Parachuting Articles

Parachute Group of the
Counter Terrorist Unit

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Posted in columns: Parachuting Photo: TROE Production

Modern military and police units, as a rule, are intended to execute the most complex tactical tasks and actions in all conditions, so the basic assumption to this is the rationally defined unit`s organization, as well as a personnel plan and program of training. In order to efficiently carry out tasks on land, water or in the air, units for special actions have to have specially trained and equipped personnel groups and teams. Actions from the air are, as a rule, conducted by special parachute groups or teams.

Counter Terrorist Unit-CTU (Serb. Protivteroristička jedinica-PTJ) is the elite unit for special actions of the Police Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia. Within its operational element, CTU has a well-equipped parachute group intended to conduct various tactical tasks from the air.

Parachute Group of the CTU

Parachute Group of the CTU is organized as an element of one of the CTU`s operational teams and is consisted of six highly trained operators of the CTU, all with parachute specialists ranks. The rank of a specialist is one of the mandatory terms to become a member of the group. Police Major, Goran Panovic, is an experienced parachute specialist who used to be the commander of the parachute group. Major says that low number of the parachutists within the group is the consequence of the decision of CTU`s command which considers that is a better option to have a smaller, but highly trained and well-equipped group of the parachutists capable and eager to carry out any given task at any time: “Units of this type and purpose are expensive. State leaderships invest significant funds for training and professional developing of the special forces. Yet, we have significantly less funds comparing to foreign units and countries, which give us a limited number of annually jumps. In order to maintain combat readiness, along with rationalization criteria, we consider is more efficient to enable larger number of jumps to a smaller group”.

Major Panovic is an experienced parachutist. After 1300th jump says he stopped counting them, but his first was in 1986. Graduated at the Faculty of Physical Education in the city of Novi Sad, Panovic gains an officer rank in 2004. Through his rich career, among other things, he led the international team for special operations in Haiti in 2009 and 2010. Major Panovic is also judo and skiing instructor.
Parachute Group of the Counter Terrorist Unit is specially trained for:

-actions deep into the territory controlled by the enemy or territory that is occupied by terrorist groups
-air supplying of the friendly forces in the rear lines
-rescue actions on the ground in situations when the advance of the ground forces is hampered

Intended tasks CTU parachutist can conduct in urban and rural environments, independently or in coordination with other friendly forces. According to the Plan and Program of Training for the CTU Operators, basic parachute training is mandatory for all the operators of the unit and is carried out within their basic training. Also, every operator within his common routine is obliged to conduct at least one jump per year. Thanks to the high-quality training, and with the help of experienced instructors, every “Griffin” is trained enough to carry out a full-gear jump and land on the ground surface of a handball court, which is mostly to be expected in real situations.

The basic parachute training of the CTU operators includes theoretical and practical classes. It begins with theoretical lectures on the individual and group security procedures when preparing and conducting a jump, as well as when landing. Also, operators with the constant observation and assistance continuously learn and repeat to automation the procedure of parachute packing, as well as procedures for gear checking. A very important element of the parachute training are procedures that are performed in the case of partial or total cancellation of the main parachute, while the importance of landing procedures learning is related to preventions of injuries of the parachutists. The trainees study the effects of weather conditions, as well as their mutual causality (especially effects and causality of height, wind, temperature, air density and the like). At the beginning of their practical training operators familiarize with basic parachute equipment and with advices from instructors they practice body balancing that is very important during the free fall of the parachutist, or while performing a tandem jump[1]. Major Panovic stresses out: “Every operator develops self-confidence and thrust in his gear during intensive training”.

All members of the Parachute Group are also competitors of the Griffin Parachute Club[2] and in this sense regular participants in the national competitions as well as ones abroad. Many trophies and medals advocate about their individual and team quality, these competitors are multiple state champions in precision landing discipline as well as in performing free-fall figurative elements, owners of more than ten titles of state champions and others. At regional prestigious tournaments Griffins also achieve excellent group and individual results. Experienced parachutists were also participating in setting the national record in free fall jump. A team of 12 parachutists jumped of a plane at 9250 meters on 12 May 2004 and opened their parachutes at 500 meters attitude.

The Rank of a Specialists

Considering that basic parachute training is mandatory for all the operators of the CTU, to achieve the rank of the parachute specialist one must reach very high standards.

The Specialist of Parachuting and operator of the CTU, Igor Zmiric, during landing on the target. Photo:

In order to achieve the prestigious rank, an operator must spend at least three years in professional development in this area, within the minimum of 150 jumps.

Gear and Weaponry

Parachute Group of the Counter Terrorist Unit uses high-quality parachutes Parafoil 282 and Eagle 290, as well as tandem parachute systems Strong. Enlisted models are considered among the finest in the market and are manufactured in the USA. To support their quality and reliability is a fact that US Space Agency NASA uses these parachutes for the need of employees. Depending on the environment where the landing and actions are expected, parachutists wear uniforms with various camouflage patterns that are in use in CTU. When conducting actions in rural areas Griffins usually wear two-piece uniforms with rural digital camouflage pattern Tactical One of the national manufacturer Mile Dragic. Same need can met and two-pieced uniforms in French Woodland, of the same manufacturer, who also provides camouflage uniforms Tactical One intended for urban environment. Head protection during the preparations and jumping is realized with helmets specially designed for airborne troops, purchased from manufacturers Protec, JOBE, as well as Velocity and others. Depending on the needs of tasks, a part of the protective gear may be a ballistic helmet M 05, from Mile Dragic.

As for the weaponry, priority is given to more compact weapons, relatively small in weight. Therefore, parachutists often opt for a reliable German SMG in different models, from HK MP5 A3 with telescopic buttstock, over compact version HK MP5 K, to suppressed one HK MP5 SD3, all in 9x19 mm Parabellum/Luger. In the category of assault rifles and carbines, available are US Colt M4 A4 Commando with telescopic buttstock in 5.56x45 mm NATO caliber. Swiss SIG Sauer 516 CQB SBR rifles, which are manufactured for the same caliber and modeled on the M4 system but with some improvements and more compact sizes, should be mentioned as well. Standard Picatinny rails on these rifle models allow mounting of the tactical accessories such as reflex red dot sights Aimpoint CompM3, tactical lights, vertical handgrips and the like, depending on the need of interventions and preferences of operators. The mounting of the accessories is done in a way not to distort the balance of the weapon, as well as not to increase total weight of the weaponry of a parachutist. As for the rifles based on the Kalashnikov system, reliable East German AK 47 of great balance and of less weight, comparing to other models with this system, are in use. The weaponry of the parachutist is always completed with a semi-automatic handgun, such as Austrian Glock 17 Gen 3 in 9x19 mm Parabellum/Luger which is the main model in use and is purchased for the entire operational element of the CTU. With firearms parachutists as a rule carry reliable knives of various manufacturers.

[1] The type of a parachute jump that is carried out in a tandem consisted of a tandem master, experienced parachuting specialists and so-called passenger, a person attached to the master during the jump. Jumping is done with one parachute managed by the tandem master.
[2] Parachuting Club Griffin was established in 2010.

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