Royal Marines leapt ten feet from Chinook helicopters into the Bristol Channel as they tested some of their most daring Commando skills.
The Marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando were picked up by Royal Air Force helicopters on the dunes of Braunton Burrows in North Devon to practise what is known as ‘helicasting’.
It’s a technique which gets Commandos into the action quickly, dropping them from the back of helicopters into the ocean – from where they use their Zodiac raiding craft to strike at the enemy ashore.
The training took place alongside 47 Commando – the Royal Marines’ small boat raiding specialists – to keep Marines sharp for operations around the world.
Helicasting takes immense skill and team-work – from those dropping into the raging surf, to the small boat teams and, of course, the pilots who hover their aircraft just above the waves to allow the Commandos to deploy.
The technique is used to quickly get troops ashore but also to access routes inland which a foe would regard as unpassable for conventional forces.
“Helicasting is a means of putting Commando Forces ashore along contested coastlines,” said Maj Will Searight Royal Marines, Officer Commanding of 40 Commando’s Charlie Company.
“The technique involves jumping from an aircraft in the hover and then either swimming ashore or linking up with a raiding craft and being put ashore as covertly as possible.
“It’s a technique best suited to small teams with a reconnaissance role, and one that both Commandos and aircrew are looking to rediscover and further develop.”
The helicasting drills were just one part of intensive training for 40 Commando that will prepare them for regular deployments around the world– from desert to jungle – as they begin to operate as the new Littoral Response Group (South), which concentrates on operations east of the Suez Canal alongside regional allies and partners.
The Commandos were put through swim tests prior to the Chinook drop, leaping into water carrying webbing and rifle from high boards, to simulate the jump from the helicopter. They then had to tread water before swimming 200 metres wearing their full kit and boots.
Charlie Company also worked closely with Offshore Raiding Craft (ORCs) of 47 Commando to hone their close-quarters battle skills.
They were put ashore by Chinook, conducting a range of tactical scenarios before rapidly extracting via the ORCs, which can zip across the water at 50mph and are equipped with machine guns and grenade launchers for speedy getaways and fire support to those ashore.