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Thread: Airborne operations

  1. #1
    Humanist Senior Member Franconicus's Avatar
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    Default Airborne operations

    They are elite in most armies since WW2. They had spectacular victories. But they always had big losses. And there were some desasters as well. So at the end of the day, do these kind of operations really pay?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Airborne operations

    Yes.

    In the gruesome economics of war, there are times when the lives of men need to be spent in order to achieve your military objectives. Of course the airborne operations on D-Day are probably the most famous - and most succesful - in history and show what airborne units could achieve. The losses were high, but not as high as were expected. And what would the results have been for the invasion of France if the Merville Battery or Pegasus Bridge had not been destroyed/captured. The German attack on Eben Emal is another example of airborne troops doing a vital job well.

    Operations that went wrong such as Market Garden were due to factors such as weather, bad planning, dropping troops too far from their targets, poor intelligence, lack of impetus (British tanks halting after the US Airborne had just courageously taken the bridge at Nijmegen) all contributed to its failure.

    The German invasion of Crete is an example were the objectives were achieved but the casualties were horrendous. Hitler banned airborne operations after that, such were the losses amongst German paras.

    Again, remember that in war, soldiers are a currency to be spent.
    "I request permanent reassignment to the Gallic frontier. Nay, I demand reassignment. Perhaps it is improper to say so, but I refuse to fight against the Greeks or Macedonians any more. Give my command to another, for I cannot, I will not, lead an army into battle against a civilized nation so long as the Gauls survive. I am not the young man I once was, but I swear before Jupiter Optimus Maximus that I shall see a world without Gauls before I take my final breath."

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  3. #3
    Member Member Boohugh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Airborne operations

    No.

    Large scale airborne operations of the sort you are talking too are a waste of men and resources. During WW2, the airborne units were incresingly used as very tough infantry units because only the best men were allowed into them, and this was their most effective role. This led to them being used in all the toughest battles, which made them even more effective as they were battle-hardened, but it also led to a high level of combat fatigue (which is why the 101st airborne was in the Ardennes in 1944, they were their to rest in an area with a supposedly low risk of battle).

    The success of the German Army after Crete shows that airborne operations aren't necessary for offensive operations, and so it is perfectly feasible for operations such as D-day to have gone ahead without them. The D-Day airborne assualt had one or two successes, such as the capture of the Pegasus bridge, but overall they were generally chaotic and ineffective and served no strategic purpose.

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    Humanist Senior Member Franconicus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Airborne operations

    Well, the German operation in 1940 was a complete success, based on good training, planing and surprise. Nevertheless, th elosses were high.
    Crete was the first attempt to attack an island out of the air without adequate naval power. Although the Germans reached their targets the losses were too high.
    Allied airborne operation helped the landings on the European mainland. But again the losses were high. And you could not rely on these operations because the troops might land at the wrong place or just blown away.
    Marketgarden was a desaster. Besides bad planing the airborne forces were just overrated.

    Same happened at Dien Bien Phu. France lost 16.000 men during this operation against Vietcong.
    Airborne units are very expensive. You selevct the best, give them best equipment and training. The effect is that very often these troops are overrated. And the losses are usually so high that it does not pay!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Airborne operations

    [QUOTE=LordHugh] the 101st airborne was in the Ardennes in 1944, they were their to rest in an area with a supposedly low risk of battleQUOTE]

    The 101st (and 82nd Airborne) were nowhere near the Ardennes in 1944 when the Germans started their offensive, they were in the rear acting as Eisenhower's strategic reserve (his only reserve in fact).

    As with all combat units, paratroopers are useful under certain conditions, and less so in others. They can be used to capture strategic objectives (such as bridges) before the enemy can react and destroy them. Even during Market Garden the Airborne units were able to take 3/4 of their objectives. If ground forces broken through more quickly, or if two Panzer divisions had not been refitting in Holland on September 22nd, it would have been seen as a strategic masterstroke.

    The same can be said for Dien Bien Phu, the disaster there was caused by the politicians in Paris despising their enemy, as well as gross incompetence.

    They can also be dropped in an enemy's rear where they would not be expected, and the fear of such units can cause the enemy to put combat units into their rear to guard against such attacks, that would otherwise be used on the front line.
    Last edited by Grey_Fox; 06-28-2005 at 12:07.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Senior Member econ21's Avatar
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    Default Re: Airborne operations

    I suspect airborne units are something of an anachronism today. I don't think many countries armed forces seriously include large scale parachute drops in their war-fighting doctrines. Airborne units nowadays may be like grenadiers in the Napoleonic wars - elite troops, but no longer using the tactics their name refers to. Presumably, this is due to dangers of air defence and partly because of the riskiness of infantry fighting on foot without supplies or heavy support.

    Even historially, large scale airborne operations seem questionable. I can see them helping sea born invasions when one side has total air superiority as in Normandy, but even then they don't seem essential and I am not even sure they were the best use of extremely high quality soldiers.

    Airmobile units - helicopter transported infantry - on the other hand seem terrifically useful. Less vulnerable to interception or detection; more precisely deployed; much more mobile after they are deployed; and much easier to extract if they get into trouble.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Airborne operations

    Airmobile troops are basically the evolution of airborne units.

  8. #8
    Shadow Senior Member Kagemusha's Avatar
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    Default Re: Airborne operations

    I think that paratroopers are live and kicking.The thing is that they arent novadays deployed in large numbers.If you look at the last conflict at Afghanistan.You can see that there were little team sized units deployd all ower the operational area.These guys would drop from the sky,find key locations and pinpoint vital targets for airstrikes and cruisemissiles with devastating effects.Coalition used same tactics in second gulf war.The teams are so small that when their location is compromised.They retreat or scatter.The word paratrooper itself is misleading if we look at it from historical point of wiew.In WWII paratroopers were the only infatry that could use parashoots.Today its just a one special skill to infantry man than anyother.
    Ja Mata Tosainu Sama.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Senior Member Brenus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Airborne operations

    To be a paratrooper is to belong to an elite troop. You shared the same experience; you have to jump in the air. I did it, and it is still the most frightening experience I remember, more than 20 years after. The second jump especially, I donít know whyÖ

    But, yes, the conventional paratrooper doesnít exist any more, even if each army still pay a fortune to graduate soldiers in this kind of activities. It is a filter to select trooper. The same with other training, but none is so visceral than this test.

    Helicopters gave the flexibility required. The last big airborne operation is Suez, for what I remember, when French, British and Israelis combined their effort to bring down Nasser, effort which was spoiled by the US and USSR, for time on the same tune.
    In fact, no, in 1974, I think, the French 2 REP (Regiment Etranger Parachutiste, Foreign Legion) jumped on Kolwesi to stop a massacre from the so-called Gendarmes Katangais (reference to Maurice Tschombe, opponent to Mobutu and Patrice Lubumba when these two took power) in Zaire, nowadays Democratic Republic of Congo.
    They succeeded because the rebel forces werenít really disciplined and trained.

    The problem with paratroopers is they have to carry ammunition, food, and every thing on their back, and that heavy, plus they have to fight. If reinforcement or material canít arrive (Arhnem, Dien Bien Phu), they are lost. By definition, their equipment is light (even if USSR tried to parachute light tank SU) it canít match an armoured division. If I remember well, an anti-tank missile has 3600m range, a 20mm canon 2000 with fragmentation ammunition. And a 120 or 200 mm even more. And to use a LAW, RPG or other anti-tank weapons demand a lot.
    When a unit is dropped, on the right site (navigation is a problem), depending of the wind, the unit can be spread on a large surface. In war time, the enemy donít wait you touch the ground. Geneva Conventions are clear. You donít shoot a parachute when the crew is evacuating a plane in difficulty (going down). So confusion and chaos are the reality. That is why the Germans Paratroopers had difficulties in Crete.

    The parachute is now use for deep infiltration behind the lines, for recon. Teem of three, most the time, chose the post, dig, hide, observe, and report (satellite).

    However, to wear the Wings is still a privilege you pay with a hard training and your fear.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire.

    "I've been in few famous last stands, lad, and they're butcher shops. That's what Blouse's leading you into, mark my words. What'll you lot do then? We've had a few scuffles, but that's not war. Think you'll be man enough to stand, when the metal meets the meat?"
    "You did, sarge", said Polly." You said you were in few last stands."
    "Yeah, lad. But I was holding the metal"
    Sergeant Major Jackrum 10th Light Foot Infantery Regiment "Inns-and-Out"

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