Catastrophic Fast-Rope Failure: Three Indian Soldiers Injured During Insertion Training

first published on January 12, 2018 by

Three Indian Soldiers were injured after a catastrophic fast-rope failure during a training exercise. The boom snaps on the helicopter sending the troops helplessly falling to the deck.

Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES), better known as “fast-roping”, is an extraordinarily exhilarating technique designed to get soldiers out of a helicopter and on to the ground in an extremely rapid manner. Typically used to insert troops into small or partially obstructed LZ’s where the helicopter itself cannot land, it makes ships, roof tops, and small jungle clearings all vulnerable to air-insertion. The technique is comprised of three simple components – a thick rope, heavy-duty leather gloves, and gravity.

In this speed and simplicity lies the danger. Unlike repelling, where the user is physically connected to the line, fast-roping is untethered and relies on the grip strength of the individual soldier. Normally taught by using a “three grip” point of contact method – hands (don’t let them go above your head), knees, and feet – the margin of error while sliding down a 50+ foot rope laden with gear is slim at best. Make a simple mistake, and cause perils for not only yourself but the guys below you in the LZ.

The video shows two Indian Dhruv advanced light helicopter’s conducting fast-roping (the Indian’s refer to it as “slithering”) drills on a large and dusty parade deck. Rehearsing for an upcoming military parade later this month, they drop rope and hover with a few spectators looking on. The first roper quickly emerges and safely heads down the line before a brief pause. A second soldier emerges, and the team appears to hit its stride as they grab the rope and exit the aircraft in quick succession.

To increase the speed when fast-roping, the idea is to have multiple troops on the rope at one time. Ideally, and depending on the height of the helo and length of the rope, three is the sought-after number. One at the bottom near exiting, one in the middle, and one just grabbing hold and swinging onto the rope. You can put more or less soldiers on a rope, but the idea is to keep a steady flow of troops headed down the line who have enough time to exit the LZ, without being clobbered by the next guy above them. The Indian troops achieve this, getting three men on the rope in almost textbook fashion.

However, just as this is accomplished an unexpected catastrophe strikes the team. The boom snaps on the helicopter sending all three falling to the earth. This unanticipated accident is currently being investigated and has left all three soldiers injured but alive, according to Indian military officials. Once these injured soldiers get out of the hospital, they’re probably going to have some questions of their own for the HRST master responsible…

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