D-Day parachute jump scaled down due to lack of aircraft, as RAF bosses scramble to fill gaps

19 May 2024, 15:20

Just a single plane was available, however defence sources said they were optimistic more could be located
Just a single plane was available, however defence sources said they were optimistic more could be located. Picture: Alamy

By Charlie Duffield

Defence chiefs are attempting to get more planes for a planned D-Day 80th anniversary parachute drop, as the RAF's fleet is limited due to the current crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.

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Hundreds of paratroopers were meant to appear in Normandy on 5 June in commemoration of their Second World War predecessors, however the plans have had to be scaled down due to a lack of aircraft.

Just a single plane was available, but defence sources told the Mail they were optimistic that more could be located.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps requested an urgent review and said it showed the need for more military spending.

He said: "I've no doubt at all we'll have additional planes there... It's one of the reasons why I have successfully argued to get £75bn more in cash terms into our armed forces because I think you do need to be doing more of these things."

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine has stretched Nato activity, making resources harder to access, and the RAF's transport aircraft are also being deployed in dropping aid into Gaza.

Former defence minister Tobias Elwood said the stripped back memorial jump showed the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) new funding strategy.

"As things stand, the paras' hopes of putting on a large-scale multi-plane parachute drop has been limited to a single aircraft and just 100 of them jumping out," he said.

"The issue demonstrates a sad and simple truth - today's RAF lacks heavy lift transport capacity after all Hercules transport fleet, which served our nation so well for more than 50 years, was scrapped to save money."

A spokesperson for the MoD said: "D-Day 80 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."

The Labour MP and ex-defence minister Kevin Jones asked Mr Shapps to fix the issue.

He : "Veterans who took part in the historic operation on the blood-soaked Normandy beaches and the Nazi-infested territory beyond it will rightly be furious that 80 years on, the MoD can't provide enough planes.

"Grant Shapps should pull his finger out and sort this immediately."

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