The Atlas will be the aircraft to deliver the military’s parachuting capability when the C-130J Hercules retires from RAF service in 2023. Trials of parachuting from the Atlas have seen soldiers from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team jumping onto Salisbury Plain.
Bombardier Daniel Murray, of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, said: “It’s a great experience to get some jumps in and help develop the Atlas. It’s all been straightforward and familiar – the parachute and all of the procedures inside the plane are the same, and there’s more space in the Atlas which makes it easier with all the kit we jump with.”
Major Aden Philpott, airborne plans officer for Headquarters 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, said: “The speed and reach of deploying by air are the defining characteristics of air manoeuvre forces, and vital to the brigade’s role as the global response force. Across a wide range of strategic and tactical scenarios, parachuting retains significant relevance for contemporary operations through enabling us to hold the initiative. We can take off from the UK to deliver troops by parachute to where they are needed rapidly, outmanoeuvring the enemy and putting us in position to win the first battle when, where and how we want to fight it.
“The Atlas has a key role to play in our future, offering a significant boost to our capabilities through its ability to carry more paratroopers over a greater distance.”
The trials have been planned and delivered by No. 206 Squadron, the RAF’s heavy aircraft test and evaluation squadron and the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit. RAF despatchers from the Parachute Test Team assisted the parachutists in the safe fitting and checking of equipment, conducting final checks prior to despatch, and ensuring the safe despatch of parachutists from the aircraft before recovering their static lines.
Air Commodore Andy Martin, the Atlas Programme senior responsible owner said: “The successful initiation of mass low-level parachuting trials on the Atlas represents a major milestone for the Atlas Capability Programme. This significant step is the result of a lot of hard work by the whole team and keeps the programme on track to transfer low-level and high-altitude parachuting capability from C130J Hercules onto the Atlas next year. Adding both parachuting capabilities to the range of other tactical capabilities that are already in service such as the ability to air-drop supplies, air-to-air refuelling, and landing on natural surfaces, puts the Atlas in a good position to take over from the Hercules in 2023.”