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U.S. Air Force operators assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Joint Personnel Recovery Center perform high altitude, low opening training jumps from a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules cargo aircraft over East Africa, Dec. 27, 2023. HALO jumps are performed from altitudes where oxygen is limited, requiring members to employ specialized training beyond standard parachute insertions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Allison Payne)

Undisclosed Location. East Africa. (January 9, 2024): One of the most daring, and dangerous, techniques to insert warfighters into combat is by way of a HALO jump. In this photo  by Staff Sergeant Allison Payne, Air Force operators assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Joint Personnel Recovery Center perform HALO jumps from Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules cargo aircraft. HALO stands for high altitude-low opening military free falls and is a method to deliver people and supplies via parachute insertion. In the HALO technique, the parachutist opens the parachute at a low altitude after free-falling for a lengthy period before pulling the cord. The technique allows pilots to remain at altitude out of range of ground fire or missiles while increasing the stealth and accuracy of insertions.

The chief danger of HALO jumps is the lack of oxygen at high altitude and the risk of passing out from hypoxia (insufficient oxygen). Special Operators jump from altitudes between 30 and 40 thousand feet, and fee fall to as low as eight hundred feet above the ground. Military parachutists have been clocked at up to 126 mph while achieving jump times under two minutes.

The HALO was first developed in the 1960s for military use and the first jump was accomplished by Colonel Joseph Kittinger, a leap from nineteen miles above the world’s surface. The first use of the HALO in combat was during Vietnam where the technique was used by special forces for recon insertions and the tactic continues to be a staple for U.S. Special Operators.

Even Hollywood has dramatized the danger of the HALO in movies like Mission Impossible starring Tom Cruise. In the opening scene, Cruise performs a HALO jump into the middle of a dazzling lightning storm. (To his credit, Mr. Cruise made the jump rather than rely on stuntmen.)

This risky and daring insertion method will continue to be a vital tool of America’s special forces.