Video: Royal Marines Try Out a Jetpack for Opposed Boardings

Royal marines jetpack
A jetpack-equipped marine lands on the bridge wing of HMS Tamar (Courtesy Gravity Industries)

Published May 5, 2021 8:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

As they transition into a new role as a smaller "future commando force," the UK's Royal Marines are trialing a wide range of technologies to boost their effectiveness. The most novel of these experimental systems might be the Daedalus jetpack - a 1,000-horsepower backpack system that can carry one person aloft for up to 10 minutes at a time. In a recent under way trial, the Royal Marines aimed to see if this $400,000-plus system could be useful for conducting an opposed boarding.

The typical method for commandos to conduct a non-cooperative visit, board, search and seizure operation is by fast-roping from a helicopter - or, alternatively, by means of a RIB (or RHIB) and a lightweight rope ladder. 

For the Royal Navy's latest jetpack test, a Royal Marine took off from a special platform on the bow of a RIB and flew to the bridge wing of HMS Tamar. Once aboard, he affixed and deployed a ladder for the use of his teammates. The flight operation was conducted in flat calm conditions, and it took about 15 seconds from launch to landing. Manufacturer Gravity Industries caught the full evolution on video (below). 

In a second test, the marine flew back to Tamar, deployed the ladder and drew his sidearm in a defensive posture. Trailing the straps of a special harness, he took off from the bridge wing again and flew to the stern. 

In the third and final test, three jetpack operators flew in and landed on the stern at the same time, arriving in a coordinated manner from different directions. 

The well-publicized trial is one of several that the Royal Marines have conducted in the past two years. In 2019, 1 Assault Group Royal Marines conducted a public display of the jetpack system from the deck of a landing craft at its base in Plymouth. Several months later, Gravity Industries founder Richard Browning - a former Royal Marines reservist - conducted an at-sea test of a jetpack flight between a RIB and the patrol boat HMS Dasher

Critics have questioned whether there is a military use case for the jetpack system, but the trial confirms a rapid boarding capability under specific conditions. For civilian applications, Gravity Industries' jet suits are available  for short-term rental and purchase (by special order). The company is also planning a jetsuit race series.