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Australian paratroopers jump into history

Paratoopers from Australian Army No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron

Royal Australian Air Force photo

Paratoopers from Australian Army No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron board a Royal Australian Air Force No. 36 Squadron C-17 Globemaster III in preparation for a static-line paradrop.

The Australian Army paratroopers of No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron did more than just step out of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III on exercise recently, they stepped into the history books.

They became the first paratroopers to jump from an internationally owned and operated C-17 cleared for personnel drop capability.

Operated by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 36 Squadron personnel, this particular C-17 flew practice paradrops over Rickaby’s Drop Zone, near RAAF Base Richmond, northwest of Sydney, Australia.

Twenty paratroopers performed multiple static-line jumps from 1,000 feet through the
C-17’s left and right paradoors that are equipped with air deflectors to help break up airflow upon exiting the aircraft. Static-line jumps mean paratroopers’ chutes are attached to the airplane by one cord and are automatically deployed once the cord reaches its end, eliminating the need for individual rip cords. Using this method, every paratrooper’s chute opens sequentially and at the same altitude so there are no collisions and they land together.

“From a jumper’s perspective nothing changes – we use the same drills and equipment each time,” said Major Neil Peake, Officer Commanding No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron. “When the jumpmaster yells, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ you move to the door in turn, take up the proper position, and jump out of the plane. Once you exit, the noise from the plane disappears.”

"It’s just you with your parachute hurtling towards the earth,” Peake added. “Then about 30 to 40 seconds later, you hit the ground, dust yourself off and walk off the drop zone. It’s a rush like none other, and I always walk away grinning from ear to ear."

“It’s just you with your parachute hurtling towards the earth,” Peake added. “Then about 30 to 40 seconds later, you hit the ground, dust yourself off and walk off the drop zone. It’s a rush like none other, and I always walk away grinning from ear to ear.”

The C-17 presents a significant increase in capability for the RAAF in aerial delivery of personnel.

Without refueling, it can drop up to 102 paratroopers, where as other aircraft in the RAAF’s fleet can carry only 92 paratroopers, within 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) of their home base.

Comparing his C-17 jump to others, Peake described it as a “more comfortable ride” and a “much bigger aircraft with more room to move.”

Final checks are carried out by Air Force Loadmasters and Army Air Dispatchers

Royal Australian Air Force photo

Final checks are carried out by Air Force Loadmasters and Army Air Dispatchers prior to a static-line paradrop from a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.

Since receiving their first C-17 in December 2006, RAAF No. 36 Squadron has been training and advancing toward more complex tactical roles, including practicing paradrops.

The squadron wants to reach full operational capability by mid-year 2011, and expects to receive clearance for cargo airdrop soon.

Each C-17 can carry up to 70 tons of cargo which can include helicopters and vehicles.

“This will make the C-17 an even more effective aircraft for Australia when being used for national and international operations and major disaster relief efforts,” said Peake.

Since Australia received its first C-17 in December in 2006, the aircraft has supported Australian Defence Force operations around the world. There currently are 19 C-17s in service with international customers.

The RAAF has used C-17s to support training deployments to the United States, transport helicopters and conduct missions to the Middle East to supply Australian forces in Afghanistan. The C-17s have also carried humanitarian supplies to Papua New Guinea, Burma, Samoa, Fiji and Pakistan following natural disasters.