On 21st April elite Russian Airborne specialists wearing a new Arctic camouflage uniform undertook a high altitude and extreme conditions parachute insertion.
The Russian paratroopers, in a world first according to the Russian Federation MoD, jumped from an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport aircraft flying at 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) over Alexandra Land island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago just ten degrees south of the Geographic North Pole.
During the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) insertion, said to be a test of “parachute systems for special purposes, individual oxygen equipment of a paratrooper, navigation equipment, special equipment and uniforms” in extreme conditions, the personnel from an Airborne Forces reconnaissance reportedly opened canopies at 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). After landing they linked up with troops of the Northern Fleet tactical group and together completed the task of identifying and destroying a simulated enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group. In Russian MoD photographs, released a few days later, it is clear that the HALO operatives are wearing uniforms in a previously unseen Arctic camouflage pattern which bears similarities to Crye Precision’s MultiCam Alpine pattern but it is not a direct copy of this essentially low contrast design.
It would appear that the new extreme cold weather outer uniforms used during the HAHO insertion were supplied by the Russian company GRUPPA 99 (ГРУППА 99) which is part of the Kalashnikov Group. The following post (auto-translated) describing their L6 (Layer 6) outer clothing layer, accompanied by one of the Russian MoD images, was published by them on 30th April:-
“In this publication we will talk about the outer membrane layer, which was worn on top of all layers during landing in the Arctic.
“At an altitude of 10,000 meters, the average air temperature during this period of time is -50 C on average, when jumping from an airplane. An additional factor in the freezing of the paratrooper will be a piercing, cold air stream that blows a warm air gap from the clothes if it is not covered by an external layer. The outer layer should also provide thermo-regulation. A conventional membrane is not suitable for this, as at low subzero temperatures, it starts to ‘tan’ and stops working.
“After field tests of different membrane samples, the Porelle PTFE membrane was selected for the Arctic weather conditions. It holds 20,000mm of water and has a vapour permeability of 10,000g. Due to which the membrane does not stop working in severe frost, unlike membranes with high vapour permeability. Fabric with ripstop reinforcement and additional water-repellent impregnation, with a membrane membrane.
“The suit itself has an articulated cut that does not constrain movements and has the functionality necessary for the convenience of a specialist. For example, a hood that does not close the view. You can use it by putting it on top of the helmet or simply hide it in the collar if it is not necessary. All zippers are protected against dirt and rain. There are VELCRO panels on the forearms for placing IR markers and patches. The left pocket is equipped with a flip lock, which allows you to compactly fold the entire jacket into it. Pants have cargo pockets on the hips, comfortable suspenders with a chest girth, as well as an additional belt for adjusting at the waist. The product is lightweight and compactly folds into a backpack.”
While perusing the GRUPPA 99 catalogue, which covers a wide range of military clothing and packs, I spotted that they advertise items tailored from both MultiCam and ATACS camouflage pattern fabrics but I could not establish if these are genuine or copies. From the photos the camo used by the Russian HALO jumpers appears to be four-colour, with two shades of grey plus near black on a white base; however actual inspection of garments could well reveal additional shades. On the website the company states that these L6 membrane suits, available since at least 2018 in plain Umber / Coyote, will soon be available for purchase.
The HALO insertion on 21st April was dedicated to both the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 and the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Airborne Forces. Speaking at the time Lieutenant General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov Deputy Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation said: “Today, for the first time in world history, we conducted a group landing of personnel on special parachute systems in Arctic conditions from a height of 10,000 metres using oxygen equipment and the subsequent completion of combat training missions. Nobody has done such a thing before us. This is a direct order of the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation and we have successfully completed it. For high-altitude landing from a specified height, we used a new generation special-purpose parachute system.”
It was stated that after the demonstration, for three days the Paratroopers conducted tactical and special exercises with Special Forces during which they conducted reconnaissance and search operations in the vicinity of Cape Nimrod and Babushkina on Alexandra Land Island, where, using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the reconnaissance detachment identified the enemy camp. Subsequently, having transmitted the coordinates of the camp, scouts called in assault aircraft and destroyed it. In a follow-on raid destruction of the enemy was completed using standard small arms fire.