Famous WW2 operations involved transport gliders, for troops landing and vehicles transportation behind front lines. Gliders were cheap and quiet aircraft. The advantage over individual parachutes were landings grouped in a smaller area, allowing troops to be quickly operational.

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XCG-16 assault glider, source: Retro-Mechanix

Browsing online seems to show an absence of gliders in the modern era. Are there any military (transport/troop) gliders in use in modern armies?

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    $\begingroup$ I believe HAHO and HALO jumps are the modern methods to insert troops silently behind enemy lines. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Jan 23, 2018 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think any modern transport airplane has such towing capabilities any more, $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2018 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ Military gliders were often called "flying coffins" by troops, modern insertion methods really did away with their use after WW-II (and even near the end of the war). $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 24, 2018 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS) $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 24, 2018 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ A disposable UAV glider designed to transport light equipment, gear, etc., is being built. The USMC awarded the contract few months ago. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Jan 24, 2018 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


No, there are no modern military glider forces, the Soviets kept an active glider force up until the early 60's before they retired them. All other military forces retired them before that because they really are not an effective delivery platform; they were inaccurate, often landing many miles off target, and had high rate of loss.

Gliders also tie up a large number of tow airplanes. Helicopters are much more capable, you can land troops on the tops of buildings or small clearings and are re-usable as well - gliders are generally non-recoverable as even if they are intact after landing they are often in inaccessible areas. Transport airplanes like C130s can land on very short, unprepared strips, or use the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction to deliver supplies without landing.

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    $\begingroup$ Not to forget that with parafoil chutes and GPS control all kinds of loads can be silently and precisely delivered. Helicopters and transport airplanes are too noisy and no real competition. $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2018 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ Although this is technically true, you are omitting a very important parameter: energy costs. Gliders, although less reliable, made economical sense in the context of WW2 when oil was much less plentiful than it is nowadays. The example you give, the helicopter, would be much less interesting with higher fuel costs (those of WW2 or those of post peak oil or those due to a carbon tax for instance). A plane like the Osprey is actually much more interesting for troop delivery than the helicopter precisely because of its lower fuel needs. With rising fuel prices, gliders could get an edge again. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2022 at 19:24

Glider assault landings during the Second World War proved inherently hazardous, more so than parachute drops, and crashes typically resulted in deaths and serious injuries among the personnel being transported even in the absence of enemy opposition, while the gliders themselves were often destroyed or damaged beyond repair. In addition to transporting troops, gliders were used to deliver heavy equipment, up to small tanks. The development in the 1950s of large turboprop engined transport aircraft such as the Lockheed C130 Hercules, with facilities for short field operation, rapid loading and unloading and the para dropping of large items of equipment largely eliminated any further need for military gliders, although special forces today are sometimes trained in the use of para gliders for infiltration.

  • $\begingroup$ This was before radars, on board computers, GPS, satellite weather and wind tracking though, moreover, most of those flights took place at night to avoid detection. Reliability nowadays would be much higher even in much worse weather conditions. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2022 at 19:32

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