Last year, during the annual exercise Flintlock, we wrote an article about the dangers of airborne operations. As this year’s iteration of Flintlock is upon us, it’s prudent to review what went wrong when some Special Operations troops from an African country decided to conduct some airborne training.
Bad exits or landings during parachute operations aren’t uncommon. Throwing people, often laden with dozens of pounds of equipment, out of an aircraft inevitably invites trouble. Parachuting is inherently dangerous, whether the jump is static line (the parachute opens automatically as the paratrooper exits the aircraft) or freefall. Naturally, parachute training is complex and challenging to offset that risk, which is why paratroopers are often considered a step above conventional troops.
A video emerged depicting how dangerous parachuting can be if the paratroopers aren’t sufficiently trained. During one of the training events of the annual special operations forces (SOF) exercise Flintlock, which takes place in Africa, paratroopers from an unknown African country conducted a static-line jump with ludicrous and dangerous results.
Although this a rear-ramp exit, the first paratrooper jumps sideways, resembling the technique one would use when jumping from the side of a plane. That’s a more common practice in large parachute drops as it allows for more troops to deploy safely on a single pass—they can jump from either of an aircraft’s two side doors. The second paratrooper attempts a semi-free-fall-style exit—of which his spine and neck will certainly remind him for some time. And then comes the fourth: He runs, falls, and slides out of the plane head-first to the amazement of the onlooking jumpmasters, who are most likely Western SOF operators given the multinational nature of the event. The sixth paratrooper experiences the dreaded second-thoughts scenario right at the edge of the ramp and decides to take a sit before jumping. The ninth paratrooper also hesitates at the ramp and has a rough exit. Finally, the tenth paratrooper also does a freefall-style exit, almost hitting his head on the ramp in his eagerness to fly.
Aside from the ludicrousness of the situation, the video does highlight the capabilities—or lack thereof—of some of America’s partners in the crucial Sahel region, which is infested with radical Islamist groups.
The nationality of the paratroopers remains unknown—and for good reason.
Flintlock is U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) primary annual SOF exercise. According to AFRICOM, Flintlock’s intent is to strengthen security institutions, promote and facilitate multilateral information-sharing, and develop and enhance interoperability among the numerous participating countries of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership.
This year’s Flintlock exercise will last till February 28. The following African nations will be participating: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.
They will be joined by the following Coalition countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.