Home World Spectacular D-Day display under threat as Army grapples with major RAF shortages

Spectacular D-Day display under threat as Army grapples with major RAF shortages

A spectacular parachute assault into Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France has been drastically cut by a shortage of RAF transport planes.

According to senior Army sources, the Parachute Regiment had planned to drop more than 400 Paras at the historic remembrance ceremony from the RAF’s new Airbus A400M planes, to mark the significant contribution the red berets made in 1944 and pay tribute to fallen comrades.

But “operational demands” mean that the RAF has been forced to cut the number of planes available from four to just one. The result is that just 100 British soldiers will be dropping at any one time.

Despite having 22 Airbus A400M aircraft, demands to support operations in eastern Europe, Gaza aid drops, Nato war-games and routine flights to Cyprus, the Falklands and Gibraltar are all taking their toll.

The Paras were recently due to mount a major airborne assault into Estonia as part of a Nato reinforcement manoeuvre under Exercise Steadfast Defender.

But the RAF aircraft were re-tasked, and 72 Paras paras were forced to jump from American aircraft instead.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will attend a veterans’ tribute at Southsea which will be spearheaded by the Red Arrows, and has confirmed the Red Devils, the Paras’ free-fall team, will be in France.

And on Thursday, 5 June, the skies over the dropzone at Ranville are due to be filled with hundreds of paratroopers as aircraft from the United States, Poland, Belgium and the UK drop soldiers to mark Operation Overlord.

Contingents of serving soldiers and reservists will attend various ceremonies during the first week of June leading up to D-Day, but Britain’s annual maritime and airborne involvement has been significantly cut.

To make matters worse, 14 servicable C-130 Hercules transport planes were withdrawn almost a year ago by then Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who claimed they would no longer be needed when the last of the new Airbus fleet arrived.

Key allies such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and France still use the American-manufactured aircraft as part of their Nato standard equipment, and senior officers warned that retiring the Hercules fleet, repeatedly used by the Parachute Regiment and Special Forces, would undermine operational capability.

“This is not the RAF’s fault,’ said one source last night.

“It is down to a political decision to get rid of 14 perfectly serviceable C-130 Hercules aircraft last year.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “D-Day80 will offer a comprehensive programme of tributes from today’s Armed Forces to their forebears ,with a significant amount of activity in both France and the UK, involving thousands of personnel, Royal Air Force flypasts, and Royal Navy vessels.

“This will include a commemorative jump by UK paratroopers from an A400M aircraft on the 5 June alongside Allied counterparts.”


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