First things first, FRIES.
FRIES or Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System, commonly known as “fast rope,” is one of the most crucial techniques for descending from air to ground. It was developed to deploy troops from an aircraft in settings and predicaments where it would be difficult or impossible for the helicopter to land safely. The power to react to emergencies and serve as part of a rapid reaction force gives soldiers the ability to fast rope. Additionally, it enables them to carry out tasks requiring stealth and board vessels at sea or even oil platforms.
About the FRIES
FRIES is a mechanical system that uses thick ropes to enable the rapid infiltration and exfiltration of small units of soldiers into and out of tight regions by helicopter. During the Falklands War, it saw its first use in active combat for the first time after being created by Marlow Ropes in collaboration with British special operations. In modern times, special operations forces, law enforcement, and fire departments use it. However, in most cases, the use of FRIES is limited to predicaments in which aircraft are unable to land and where the needs of the mission do not necessitate the transportation of vast quantities of gear, weapons, or crew-served weapons.
The FRIES bar is fastened to the hard point underneath the direct transmission in the plane overhead in a Black Hawk. It is also positioned near the exact center of the opening in the cargo door. The FRIES bar slides out from this place and extends beyond the floor to facilitate the deployment of people from both sides of the aircraft via the cargo doors. This enables fast rope operations from either side of the plane, depending on the mission’s requirements. In addition, its telescoping capability lowers the mount’s overall physical footprint by a substantial amount, per the report.
Additionally, Sky Core included that the FRIES Bar Assembly comprises an extended bar bolstered by a spherical support tube component with a rope release or attachment assembly. On the other hand, the FRIES support assembly bar is equipped with a rope release handle that can be accessed from either side of the cargo compartment walls. This allows the rope to be removed from the bar.
How to Fast Rope
You are rappelling from a helicopter without using a harness when you are fast roping. Instead, you grip a large, thick rope and slide down while wearing heavy gloves that protect your hands from being burned by the friction of the rapid descent. When you get to the bottom, all you have to do is let go of the rope and get prepared for combat. It may be completed in record time, and soldiers must bring the equipment necessary to launch an aggressive assault. This is also used in the situation if the aircraft is coming into a “hot” landing zone where enemy fire is expected. Additionally, the risks are significantly increased, and troops do not generally rope in with their full load of gear due to the extra weight involved.
To prevent the ropes from knotting and to possibly make short trails that are still fully controllable and safe, they are constructed out of low-stretch nylon fibers and have an 8-braid pleated design. In addition, the bottoms of the fast ropes have been “whipped” and heat sealed as per the information, giving them the strength of roughly 30,000 pounds.
Fast Rope vs. Air Assaults
In the fight against terrorism, it is said that air assault has shown to be more effective than fast ropes. The 173rd Airborne Brigade was the last unit of the US Army to participate in a combat jump or parachute operation. This took place in the early phases of the procedures for the independence of Iraq in northern Iraq. According to the report, the advantages of air assault operations over fast roping are speed, the ability to infiltrate equipment, and improved deception. You can also jump far more troops into an area in a C-17, than you can with helicopters fast roping them in.
This being said, Fast Roping onto a target is more common among special operations forces like the Rangers, SEALs, and 1st SFOD-D, than paratroopers who typically do the high jumps with full combat loads.
While Fast Roping may look easy in videos, it’s actually a pretty high art in warfare. It not only requires specialized equipment but also constant training of pilots and the troops going down the rope as it is a perishable skill. When it goes wrong, as it did for the Rangers in Mogadishu in 1993 or most recently for the commander of SEAL Team 8, Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois during a training exercise, the results can be disastrous not only for the men but also for their mission.