Urgent review as D-Day parachute jump scaled back due to lack of RAF aircraft

19 May 2024, 09:01 | Updated: 19 May 2024, 11:26

Defence chiefs are scrambling to get more planes for a D-Day 80th anniversary parachute drop as crises in Ukraine and the Middle East have left the RAF's fleet stretched.

Hundreds of paratroopers were supposed to jump into Normandy on 5 June to honour the actions of their predecessors in the Second World War, but the plans have been scaled back due to a shortage of aircraft.

The Mail on Sunday reported that just a single plane was available but defence sources said they were hopeful at least one more could be found.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has ordered an urgent review into the matter and said it showed the need for increased spending on the military.

"This was only brought to me very recently and I certainly do want to see that properly covered," he told BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

"I've no doubt at all we'll have additional planes there.

"It is actually the case that the A400, which is the aircraft we use, are being used in operations at the moment.

"It's one of the reasons why I have successfully argued to get £75bn more in cash terms into our armed forces because I think you do need to be doing more of these things."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is stretching resources by increasing Nato activity, and the RAF's transport aircraft are also playing a crucial role in dropping aid into Gaza.

Writing in the Daily Mail, former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the pared-back memorial jump was indicative of the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) new funding strategy.

"As things stand, the paras' hopes of putting on a large-scale multi-plane parachute drop has been limited to a single aircraft and just 100 of them jumping out," he said.

"The issue demonstrates a sad and simple truth - today's RAF lacks heavy lift transport capacity after all Hercules transport fleet, which served our nation so well for more than 50 years, was scrapped to save money."

Read more from Sky News:
Sir Jim Ratcliffe scolds Tories
'Heroes' chased for £251m by DWP
Toddler seriously ill 'due to mouldy military housing'

A spokesperson for the MoD said: "D-Day 80 will offer a comprehensive programme of tributes from today's armed forces to their forebears with a significant amount of activity in both France and the UK, involving thousands of personnel, Royal Air Force flypasts, and Royal Navy vessels."

Labour MP and former defence minister Kevan Jones called on Mr Shapps to resolve the issue.

He told the Daily Mail: "Veterans who took part in the historic operation on the blood-soaked Normandy beaches and the Nazi-infested territory beyond it will rightly be furious that 80 years on, the MoD can't provide enough planes.

"Grant Shapps should pull his finger out and sort this immediately."