  • Airlanding troops — landed by aircraft (usually glider),
  • Air assault troops or airmobile infantry — transported to the battle by helicopter or by aircraft.

The basic premise of the Airborne is that they can arrive with such speed that a coherent defence cannot be mounted against them for some time. It is assumed that this tactical advantage cannot be sustained for very long, so effective Airborne missions require the rapid advance of ground based troops in support.

Airborne forces are generally composed of infantry and light, non-armored vehicles and guns. After the Korean war, vehicles light enough to be dropped by parachute were developed, including the US M113 and retired M551 Sheridan airborne tank. The Soviets developed the BMD-1 and BMD-3 fighting vehicles. Helicopters can also transport vehicles such as the German Wiesel AWC, LAV-25 and British CVR(T) series. The Stryker was specified to be air-capable, but is too large to be practical to be transported by C-130 Hercules, helicopter, or air dropped. Large transports can carry only small numbers of main battle tanks or heavier infantry fighting vehicles.

Early history

The idea of "Sky Soldiers" is by no means a recent thought; Benjamin Franklin envisioned a time when soldiers would be delivered from the sky, with a crude, rudimentary understanding of parachutes:

"Where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?" -Benjamin Franklin, 1784

The first modern consideration of the use of what we now call a paratroop force dates back to 1918. Towards the end of World War I, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell suggested dropping elements of the United States 1st Infantry Division behind German lines near Metz. The operation was planned for February 1919 but the war ended before such an attack could be seriously planned. Mitchell conceived that US troops could be rapidly trained to utilise parachutes and drop from converted bombers and land near Metz thus causing disruption behind the enemy's lines in sychronistaion with a planned infantry offensive.

The first true paratroop drop was carried out by Italy in November 1927. Within a few years several battalions had been raised and were eventually formed into the two elite Folgore and Nembo divisions. Although these would later fight with distinction in World War II, the divisions were never used in a parachute drop. Men drawn from the Italian parachute forces were dropped in a special forces operation in North Africa in 1943 in an attempt to destroy the aircraft of the USAAF based there while they are still on the ground.

At about the same time the Soviet Union was also experimenting with the idea, planning to eventually drop entire units complete with vehicles including light tanks. To train enough experienced jumpers, parachute clubs were set up all over Russia with the aim of being able to transfer skilled members (or at least the men) into the armed forces if needed. Planning and organization progressed to the point that Corps-size drops were demonstrated to foreign observers, including the British Military Attache Archibald Wavell, in the Kiev military district maneuvers of 1935. By the late 1930s, the USSR possessed the largest Airborne forces in the world, but development stagnated prior to WW2 as a result of the Great Purge.

One of the observing parties, Germany, was particularly interested. In 1936, Major F W Immans was ordered to set up a parachute school at Stendal (Borstel), and was allocated a number of Junkers Ju 52 aircraft to train on. The military had already purchased large numbers of Junkers Ju 52 aircraft which were now modified (slightly) for use as paratroop transports in addition to their other duties. The first training class was known as "Ausbildungskommando Immans", They commenced the first course on May 3rd, 1936.

Other nations, including Japan, France and Poland also organized airborne units around this time.

World War II

German operations

Several groups within the German armed forces attempted to raise their own paratroop formations, resulting in confusion. As a result, Luftwaffe General Kurt Student was put in overall command of developing a paratrooper force to be known as the Fallschirmjäger.

During the invasion of Norway and Denmark in Operation Weserübung the Luftwaffe dropped paratroopers on several locations. In Denmark a small unit was dropped on the Masnedøfort on the small island of Masnedø to seize the Storstrøm Bridge linking the islands of Falster and Zealand. A paratroop detachment was also dropped at the airfield of Aalborg which was crucial for the Luftwaffe for operations over Norway. In Norway a company of paratroopers was dropped at Oslo's undefended airstrip. Over the course of the morning and early afternoon of April 9 1940, the Germans flew in sufficient reinforcements to move into the capital in the afternoon, but by that time the Norwegian government had fled.

In the Battle of France, members of the Brandenburg Regiment were landed by Fieseler Fi 156 Storch light reconnaissance planes on the bridges immediately to the south of the 10th Panzer Division's route of march through the southern Ardennes. In Belgium a small group of German glider-borne troops landed on top of the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael on the morning of May 10 1940 and disabled the majority of its artillery. The fort held on for another day before surrendering. This opened up Belgium to attack by German Army Group B.

Two simultaneous airborne operations were made during the invasion of the Netherlands. German paratroopers landed at three airfields near The Hague, hoping to seize the Dutch government. From one of these airfields they were driven out after the first wave of reinforcements brought in by Ju-52s, was annihilated by anti-aircraft fire and fierce resistance by some remaining Dutch defenders. As a result, numerous crashed and burning aircraft blocking the runway, prevented further reinforcements to land. This was one of the few occasions where an airfield captured by paratroops has been recaptured. The other two airfields were recaptured as well. Simultaneously the Germans dropped small packets of paratroopers to seize the crucial bridges that led directly across the Netherlands and into the heart of the country. They opened the way for the 9th Panzer Division. Within a day the Dutch position was hopeless. Nevertheless, Dutch forces inflicted high losses on the German transportation aircraft.

The Fallschirmjäger's greatest victory and greatest losses occurred during the Battle of Crete. The Ultra enabled the British to wait on each German drop zone, yet despite compromised secrecy, surviving German paratroops and airlanded mountain troops pushed the Commonwealth forces off the island in part by unexpected fire support from 75 mm guns. Seaborne reinforcements were destroyed by the Royal Navy. However, the losses were so great that Hitler forbade their use in such operations in the future. He felt that the main power of the paratroop was novelty, and now that the British had clearly figured out how to defend against them, there was no real point to using them any more.

There was one notable exception to this and that was the use of airborne forces in special operations. On September 12 1943, Otto Skorzeny led a daring glider-based assault on the Gran Sasso Hotel, high in the Apennines mountains, and rescued Benito Mussolini from house arrest with very few shots being fired.

Allied operations

The actual heavy German casualties during the Battle of Crete were hidden from allied planners. Ironically, the battle that ended Germany's paratrooper operations had the opposite effect on the Allies. Convinced of the effectiveness of airborne assaults, the Allies hurried to train and organize their own airborne units. No.1 Parachute Training School at RAF Ringway near Manchester trained all the 60,000 allied paras who were recruited in Europe during World War Two.

A fundamental decision was whether to create small Airborne units to be used in coup-de-main type operations, or to organize entire Airborne Divisions for larger operations. Many of the early, successful Airborne operations were coups-de-main carried out by very small units. The Allies eventually formed two British and five US Airborne Divisions: the British 1st Airborne Division and 6th Airborne Division, and the US 11th Airborne Division, 13th Airborne Division, 17th Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and 101st Airborne Division. By 1944 the British Divisions were grouped in the 1st Airborne Corps under General Frederick Browning, while US Divisions in the ETO (the 17th, 82nd, and 101st) were organized into the XVIII Airborne Corps under Gen Matthew Ridgway. Both Corps fell under the First Allied Airborne Army under US General Lewis Brereton.

Early commando raids

Operation Colossus: raid on the Tragino Aqueduct
Britain’s first airborne assault took place on February 10, 1941, when 'X' Troop, No 11 Special Air Service Battalion (which was formed from No 2 Commando and subsequently became 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment) dropped into southern Italy from converted Whitley bombers flying from Malta and demolished a span of the aqueduct near Tragino in a daring night raid named Operation Colossus.
Operation Squatter: raid on Axis airfields in Libya
54 effectives of 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade (Largely drawn from the disbanded Layforce) mounted a night parachute insertion onto two Drop Zones in Bir Temrad, North Africa on the night of November 16/17 1941 in preparation for a stealthy attack on the forward airfields of Gambut and Tmimi in order to destroy the Axis fighter force on the ground before the start of Operation Crusader, a major offensive by the British Eighth Army.
Operation Biting: The Bruneval raid
A Wuerzburg radar site on the coast of France was attacked by a company of British Paratroopers from 2 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, commanded by Major John Dutton Frost, in Operation Biting on February 27, 1942. The key electronic components of the system were dismantled by an English radar mechanic and brought back to Britain for examination so that counter measures could be devised.

Mediterranean

Operation Mercury: Crete
This was the last large scale airborne assault by Adolf Hitler and the Germans. The German paratroopers had such a high death rate in the jump into Crete that Hitler forbade any further large scale airborne attacks. The Allies on the other hand were very impressed by the potential of paratroopers, and started to build their own airborne divisions.
Operation Torch: North Africa
The first major United States paratroop drop occurred during Operation Torch in North Africa. The longest Airborne operation occurred 8 November 1942. The U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion flew over 1500 miles from Britain, over Spain, intending to drop near Oran and capture two airfields. Navigation and communications problems scattered the forces from Gibraltar to Tunisia.

One week later, after repacking their own chutes, the battalion conducted their second combat jump on 15 November 1942 to secure the airfield at Youk-Les-Bains near the Tunisian border. From this base the battalion conducted combined operations with various French forces against the German Afrika Korps in Tunisia. One unit, the 3rd Regiment of Zouaves (French Algerian Infantry), awarded their own Regimental Crest as a gesture of respect to the American Paratroopers. This badge was awarded to the battalion commander on 15 November 1942 by the 3rd Zouaves' Regimental Commander, and is worn today by all members of the 509th Infantry.

Operation Husky: Sicily
As part of Operation Husky four airborne operations (two British and two American) were carried out, landing during the nights of July 9 and July 10. The American troops were from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, making their first combat parachute jump. The strong winds blew the dropping aircraft off course and scattered them widely. The result was that around half the US paratroops failed to make it to their rallying points. British glider-landed troops fared little better. Only 12 out of 144 gliders landed on target, with many landing in the sea. Nevertheless the scattered airborne troops maximised their opportunities, attacking patrols and creating confusion wherever possible. Some reserve 82nd paratroops dropped later during the campaign. This resulted in heavy friendly-fire casualties when U.S Navy ships shot down 23 of the transports as they flew over the beachhead.

The 1st Airlanding Brigade captured the Ponte Grande bridge south of Syracuse, and before the Germans' counterattack, the beach landings took place unopposed and the First Air Landing Brigade were relieved by the 8th Army as it swept inland and north towards Catania and Messina. For more details on this action see the article on The Staffordshire Regiment.

On July 13 1943, more than 112 aircraft and 16 gliders carrying 1,856 men, took off from North Africa. The British First Parachute Brigade's initial target was to capture the Primosole bridge and the high ground around it, providing a pathway for the 8th Army, but heavy anti-aircraft fire shot down many of the Dakotas before they reached their target. Only 295 officers and men were dropped close enough to carry out the assault on the bridge. They captured the bridge but the German 4th Parachute Brigade recaptured it. They held the high ground until relieved by the 8th Army, but the mission had been a failure.

The Allied commanders were forced to reassess the use of airborne forces after the many misdrops and the deadly friendly fire incident. Nevertheless, improved training and some tactical changes kept airborne units in the war, eventually in much-increased numbers.

Operation Giant II
Operation Giant II was a planned drop of the 82nd Airborne on the outskirts of Rome, with the objective of seizing the Italian capital alongside four Italian divisions that were presumed to be friendly to the Allied cause. The Division Commander (Matthew Ridgway) and 5th Army Commander (Mark Clark) strenuously objected to this unrealistic plan. The artillery commander of the 82nd, (Maxwell Taylor, future commander of the 101st) was sent on a personal reconnaissance mission to Rome to assess the prospects of Italian participation. His report via radio caused the operation to be cancelled only hours before launch.
Italy
US airborne forces were held in reserve during the initial invasion of Italy at Salerno, called Operation Avalanche. A few days later, during the German counter attacks, 5000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne and 509th PIB dropped to help secure the beachhead.

In April 1945 Operation Herring, an Italian commando-style airborne drop aimed at disrupting German rear area communications and movement over key areas in Northern Italy, took place. Another operation, Operation Potato, was mounted by men drawn from the Folgore and Nembo divisions, operating with British equipment and under British command as No 1 Italian Special Air Service Regiment. The men dropped in small groups from American aircraft and carried out a successful railway sabotage operation in Northern Italy.

Western Europe

The Allies had learned better tactics and logistics from their earlier airborne drops, and these lessons were applied for the assaults along the Western Front.

Operation Overlord: D-Day
One of the most famous of airborne operations was Operation Overlord on D-Day June 6, 1944. The task of the airborne forces was to secure the flanks of the landing beaches in Normandy. The British glider transported troops and paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division secured the Eastern flank in Operation Tonga of which Pegasus Bridge is the best remembered objective. Another objective was the Merville gun battery. The American glider and parachute infantry of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, though widely scattered by poor weather and poorly marked landing zones, secured the western flank in Operation Chicago and Operation Detroit with heavy casualties. All together the casualties of the Airborne at D-Day total around 23,000.
Southern France
On August 15, 1944, airborne units commanded by US General Frank Sinnalla, which included the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade (spearheaded by lst Indian Army Pathfinders), the US 509th and 551st Parachute Infantry Battalions, the US 517th Parachute Combat Team, and the US 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion, landed in Southern France between Frejus and Cannes as Operation Albatross, part of Operation Dragoon. Their objective was to capture the area, destroy all enemy positions and hold the ground until the US Seventh Army came ashore. Once they had captured their initial targets, they were reinforced by three thousand soldiers and critical equipment carried in over three hundred gliders in operations code-named Operation Bluebird and Operation Dove.

US airborne forces dropped over 5000 airborne troops during this operation. They were called the "1st Airborne Task Force", composed of several unattached units, including the 509th and 551st PIBs and the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team.

Operation MARKET-GARDEN: "A Bridge Too Far"

Operation Market Garden of September 1944, involved 35,000 troops dropped up to behind the German front lines in an attempt to capture a series of bridges over the Maas, Waal and Rhine rivers, ultimately enabling the Allies to outflank German fortifications and penetrating into Germany. The operation was hastily planned and many key planning tasks were inadequately completed. Three complete airborne divisions executed Operation MARKET, the airborne phase. These were the British 1st Airborne Division, the US 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division, as well as the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. All three Divisions, as well as the Independent Brigade, were landed or dropped at various points along Highway 69, or "Hell's Highway", in order to create a "carpet" over which the British XXX Corps could rapidly advance in Operation GARDEN, the armored phase. It was a daylight assault, with little initial opposition, and most units achieved high accuracy on drop and landing zones. In the end, after strong German counter-attacks, the overall plan failed: the British 1st Airborne division was all but destroyed at Arnhem, and the final Rhine bridge remained in German hands.

Operation REPULSE: re-supply of Bastogne
Operation Repulse, which took place in Bastogne on December 27, 1944, as part of the Battle of the Bulge, glider pilots, although flying directly through enemy fire, were able to land delivering the badly needed ammunition, gasoline, and medical supplies that enabled defenders against the German offensive to persevere and secure the ultimate victory.
Operation VARSITY: The Rhine Crossing

Operation Varsity was a daylight assault conducted by two airborne Divisions, the British 6th Airborne Division and the American 17th Airborne Division, both of which formed a part of the US XVIII Airborne Corps. Conducted as a part of Operation Plunder, the operation took place on the 24th of March, 1945 in aid of the attempt by the British 21st Army Group to cross the Rhine river. Having learnt from the heavy casualties inflicted upon the airborne formations which took part in Operation Market-Garden, the two airborne divisions were dropped several thousand yards forward of friendly positions, and only some thirteen hours after Operation Plunder had begun and Allied ground forces had already crossed the Rhine. There was heavy resistance in some of the areas that the airborne troops landed in, with casualties actually statistically heavier than those incurred during Operation Market-Garden. The British historian Max Hastings has labelled the operation both costly and unnecessary, writing that 'Operation Varsity was a folly for which more than a thousand men paid for with their lives...'

Pacific Theater

Less famous are these airborne operations against the Japanese.
South West Pacific

In September 1943, in New Guinea, the U.S. 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment made a highly successful, unopposed drop at Nadzab, during the Salamaua-Lae campaign. This was the first Allied airborne assault in the Pacific Theater.

In July 1944, the 503rd jumped again, Battle of Noemfoor onto Noemfoor Island, off Dutch New Guinea.

The 503rd's most famous operation was a landing on Corregidor ("The Rock") in February 1945, during the Philippines campaign of 1944–45.

The U.S. 11th Airborne Division saw a great deal of action in the Philippines as a ground unit. The 511th Parachute Regiment, made the division's first jump near Tagaytay Ridge, 3 February 1945, meeting no resistance at the drop zone. The division also jumped to liberate 2,000 Allied civilians interned at Los Baños, 23 February 1945. The final operation of the Division was conducted on 23 June 1945, in conjunction with an advance by U.S. ground forces in northern Luzon. A task force from the 11th was formed and jumped on Camalaniugan Airfield, south of Aparri.

Burma
A large British force, known as Chindits, operated behind Japanese lines during 1944. In Operation Thursday, most of the units were flown into landing grounds which had been seized by glider infantry transported by the American First Air Commando Group, commencing on March 5. Aircraft continued to land reinforcements at captured or hastily constructed landing strips until monsoon rains made them unusable. Small detachments were subsequently landed by parachute. The operation eventually wound down in July, with the exhausted Chindits making their way overland to link up with advancing American and Chinese forces.

For Operation Dracula, a parachute battalion secured Japanese coastal defences, which allowed the seaborne occupation of Rangoon to proceed without opposition.

Japanese operations

The Japanese used troops with parachute training in several battles in the Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941-42. Before the Pacific War began, the Imperial Japanese Army formed Teishin Dan ("Raiding Brigades") and Imperial Japanese Navy trained marine (Rikusentai) paratroopers.

Rikusentai airborne troops were first dropped at the Battle of Menado, Celebes in January 1942, and then near Kupang, during the Timor campaign, in February 1942. Teishin made a jump at the Battle of Palembang, on Sumatra in February 1942. Japanese airborne units suffered heavy casualties during the Dutch East Indies campaign, and were rarely used as parachute troops afterwards.

On 6 December 1944, a 750-strong detachment from Teishin Shudan ("Raiding Division") and the Giretsu special forces unit, attacked U.S. airbases in the Burauen area on Leyte, in The Philippines. The force destroyed some planes and inflicted casualties, but was wiped out.

Japan built a combat strike force of 825 gliders but never committed it to battle.

Philippine Islands

Operation GYPSY was executed at Appari, Luzon, on 23 June 1945, by paratroopers and glider infantry of the 11th Airborne division.

Soviet Operations

The Soviets mounted only one large-scale Airborne operation in WW2, despite their early leadership in the field in the 1930s. The largest drop was corp-sized, and was not successful (the Vyaz'ma Operation, the 4th Airborne Corps). However, Airborne formations were used as elite Infantry units and played a critical role in several battles. For example, at the Battle of Kursk, the defense of the eastern 'shoulder' of the southern penetration by Guards Airborne units was critical to holding back the German penetration.

Source for the Vyaz'ma Operation: The Soviet Military Encyclopedic Dictionary (1983), p. 174.

Russia pioneered the development of combat gliders, but used them only for cargo during the war.

Post World War II

Korean War

The 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team ("Rakkasans") made two combat jumps in Korea during the Korean War. The first combat jump was made on October 20, 1950 at Sunchon and Sukchon, North Korea. The missions of the 187th were to cut the road north going to China, preventing North Korean leaders from escaping from Pyongyang; and to rescue American prisoners of war.

The second combat jump was made on Easter Sunday, 1951 at Munsan-ni, South Korea codenamed Operation Tomahawk. The mission was to get behind Chinese forces and block their movement north.

The 187th served in six campaigns in Korea. Shortly after the war the 187th ARCT was considered for use in an Airborne drop to relieve the surrounded French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam but the United States, at that time, decided not to send its troops into the combat zone.

The unit was assigned to the reactivated 101st Airborne Division and subsequently inactivated as a combat team in 1956 as part of the division's reorganization into the Pentomic structure, which featured battle groups in place of regiments and battalions. The 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry, bearing the lineages of the former Co A and Co C, 187AIR, are now with the 101st Airborne Division as Air Assault units.

First Indochina War

The French used paratroops extensively during their 1946-54 war against the Viet Mihn. Colonial, French Foreign Legion and local Vietnamese units took part in numerous operations which were to culminate in the disastrous siege of Dien Bien Phu.

Operation Musketeer: Suez crisis

During the Suez Crisis, Operation Musketeer needed the element of total surprise to succeed, and all 660 men had to be on the ground at El Gamil airfield and ready for action within four and a half minutes. At 04.15 hours on November 5, 1956, British 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment jumped in and although opposition was heavy, casualties were few.

The landings from the sea the next day saw the first large-scale heliborne assault, as 45 Commando, Royal Marines were landed by helicopters in Port Said from ships offshore.

Israeli paratroopers led by Ariel Sharon dropped into the important Mitla Pass to cut off and engage Egyptian forces. This was the IDF's first and only combat parachute operation in its entire history up to present day.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

For the first time in a combat in South Asia, paratroopers were used in the subcontinent during the Second Kashmir War of 1965. A covert operation was launched by Pakistan Army with the intention of infiltrating Indian airbases and sabotaging them. The SSG (Special Services Group) commandos numbering close to 200 were parachuted into Indian territory. Indian sources however claim as many as 800-900 attempted the landing. Given that most of the Indian targets (Halwara, Pathankot and Adampur) were deep into enemy territory only a dozen or so commandos made it back alive and the stealth operation proved ineffective. Of the remaining, 136 were taken prisoners, 22 were killed in encounters with the army, local police or the civilians. The daring attempt proved to be a disaster with the Commander of the operations, Major Khalid Butt too being arrested.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

In 1971, the Indian Parachute Regiment fought numerous actions both in the Eastern and Western Theatres. On 11 December, India airdropped Para Bn Gp 130 in what is now famous as the Tangail airdrop. The Paratroop unit was instrumental in denying the retreat and regrouping of the Pakistani army, and contributed substantially to collapse of Dacca. The Para Commandos also proved their unmatched skills in spectacular lightening raids into Chachro (Sindh, Pakistan) and Mandhol (Jammu and Kashmir). The Regiment earned battle honours Poongli Bridge, Chachro and Defence of Poonch during these operations.

Vietnam War

In 1963, in the Battle of Ap Bac, ARVN forces delivered airborne troops by helicopter and air drop. The use of helicopter-borne airmobile troops by the United States in Vietnam was widespread, and became an iconic image featuring in newsreels and movies about the conflict.

In February 1967 Operation Junction City was launched, it would be the largest operation the Coalition Force would assemble. During this operation, 845 members of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne), the 319th Artillery (Airborne), and elements of H&H company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade made the only combat jump in Vietnam.

Soviet and Russian VDV

The Soviet Union maintained the world's largest airborne force during the Cold War, consisting of seven airborne divisions and a training division. The VDV was a semi-independent branch of the army and was a 'prestige service' for Russia. Recruits were almost exclusively Slavic, and received much more rigorous training than ordinary Soviet units. Although a light infantry force, the paratroops were the recipients of several pieces of specifically-designed equipment, such as the BMD-1, AKS-74 and ASU-85 self-propelled gun. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it was the VDV who spearheaded the assault. As an elite force, the VDV developed two distinctive items of clothing: the telnyashka, or striped shirt, and the famous blue beret.

Airborne assault (воздушно-штурмовые войска) units wore similar striped shirts (as did the naval infantry) but used helicopters, not the Military Transport Aviation's IL-76's, AN-12's, and AN-22's, which carried the Airborne Troops and their equipment. The airborne assault forces thus had tactical missions.

Soviet Glider Infantry

The Soviet's maintained three glider infantry regiments until 1965.

Operation Meghdoot

Operation Meghdoot was the name given to the preemptive strike launched by the Indian Military to capture most of the Siachen Glacier, in the disputed Kashmir region. Launched on April 13, 1984, this military operation was unique as it was the first assault launched in the world's highest battlefield. The military action was quite successful as Indian troops managed to gain two-thirds of the glacier with the rest remaining under Pakistani control.

Recent history

With the advantages of helicopter use, airborne forces have dwindled in numbers in recent years. Their strategic capabilities have ensured that Airborne forces are still a part of armies today with the 82nd Airborne Division and Russian Airborne forces being the largest formation of paratroopers in the world.

Other meanings of the word Airborne

In the United States Air Force, the term refers to Airmen (other than pilots, navigators and weapon system officers) performing duties in aerial flight, such as the operations crew on the E-3 Sentry.

See also

References

Further reading

  • Ambrose, Stephen E., Pegasus Bridge. Pocket Books, 2003
  • Ambrose, Stephen E., Band of Brothers. Pocket Books, 2001
  • Arthur, Max, Forgotten Voices Of The Second World War. Edbury Press, 2005
  • Balkoski, Joseph, Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Stackpole Books US, 2006
  • Bando, Mark A., 101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy. Motorbooks International, 2001
  • Blair, Clay, Ridgway’s Paratroopers - The American Airborne In World War II. The Dial Press, 1985
  • Buckingham, William F., Arnhem 1944. Tempus Publishing Limited, 2004
  • Buckingham, William F., D-Day - The First 72 Hours. Tempus Publishing Limited, 2004
  • Calvocoressi, Peter, The Penguin History of the Second World War, Penguin Books Ltd, 1999
  • Department Of The Army, Pamphlet No. 20-232, Historical Study – Airborne Operations – A German Appraisal, 1951, Department Of The Army
  • Devlin, Gerard M., Paratrooper - The Saga Of Parachute And Glider Combat Troops During World War II, Robson Books, 1979
  • Dover, Victor, The Sky Generals, Cassell Ltd, 1981
  • Flanagan, E.M. Jr., Airborne - A Combat History Of American Airborne Forces, The Random House Publishing Group, 2002
  • Flint, Keith, Airborne Armour: Tetrarch, Locust, Hamilcar and the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, 1938-50, Helion & Company, 2004
  • French, David, Raising Churchill’s Army - The British Army And The War Against Germany 1919-1945, Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Frost, John, A Drop Too Many, Leo Cooper Ltd, 1994
  • Gregory, Barry, British Airborne Troops, Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, 1974
  • Harclerode, Peter, Arnhem - A Tragedy Of Errors, Caxton Editions, 2000
  • Harclerode, Peter, Para! – Fifty Years Of The Parachute Regiment, Orion Books Ltd, 1996
  • Harclerode, Peter, Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918-1945, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005
  • Hastings, Max, Armageddon - The Battle For Germany 1944-45, Macmillan, 2004
  • Hastings, Max, Overlord, Pan Books, 1999
  • Hibbert, Christopher,‘Arnhem, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1998
  • Horrocks, Brian, A Full Life, Collins, 1960
  • Huston, James A., Out Of The Blue - U.S Army Airborne Operations In World War II, Purdue University Press, 1998
  • Jewell, Brian, ”Over The Rhine” – The Last Days Of War In Europe, Spellmount Ltd, 1985
  • Keegan, John, The Second World War, Pimlico, 1997
  • Kershaw, Robert J., It Never Snows In September - The German View Of MARKET-GARDEN And The Battle Of Arnhem, September 1944, Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, 2004
  • Koskimaki, George E., D-Day With The Screaming Eagles, Presidio Press, 2002
  • Koskimaki, George E., Hell’s Highway – A Chronicle Of The 101st Airborne In The Holland Campaign, September –November 1944, Presidio Press, 2007
  • Jones, Robert, The History of the 101st Airborne Division, Turner Publishing Company, 2005
  • Middlebrook, Martin, Arnhem 1944 - The Airborne Battle, Penguin Books, 1995
  • Ministry Of Information, By Air To Battle - The Official Account Of The British Airborne Divisions, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1945
  • Nordyke, Phil, All American, All the Way: The Combat History Of The 82nd Airborne Division In World War II, Motorbooks International, 2005
  • Nordyke, Phil, Four Stars of Valour: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II, Motorbooks, 2006
  • Norton, G.G., The Red Devils - The Story Of The British Airborne Forces, Pan Books Ltd, 1973
  • Otway, T.B.H, Airborne Forces, Adlib Books, 1990
  • Rawson, Andrew, The Rhine Crossing - 9th US Army & 17th US Airborne, Pen & Sword Military, 2006
  • Ryan, Cornelius, A Bridge Too Far, Coronet Books, 1984
  • Saunders, Hilary St. George, The Red Beret – The Story Of The Parachute Regiment 1940-1945, Michael Joseph Ltd, 1954
  • Saunders, Tim, Operation Plunder - The British & Canadian Rhine Crossing, Pen & Sword Military, 2006
  • Tugwell, Maurice, Airborne To Battle - A History Of Airborne Warfare 1918-1971, William Kimber & Co Ltd, 1971
  • Urquhart, R.E., Arnhem, Pan Books, 1960
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  • Whiting, Charles, American Eagles - The 101st Airborne’s Assault On Fortress Europe 1944/45, Eskdale Publishing, 2001
  • Whiting, Charles, "Bounce The Rhine" - The Greatest Airborne Operation In History, Grafton Books, 1987
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External links

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