Quick hint: Modern gliders

I mentioned it before in some comment, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to write a quick note as a blog psot as well:

Aviation enthusiasts keep reviving the idea of a return of the glider for cargo and airborne troops delivery. It's a cheap means of adding cargo capacity, allows for some stand-off on part of the pricey transport aircraft and it's kind of silent.

Well, it won't happen - because it already happened almost two decades ago.
The old gliders won't return, but the gliding approach has long since been revived with HAHO parachuting*, robotic cargo glide parachutes and even prototypes of robotic cargo tailless gliders. There is simply no need for the steel frame, wood and fabric construction of old any more.

A few links to examples I found in a very quick, very lazy search trying to rediscover what I remembered:

link 3a, 3b

Very low altitude drops (500 ft) are also an old hat; wartime drops of small teams were even done at 150-200 ft as early as during the Vietnam War.

There's really next to nothing to be gained by a comeback of the early military gliders. To discuss a possible comeback may be entertaining to aviation enthusiasts, but it's pointless.


*: There are even electronics-laden helmets to help HAHO parachutists to navigate to the landing zone over dozens of kilometres at night.


  1. The only two ways I could see the old "wood and canvas" type gliders make a real comeback is to either set up cargo point to point much like a container with wings or if inserting really heavy equipment with a basic amount of Electromagnetic stealth. Dropping anything from a plane on a pallet and chute is going to show up quite visibly to anyone with even 1960's sensors

    1. Almost all militarily useful supplies would contain enough metal to light up on a radar as well.
      Radars are nowadays used to track clouds and fighter jet RCS values are being compared to a bird's RCS.

      It's probably not the RCS, but the low speed that's more relevant for stealth in such insertions. many radars will simply filter out anything that moves too slow. See also the systemic failure of Soviet air defences to Matthias Rust's flight to Moscow in an aircraft too slow to be taken seriously as a military aircraft.

    2. two points...

      1). If almost all military supplies contain enough material to light up on a RADAR, then stealth technology is meaningless as these aircraft have a meaningful amount of the same material. to use an impromptu allegory, it would be impractical for Europeans to use camouflage as being pasty white they reflect light. Think back to what stealth was really designed to achieve, not a perfect defeat, but a degradation at the margins.

      2). Speed filtering ( both MTI and doppler) are filters that can easily be turned on and off, and more importantly can be improved upon with computing technology, depending on the utility or lack thereof for a defeat of the sensor (or sensor operator) is far from a predictable outcome.

    3. Modern combat aircraft have radar absorbing materials which shield the internal components from radar.

      Camouflage is about reducing the contrast tot eh surroundings, not about reducing the return signal as much as possible. Military aviation wants a bright lower side of aircraft; the shadow makes the belly and underwing surfaces dark no matter which paint is used, and this is a major camo problem unless you illuminate it.

      Shutting off speed filtering wouldn't help at all - you rather need to set it to a low-enough minimum speed. Gliders and parachutists are in the speed range of birds, though.

    4. You have actually hit on, but perhaps haven't realized it yet.

      Camouflage/stealth/masking is all about reducing the usable return of stimulus to the target receptor. So stealth technology is very much like visible light camouflage to in effect if not in execution, indeed all of the measures you have postulated are simply variations of the same idea. The problem that the glider can solve is the reduction of EM return to a dedicated sensor through shaping and materials that a pallet and chute could never accomplish ( and a guided chute to one person is a flexible non optimized fold glider to others, though I'm sure it becomes a much longer compound word in German :-)

    5. A stealth glider with RAM would cost a lot more than a basic one and would be a worthy target for a SAM, as well as question the chief advantage of gliders; low price.

      Meanwhile, lots of parachutes with pallets of men in the air are not worth a SAM individually. SPAAGs on the other hand would probably simply be saturated and unable to respond decisively.

  2. A glider with a light engine and and some microchips instead of a human pilot, doesn't this sound like a current trend? A human controlled device with more engine power will be quite useful for getting this item into the air.

  3. How about gliders carried by dirigibles, for insertion of horse-mounted commandos?

  4. We have parachutes that have GPS so I think gliders are not needed. Turing off the MTI and Doppler of radars would be a nightmare for the controllers trying to figure out what is what. There is a reason they were added. With a HAHO opening of a parachute you can go a great distance with a chute.I read you could go up to 40 miles.