The Russian military created a world record by making its special operators and paratroopers jump from a height of nearly 33,000 feet in the Arctic region. The extraordinary high-altitude airborne training exercise was recently undertaken at Alexandra Land, an island in Russia's Franz Josef Land archipelago, located above the Arctic Circle.
With depleting natural resources elsewhere on the planet, the unexplored Arctic is often seen as the next potential natural resource center. An annual affair for the Russian military, the three-day exercise helped the airborne troops to practice their high-altitude parachuting skills. According to media reports, the team included members from Russian special operations forces and the Russian Army paratroopers.
HALO parachuting operation strengthens Russian military might
Generally, a high-altitude jump is undertaken in a situation where troops are to be inducted without alerting the enemy or to protect the plane carrying the paratroopers from anti-aircraft shelling.
Though the officials have refrained from commenting the purpose behind conducting the unprecedent exercise, it is believed that it was undertaken with a motive to effective military deployment in extreme scenarios. The parachuting operation was termed HALO.
According to RT, the paratroopers, dropped by an Il-76 transport plane, stood for an advance task force. Following their safe landing, the specialised unit secured a landing zone for the rest of the troops which jumped from a height of 2,000 metres. The advance party surveyed the area for a possible enemy camp, using snowmobiles and drones. Once the entire team landed, drones were strategically deployed to trace out the simulated enemy camp followed by an airstrike on the mock camp housing enemy.
The Drive quoted Russian Defense Ministry stating that 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.
Russia sending out signal of expanding its operations in Arctic
The footage of the exercise was release by the Russian Ministry of Defense and TV Zvezda, its official television station.
In one of the clips released on the state television, the paratroopers could be shooting blanks in all directions, while one commando is seen firing a pistol straight up in the air as they inch closer to their target. The exercise footage also revealed the use of DT-30PM heavy tracked transport vehicles designed for use in the rugged terrain and Arctic region.
"Today, for the first time in world history, we conducted a group landing of personnel with special parachute systems in Arctic conditions from a height of 10,000 meters [~32,808 feet] using oxygen equipment followed by combat training missions. Nobody has done such a thing before us," said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Yanus-Bek Yevkurov, who was on hand of the exercise.
It is not for the first time that Russia has undertaken airborne exercise closer to the North Pole. Since 2014, the country is conducting such exercises to send out a clear message of its increase interest in the Arctic operations. Recently, the Russians also made functional a new anti-aircraft system at its Tiksi military base.
At the end of the exercise the units reassembled at the Nagurskoye air base, which is part of a growing list of newly constructed Russian military bases throughout the Arctic. The Russian government has also deployed a number of radar installations and anti-aircraft weapons systems in the Arctic.