Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES)

Operators fast roping from the 160th SOAR (A) helicopter
Operation Enduring Freedom: A operators are descending from the 160th SOAR (A) helicopter (Photo: U.S. Army)

FRIES or Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System, usually know as Fast-roping or as a fast rope is a technique for descending a thick rope. It was invented for deploying troops from a helicopter in places and situations where it is hard or impossible for the helicopter itself to touch down. Fast roping allows soldiers to respond to crises, and to be inserted as a quick reaction force. It also allows them to conduct missions requiring stealth and to board vessels while at sea.

History of fast rope

It was first introduced by the British with UK rope manufacturer Marlow Ropes and was first used in combat during the Falklands War. The original rope was thick nylon that could be used in a manner akin to a firepole. That is different from the special ropes used today because they are braided (plaited), which results in a pattern on the outer circumference that is not smooth and so is easier to grip. With an old rope, Originally, each person would hold the rope for the next person; however, this has been phased out.

Techniques used to fast rope

It is much quicker and easier than abseiling (rappelling), although more dangerous, particularly if the person is carrying a heavy load because the rope is not attached to them with a descender. The user holds onto the rope with his gloved hands and feet and slides down it without any security.

Several people can slide down the same rope simultaneously, provided that there is a security gap of approximately 3 meters (9.8 ft) between them so that each one has time to get out of the way when they reach the ground.

It is important to use gloves when lowering because lowering causes a lot of friction heat.

The fast rope technique used to board the ship takes about 30 seconds and is used when it is needed to overtake it fast and by surprise.

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