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Military Free-Fall (MFF)

Free fall is a parachute maneuver in which the parachute is manually activated at the discretion of the jumper or automatically at a preset altitude. SOF unit personnel meet the requirements for static line parachuting as well as provide special training and instruction for nonstandard equipment, aircraft, and personnel procedures. The standard operating procedures for all aspects of military free fall operations within the XVII Airborne Corps are identical to those reflected in the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Regulation 350-2 and FM 31-19, Military Free Fall Operations.

Military Free-Fall (MFF) Parachute Operations (HALO / HAHO) must conform to approved US Army policy. FM 31-19 (Military Free-Fall Parachuting Tactics Techniques, and Procedures) and USASOC Reg 350-2 (Training Airborne Operations) are the primary references for Military Free-Fall Operations. Military free fall is one of several advanced-skills training courses offered to a special group of soldiers who call themselves "the quiet professionals," who "cannot be mass produced." Among their other skills are combat diving and target interdiction. In the SF company, one of the six A-teams is trained in combat diving and one is trained in military free-fall parachuting. Both are used as methods of infiltration.

Military free fall operations are generally characterized by flight over or adjacent to the objective area at altitudes not normally associated with conventional parachute operations. Ram-air parachuted and supplemental oxygen permit Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRSD) members to exit the aircraft with maximum standoff, deploy their parachutes at a designated altitude, assemble in the air and land together on the drop zone. Military free fall operations can be conducted except under the most adverse weather conditions.

Considered to be one of the military's most demanding and potentially hazardous advanced skills, military free-fall, or MFF, parachute operations are used to infiltrate enemy areas under the cover of darkness to avoid detection. Infiltration of operational elements, pilot teams and personnel replacements is conducted under the cover of darkness, varying weather conditions and terrain. Military free-fall parachutists land at their objective as a combat-ready, tactical unit.

Decompression sickness [DCS] is an illness caused by hypobaric (reduced atmospheric) pressure on the body that results in production of nitrogen bubbles within body tissues, similar to bends. These bubbles result in symptoms of DCS, which can cause mild joint pain to right ventricular failure and circulatory collapse, to permanent neurological deficits (paraplegia), and to death. Above 21,000 feet pressure altitude, potentially lethal DCS is a virtual certainty unless oxygen discipline is strictly followed and all oxygen equipment functions adequately. Increased time at high altitude greatly contributes to an incidence of DCS due to growth of nitrogen bubbles formation. Thus personnel exposed to high altitude should be discouraged from strenuous exercise immediately after exposure such as combat operations for 12 hours post-flight.

Taught by Company B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, Special Forces MFF team members are taught to conduct operational high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) missions by exiting an aircraft at altitudes up to 35,000 feet above ground level. The MFF parachutists free fall to about 2,500 feet from ground level before deploying their canopies. During high-altitude, high-opening, (HAHO), parachute missions, MFF parachutists exit at high altitudes and deploy their canopies at high altitudes using highly-maneuverable, gliding parachute systems to silently travel distances of more than 50 kilometers.

Special operations forces personnel make the transition from static-line airborne parachutist to military free-fall parachutist in a four-week course taught at Fort Bragg, N.C. and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. During the first week, called ground week, students learn body stabilization while flying in the vertical wind tunnel at Fort Bragg as well as basic aircraft procedures, altitude physiology and other MFF parachuting ground training.

Students go to Yuma Proving Ground for their airborne operations during the last two weeks. Advanced aircraft procedures beginning with individual exits while wearing combat equipment introduce students to the MFF infiltration mission. Students learn mass exits, grouping exercises, night airborne operations and high-altitude airborne procedures in combat equipment and oxygen gear.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:20:19 Zulu