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Video: British Royal Marines wear jetpacks and fly between ships in new boarding raid drill

A Gravity Industries test pilot uses a jet pack suit to board the HMS Tamar. (YouTube screenshot)
May 04, 2021

On Monday, members of the British Royal Marines conducted boarding training exercises using an experimental jet pack suit.

The jet pack suit was developed by Gravity Industries, and the trial showed a test pilot launch from inflatable speedboats trailing a larger patrol ship, the HMS Tamar. The pilot used the suit to launch from a speedboat and skim low across the water, before landing on the deck of the British warship and toss a boarding ladder to Royal Marines in the speedboats below, allowing them to quickly board the ship.

First Sea Lord Adm Tony Radakin, the head of the U.K.’s Royal Navy, tweeted, “As the @RoyalNavy embraces technology and innovation, @hms_tamar trials the latest game-changing kit with the @RoyalMarines.”

Gravity Industries shared a slighty longer version of the same test footage on YouTube.

In the video, the jet pack pilots go through a number of ship boarding drills, including a drill in which three pilots land one after another on the HMS Tamar’s helicopter landing pad.

“Thanks to Royal Marines LLC for setting up a very successful exercise testing the capability of the Gravity Jet Suit to support RM boarding ops,” Gravity Industries said in the caption to their video, showing the jet-pack assisted boarding actions.

The Gravity Industries jet pack suit includes a backpack with two large engines, as well as smaller stabilizing twin engines that fit over the pilot’s arms. In the video, the test pilot is able to pull his arm free of the arm-mounted stabilizing engines in order to grab a rope ladder hanging from his belt. Once the ladder is dropped over the side of the ship, the pilot is then able to draw a pistol from a holster and stand guard as the boarding crew members in the speed boats climb the extended ladder.

“The vision with the Jet Suit is to provide extremely rapid access to any part of the target vessel, instantly freeing up hands to bear a weapon, and even retaining the capability to relocate on target or self-exfiltrate,” Gravity Industries said in a press release it provided to Reuters. “This is increasingly seen as a revolution in tactical capability for many special forces and has much broader application beyond Maritime boarding.”

Traditionally, naval and marine forces attempting to board target vessels have boarding crews in boats deploy grappling hooks to attach ladders to their targets, or have helicopter-borne boarding crews hover over the deck of a target vessel and fast-rope down.

It remains unclear if or when this jet pack technology will actually find its way into the hands of military users.

Warzone Executive Editor Joseph Trevithick tweeted, “They have been holding demonstrations like this for two years now and there’s no indication the tech has become any more practical for actual military use.”

Journalist Yashar Ali also tweeted that the jet pack suits currently cost $440,000 and only have a flight time of around 10 minutes.

Aside from military uses, the Gravity Industries jet pack suit has also been tested by paramedics in the England remote Lake District region, allowing pilots to fly over the region’s rugged terrain to reach people in distress in a fraction of the time it would take to get to them by foot or even by car.