Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


This is coolbert:

Here is an apparatus that I have often wondered about. The Fulton STARS system.

Fulton Surface-To-Air Recovery System [STARS].

An apparatus designed to "extract" American personnel from hostile territory when no other means is possible.

The Fulton STARS system consists of:

* A tethered balloon that is filled with helium and hoisted aloft.

* A jump suit that a person can be zipped into.

* A stout cable connecting the balloon and the jump suit.

* A vee shaped device that is attached to the nose of a C-130 transport aircraft.

You can just make out the vee shaped "hook" on the front of the aircraft.

[normally only one balloon would be deployed for a "pick-up". This must have been for an exercise. The entire package dropped on the scene must have been large. You will notice the small truck required for this deployment.]

"The recovery kit is dropped to the person to be recovered who then puts on the overall-type harness and inflates the balloon which carries an attached lift line."

The use of this apparatus was mentioned in the Robin Moore book, "The Green Berets".

An enemy agent is sedated and zipped into the jump suit.

The balloon is inflated and deployed, cable attaching the balloon to the jump suit.

The specially equipped C-130 flies by, snags the cable, and voila', the man in the jump suit is pulled skyward at amazing velocity almost instantly. To be "reeled" into the aircraft, homeward bound.

You can see the vee shaped "hook" on the nose of the C-130 in the above picture.

My question is, how often has this system been used?

At least twice, from what I read.

[if used for clandestine purposes, no one is saying. This is the stuff of James Bond movies!!]

Once to recover a person from an Arctic ice floe where there was no other possibility of rescue.

Another time to extract a wounded Special Forces [SF] man from the Iraqi desert during the 1991 Gulf War.

This system has been used, and successfully too!!


"Recovery kits were designed for one and two-man recoveries, but eventually proved impractical for most rescue purposes. However, they are available for special operations."

[this would be special operations as told in the Robin Moore book.]

I was also able to find a forum that had interesting entries regarding the STARS system:


"Hi all, during my researches for my new model-kit, a MC-130E, I read that the Fulton Recovery System had never been used in a "hot" operation, only in exercises and is now out of business due to the existence of long-range special-mission helos like the MH-53 or the MH-47."


"Saw a demo during Bright Star in Egypt in 85'. Had a Mc-130 para drop the system to my team and SEALs in the Irish Sea in 89'. System was brought aboard a RIB and ballon inflated. One SEAL and myself went out in a zodiac and sat there for the 130 to pick up. AC came in and almost caught the cable with the hook. 200 lb sand bag got lifted out of the boat and dropped right in my lap at the transom. Set another one up at dusk using lights on the cable and this time the 130 caught it. This time static electricity from the Talon arced over and zipped me."

"Never been inside during a op but understand that there is a winch in the rear that retreives the package."


"Nine of the MC-130E's were equipped with surface-to-air Fulton air recovery system, a safe, rapid method of recovering personnel or equipment from either land or water. It involves use of a large, helium-filled balloon used to raise a 450-foot (136.5 meters) nylon lift line. The MC-130E flies towards the lift line at 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour), snags it with scissors-like arms located on the aircraft nose and the person or equipment is lifted off, experiencing less shock than that caused by a parachute opening. Aircrew members then use a hydraulic winch to pull the person or equipment aboard through the open rear cargo door. By 1996 the 8th SOS was the only unit in the world that maintained crew proficiency in the use of the Fulton recovery system, and had been prepared to launch if called upon since the late 1960's . . . along with the increased availability of long-range air-refuelabl e MH-53J Pave Low and MH-47E Chinook helicopters, and tightening budgets, caused AFSOC to deactivate the capability in September 1996."


That must make for one helluva ride!!



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