Monday, April 18, 2005

Oh yeah? Well, I've fast-roped from a C-5!

This post from Jack Army, by way of Jennifer, discusses somebody who claims, among other things, to have done a HALO jump from a B-52 (and to have eaten a human being sometime shortly thereafter - sadly for posterity, the recipe wasn't included in the article. I mean, enquiring minds want to know, what is the best way to prepare human: do you broil it over an open fire, make a stew, braise it with some wild onions and thyme, have the liver with some fava beans from your MRE and a nice Chianti you happen to have in your canteen? What?)

Jennifer finds that to be as likely as her being a door gunner on the space shuttle. The whole thing reminded me that I know somebody who has fast-roped out of a C-5. Whenever wild tales of derring-do (usually only slightly exaggerated) came up, he could trot that out and top anybody - especially, since, after he explained it, it made sense.

Some background: The C-5 Galaxy is the largest plane in the Air Force inventory. It's a monstrous aircraft capable of carrying two M1-A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks.

Fast-roping (also known as FRIES: Fast Rope Insertion / Extraction System) is a method of getting out of a hovering helicopter quickly. Basically, a 120' long thick squishy rope hangs out of the top of the door, and the fast-roper reaches out, grabs the rope, and slides down Batpole style. Fast-roping is always fraught with excitement, since if you miss the rope, or slip, or let go, you get to fall up to 100'. Unlike rappelling, you're not attached to the rope or the helicopter by anything other than your grip. You can also come to grief it the helicopter pilot screws up the hover and gets up more than 120' (more likely to happen at night) or if you're hovering over a building or the like and the helicopter slips sideways while you're on the rope. Sliding off the bottom of a fast-rope and still having 20-30' or more to go isn't any fun.

Fast roping, however, is much faster than rappelling (or landing the chopper, for that matter), so it's become the preferred insertion method out of a helicopter. It's completely unsuitable, of course, for getting out of a fixed wing aircraft with a stall speed of 136 knots (be prepared to do a vigorous PLF - parachute landing fall - at the bottom of the rope!)

But it's true that one of the guys on my team has done a fast-rope from a C-5. Back when he was there, one of the primary missions of the Ranger Battalions was airfield seizure - jumping onto an airfield and taking control of it so that other troops, equipment and supplies could be air-landed. As part of that mission, the powers-that-be were experimenting with having Rangers fly in on C-5s, both so that they could provide security for the aircraft, and so that they could get the maximum amount of equipment onto the airfield in the shortest time. The problem was, how to get the Rangers out of the C-5 after it landed. Because the plane is so big, the troop door is way off the ground - too high to jump out off (especially with 100 lbs+ of gear) without risking a broken ankle. And the cargo ramp takes longer to lower than the Rangers could wait to get in the fight.

So, the solution was to come up with an I-bar that went above the troop door. The aircraft would land, the troop doors would be opened, the I-bars would be put into place, the ropes would be dropped, and the Rangers would fast rope the 10' or so to the ground. An elegant solution, and the best part was that those who had participated in the test could say, with absolute accuracy "Well, yeah, I've fast-roped out of a C-5A Galaxy."


Blogger Uncle Jimbo said...

But have you belayed a rappel from a C-130?

3:21 AM  
Blogger jbrookins said...

One of the best stories I heard of was from a real SFer, when asked what he did for a living he replied. I'm the guy who goes into shoes stores after hours and put the shoes back in order. Knowing this fella I can picture how straight faced he must have told this to the young lady asking the questions.

5:21 AM  
Blogger six said...

It's possible to do normal static-line jumping out of C-5s, too. I have never done it, but....
...wait, yes I have... I jumped out of a C-5 over Viet Nam in 1972 at 50,000 feet with nothing but a bottle of oxygen and a sheepskin sleeping bag. Yeah, that's the ticket... Sleeping Bag. and I shared the sleeping bag all the way to the ground with my wife... Morgan Fairchild.
Yeah, that's the ticket!

10:47 AM  
Blogger Special Forces Alpha Geek said...

I have to admit that I haven't belayed a rappel from a C-130 - but I think that's how the Fulton Extraction System was developed, right?

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

9:37 PM  

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