A Russian commando unit has conducted a so-called HALO parachuting operation, a mass jump which saw them dropping out of a high-flying transport plane and free diving to a reasonably low altitude before opening their chutes.
This is a challenge in itself, but the paratroopers faced added risks thanks to the location of the jump.
The Alexandra Land is an island well beyond the 80th parallel north, the circle of latitude where only the northernmost parts of Canada, Norway and Greenland are located.
“For the first time in world history we conducted a group jump, involving the use of special parachute systems and oxygen equipment, in Arctic conditions from an altitude of 10,000 meters, followed by a field exercise,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov said on Sunday.
Parachuting in extreme conditions is hardly a novelty, but Arctic military training usually involves jumping from altitudes of 400 to 1,000 meters. A high-altitude jump may be necessary in a combat situation to inject troops without alerting the enemy, or to protect the plane from anti-aircraft fire.
The Russian exercise was based around one such scenario. The unit, dropped by an Il-76 transport plane, played the role of an advance task force, which secured a landing zone for the rest of the troops. Once all the soldiers were on the ground, they deployed drones and scouts to find a simulated enemy camp and called an airstrike before swiping the area for surviving combatants.
According to the Defense Ministry, the extreme HALO jump gave the airborne troops an opportunity to test a “new generation parachuting system,” including breathing masks, navigation equipment and other new special tools.
The jump took place over Alexandra Land, the westernmost island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Here, at 80 degrees north, Russia’s Arctic forces have built its northernmost military complex with a new 2,500-meter-long runway and huge building infrastructure.
The Nagurskoye base is equipped with the latest gear for Arctic warfare. That includes snowmobiles, military trucks, helicopters, radar systems and anti-aircraft missile systems, like the S-300, which are aimed at strengthening control over Arctic airspace.
As previously reported by the Barents Observer, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, has confirmed that the new Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile can be deployed to Arctic airports like the one at Alexandra Land.
With the new runway, bombers like the MiG-31K will be able to use the airport. So can large transport planes. The airport is built about 3 kilometers west of the runway Russia abandoned after the end of the Cold War.
A video released by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency shows the paratroopers as they jump out of the plane, land and conduct combat training on the ground.