SAS troopers carried out their first major parachute operations since the 1956 Suez Crisis in Iraq, targeting insurgent leaders and bomb-making factories.
The London Telegraph reported on the recently-revealed operations executed by the elite force, which apparently played a significant role in thwarting the insurgency with at least a dozen attacks on “high-value targets.”
“These jumps took place all over the city, but particularly Sadr City on the eastern edge of Baghdad. You would land on the outskirts, on the right side of the Tigris, and then tab in. [“Tab” is a British Army acronym for “tactical advance to battle.”]
“It gives you the ability of surprise for a hard knock [assault operation] or to get to that point where you have eyes on the target without anyone having a clue that you are in there. As soon as you put a helicopter up, people know what’s going on,” an SAS operative who took part in the operations explained.
Jumping from the rear-ramp of C-130 Hercules transports, they used steerable parachutes, and chest packs with gear that included radios, altimeters, satellite navigation systems, and oxygen masks to track down several miles to carry out operations ranging from setting up observation posts using high-tech electronics to raids.
“It was the surprise factor that we were after,” said an SAS operative who took part in some of these operations. SAS personnel wearing the latest combat uniforms and with equipment that included suppressed Heckler and Koch 417 rifles also assisted helicopter-borne troops in carrying out missions.
“We had the means to get into a building and means to fight our way out,” the soldier said. “We did arrests. We are not going in to neutralize everything but to try to capture targets. However, if you are in the course of apprehending somebody and your life is under threat, if somebody is pointing a gun at you then they will be very lucky to survive,” an SAS operative added.
The SAS also carried out some parachute operations in Afghanistan at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, despite difficulties with the high altitude and rough terrain.
The revelation of these operations come amid reports that about a third of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, the United Kingdom’s equivalent to the 82nd Airborne Division, have not been able to qualify to jump due to shortages of pilots and transport aircraft.