'Minuscule state' of RAF is 'utterly pathetic' with just one plane available for D-Day 80th anniversary parachute jumps

20 May 2024, 07:49 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 08:52

Just one plane mustered up for D-Day anniversary parachute drop

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

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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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, military historian Professor Saul David slammed defence bosses over the lack of aircraft.

Professor David told Nick during the Second World War, the UK and the US used "1,500 planes to deliver 21,000 troops on D-Day."

"And the idea that we can't manage to get together more than one to put 450. That's all we're trying to do put 450 members of the Parachute Regiment to commemorate this last big commemoration. As you say, Nick, it's utterly pathetic."

The conversation comes after it was revealed hundreds of paratroopers had been expected to jump into Normandy to honour the actions of their predecessors in the Second World War, but plans have been scaled back due to a shortage of aircraft.

The Mail on Sunday reported that just one plane had been left for the Parachute Regiment to use, but defence sources are hopeful at least one more can be made available.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has ordered an urgent review.

A source close to Mr Shapps said: “It’s important we remember the past and commemorate the sacrifices that guaranteed the freedom we enjoy now.

“This is a special anniversary of D Day and the UK will play a full part in the commemorations with a significant military representation.

“The A400 fleet has been involved in a wide range of complex operations, including NATO missions and aid drops to Gaza, and the Defence Secretary is grateful for all the work of those involved.

“This will definitely be fixed and wouldn’t have got to this stage if he had known earlier.

“He is a big believer in learning the lessons of the past and that means showing due respect and honour to those who have helped protect the nation in the past.”

Read more: Royal Mint 50p coin marks 80th anniversary of D-Day landings

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

Currently only one RAF A400M has been designated for paratroopers
Currently only one RAF A400M has been designated for paratroopers. Picture: Alamy

Paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team will jump from an RAF A400M and the Red Devils Parachute Display Team will also jump into Normandy.

But resources have been stretched by Nato operations at a time when Russia's invasion of Ukraine has increased activity by the alliance and the RAF's transport aircraft have also played a crucial role dropping aid in to Gaza.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson 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.

'D-Day 80 will offer a comprehensive programme of tributes from today's Armed Forces,' the MoD has said
'D-Day 80 will offer a comprehensive programme of tributes from today's Armed Forces,' the MoD has said. Picture: Alamy

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

A source close to Mr Shapps said: "This is a special anniversary of D-Day and the UK will play a full part in the commemorations with a significant military representation.

"The A400 fleet has been involved in a wide range of complex operations, including Nato missions and aid drops to Gaza, and the Defence Secretary is grateful for all the work of those involved."

Critics blamed the Government rather than the RAF for the fiasco because Ministers decided to retire the last of Britain's C-130 transport planes
Critics blamed the Government rather than the RAF for the fiasco because Ministers decided to retire the last of Britain's C-130 transport planes. Picture: Alamy

Writing in the Daily Mail, former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the pared-back memorial jump is indicative of the MoD's modern funding approach.

"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."

Labour MP and former defence minister Kevan Jones called on Mr Shapps to resolve the issue out of respect for those who fought for Britain.

"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," he told the Daily Mail.

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

Defence sources are hopeful one more A400M at least can be made available for the D-Day events.

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