Military glider
Military gliders (an offshoot of common gliders
Glider (sailplane)
A glider or sailplane is a type of glider aircraft used in the sport of gliding. Some gliders, known as motor gliders are used for gliding and soaring as well, but have engines which can, in some cases, be used for take-off or for extending a flight...

) have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment (see Glider infantry
Glider infantry
Glider infantry was a type of airborne infantry in which soldiers and their equipment were inserted into enemy controlled territory via military glider rather than parachute...

) to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g. C-47 Skytrain or Dakota
C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...

, or bombers relegated to secondary activities, e.g. Short Stirling
Short Stirling
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...

. Once released from the tow craft near the front, they were to land on any convenient open terrain close to target hopefully with as little damage to this cargo and crew as possible as most landing zones (LZ) were far from ideal. The one-way nature of the missions meant that they were treated as disposable leading to construction from common and inexpensive materials such as wood.

Troops landing by glider were referred to as air-landing as opposed to paratroops. Landing by parachute caused the troops to be spread over a large drop-zone, whereas gliders could land troops in greater concentrations precisely at the target landing area. Furthermore, the glider, once released at some distance from the actual target, was effectively silent and difficult for the enemy to identify. Larger gliders were developed to land heavy equipment like anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns, small vehicles, such as jeep
Jeep is an automobile marque of Chrysler . The first Willys Jeeps were produced in 1941 with the first civilian models in 1945, making it the oldest off-road vehicle and sport utility vehicle brand. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second...

s, and also light tanks (e.g. the Tetrarch tank
Tetrarch tank
The Light Tank Mk VII , also known as the Tetrarch, was a British light tank produced by Vickers-Armstrong in the late 1930s and deployed during World War II. The Tetrarch was originally designed as the latest in the line of light tanks built by the company for the British Army...

). This heavier equipment made otherwise lightly armed paratroop forces a much more capable force. The Soviets
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 also experimented with ways to deliver light tanks by air, including the Antonov A-40, a gliding tank with detachable wings.

By the time of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s had replaced gliders. Helicopters have the advantage of being able to extract soldiers, in addition to delivering them to the battlefield. Also, advances in powered transport aircraft were being made, to the extent that even light tanks could be dropped by parachute.


The early sporting objectives of gliders were quickly overtaken in the Soviet Union and in Germany by military applications, mainly the training of pilots. By 1934 the Soviet Union had ten gliding schools and 57,000 glider pilots had gained licences.

In 1932 the Soviet Union demonstrated the TsK Komsula, a four-place glider, designed by GF Groschev that could also be used for cargo. Larger gliders were then developed culminating in an 18-seater at the military institute in Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

 in 1935. Luftwaffe Colonel Kurt Student
Kurt Student
Kurt Student was a German Luftwaffe general who fought as a fighter pilot during the First World War and as the commander of German Fallschirmjäger during the Second World War.-Biography:...

 visited Moscow as part of the military colloboration programme with the Soviet Union. He reported back to his superiors in Berlin details of a 1,500 man parachute drop and the large transport gliders that he had seen. The Luftwaffe opened a parachute school as a result in 1937. Further field testing convinced Student that a vehicle was needed to deliver the heavy weapons for the lightly armed parachute troops. This idea was dismissed until October 1938 by which time Student had risen to major-general and was appointed Inspector of Airborne Forces. Development of a troop-carrying glider was assigned to Hans Jacobs
Hans Jacobs
Hans Jacobs was a German sailplane designer and pioneer. He had been taught sailplane design by Alexander Lippisch, designer of many gliders during the 1920s and the 1930s...

 of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug
Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug
The Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug, or DFS was formed in 1933 to centralise all gliding activity in Germany...

 to develop the DFS 230
DFS 230
|-See also:-External links:**

 which could carry 9-10 fully equipped troops or 1,200 kg (2,800) pounds of cargo.

German military gliders

The Germans were the first to use gliders in warfare, most famously during the assault of the Eben Emael fortress
Battle of Fort Eben-Emael
The Battle of Fort Eben-Emael was a battle between Belgian and German forces that took place between 10 May and 11 May 1940, and was part of the Battle of the Netherlands, Battle of Belgium and Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries and France...

 on May 10, 1940 in which 41 DFS 230
DFS 230
|-See also:-External links:**

 gliders carrying 10 soldiers each? were launched behind Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

s. Ten gliders landed on the grassed roof of the fortress. Only twenty minutes after landing the force had neutralized the fortress at a cost of six dead and twenty wounded. Hitler was anxious to gain maximum publicity and so several foreign attachés were given guided tours of the fortress. Consequently the British, American and Japanese became quickly aware of the methods that had been used. By mid-1940 both Japan and Britain had active glider programs.

Development then began of even larger gliders such as the Gotha Go 242
Gotha Go 242
-External Links:* FLIGHT, 12th February 1942, p. 130, early intelligence photo of Go 242, bottom of page....

 (23 trooper) and Messerschmitt Me 321
Messerschmitt Me 321
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Dabrowski, Hans-Peter. Messerschmitt Me 321/323: The Luftwaffe's "Giants" in World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2001. ISBN 0-7643-1442-4....

 (130 trooper) to transport heavy armaments in anticipation of Operation Sea Lion and Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...


Gliders were also used by Germany in Greece in 1941. On April 26, 1941 the troops from six DFS 230 gliders captured the bridge over the Corinth Canal accompanied by 40 plane-loads of German paratroopers. (Fortuitously the British were able to demolish the bridge a few hours later.) Next General Student then convinced Hitler that Crete could be captured using only airborne troops.Consequently on May 20, 1941 500 German transport aircraft carrying paratroopers and 74 DFS 230 gliders took off from the Greek mainland. During the capture of the island 5,140 German airborne troops were either killed or wounded out of the 13,000 sent. Among the 350 German planes destroyed in the operation, half had been Ju52s which seriously depleted the force needed for the invasion of the Soviet Union shortly after. As a result Hitler vowed never to use his airborne force in such large numbers again.

Some German glider operations continued later in the war, some examples being the rescue operation
Unternehmen Eiche
The Gran Sasso raid refers to Operation Eiche , the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II...

 of Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 at Gran Sasso
Gran Sasso
Gran Sasso d'Italia is a mountain located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. The Gran Sasso forms the centerpiece of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park which was established in 1993 and holds the highest mountains in continental Italy south of the Alps and is part of the...

 and the emergency re-supply operations in Russia, North Africa and Eastern Europe towards the end of the war. The Junkers Ju 322 Mammut ("Mammoth")
Junkers Ju 322
-See also:-Bibliography:* Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. London: Macdonald and Jane's Ltd., 1970 . ISBN 0-356-02382-6....

 was the largest such glider ever built, but it was never used operationally. Not all military gliders were planned for transport. The Blohm & Voss BV 40 was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 glider fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 designed to attack Allied bomber formations but was not used.

British military gliders

The British glider development started in mid-1940, prompted by the assault on Eben Emael. Among the types developed were the 28 trooper Airspeed Horsa
Airspeed Horsa
The Airspeed AS.51 Horsa was a British World War II troop-carrying glider built by Airspeed Limited and subcontractors and used for air assault by British and Allied armed forces...

 and the 7 ton capacity General Aircraft Hamilcar
General Aircraft Hamilcar
The General Aircraft Limited GAL. 49 Hamilcar or Hamilcar Mark I was a large British military glider produced during the Second World War, which was designed to carry heavy cargo, such as the Tetrarch or M22 Locust light tank...

 cargo glider. The General Aircraft Hotspur was used for training the pilots who formed the Glider Pilot Regiment
Glider Pilot Regiment
The Glider Pilot Regiment was a British airborne forces unit of the Second World War which was responsible for crewing the British Army's military gliders and saw action in the European Theatre of World War II in support of Allied airborne operations...

. The most famous actions were the taking of the Pegasus Bridge
Pegasus Bridge
Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge , built in 1934, that crossed the Caen Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham, in Normandy, France....

 during the invasion of Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

 (the invasion of southern France), Operation Market-Garden (Arnhem Bridge over the lower Rhine) and Operation Varsity
Operation Varsity
Operation Varsity was a successful joint American–British airborne operation that took place toward the end of World War II...

 (Crossing of the Rhine). Out of the 2,596 gliders dispatched for Operation Market-Garden, 2,239 gliders were effective in delivering men and equipment to their designated landing zones.

Although gliders are still used in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 for cadet training by the Air Training Corps
Air Training Corps
The Air Training Corps , commonly known as the Air Cadets, is a cadet organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation and the Royal Air Force . It is supported by the Ministry of Defence, with a regular RAF Officer, currently Air...

, they are not used in combat operations. No troop-carrying gliders have been in British service since 1957.

American military gliders

General "Hap" Arnold
Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

 in United States War Department created the American Glider Program on 25 February 1941. Eleven companies were asked to build prototypes but only four showed any interest and only one the Waco Aircraft Company
Waco Aircraft Company
The Waco Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio, USA. Between 1919 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes....

 was able to submit prototypes, the eight-seat Waco CG-3
Waco CG-3

 and the fifteen-seat Waco CG-4
Waco CG-4
The Waco CG-4 was the most widely used United States troop/cargo military glider of World War II. It was designated the CG-4 by the United States Army Air Forces, and named Hadrian in British military service....

 being the first. In 15 October 1941 Lewin B. Barringer was placed in charge of the programme. The shock of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 prompted the USA to set the number of glider pilots needed at 1,000 to fly 500 eight-seat gliders and 500 fifteen-seat gliders. The number of pilots required was increased to 6,000 by June 1942. After Barringer was killed in January 1943, the program was moved to Army Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 Headquarters and directed by Richard C. du Pont
Richard C. du Pont
Richard Chichester du Pont was an American businessman and an aviation and glider pioneer who was a member of the prominent Du Pont family....

. Bigger gliders were later designed such as Waco CG-13A (30 trooper) and the Waco CG-10 (40 trooper)

The most widely used type was the Waco CG-4A which was first used in the invasion of Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and participated in the D-Day assault on France on June 6, 1944, and in other important airborne operations in Europe, e.g. Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

, Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

 and crossing the Rhine
Operation Varsity
Operation Varsity was a successful joint American–British airborne operation that took place toward the end of World War II...

. and in the China-Burma-India Theater
China Burma India Theater of World War II
China Burma India Theater was the name used by the United States Army for its forces operating in conjunction with British and Chinese Allied air and land forces in China, Burma, and India during World War II...

. The CG-4A was constructed of a metal and wood frame covered with fabric, manned by a crew of two and with an allowable normal cargo load of 3,710 lb, allowing it to carry 13 combat-equipped troops or a jeep or small artillery piece. The CG-10 could hold 10,850 lb of cargo, such as two howitzers at a time. The final glider mission of the war was at Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

 on 23 June 1945. By the end of the war the USA had built 14,612 gliders and had trained over 6,000 pilots. The designs of the Waco Aircraft Company were also produced by a wide variety of manufacturers including Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 and Cessna Aircraft Company as well as furniture, piano and coffin manufacturers.

Following World War II, the United States maintained only one regiment of gliders. Gliders were used in military exercises in 1949 but glider operations were deleted from the US Army's capabilities on 1 January 1953. However, the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 continues to use gliders at the Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...

 to train cadets in the fundamentals of flight.

A list of American military gliders is in the List of U.S. military aircraft.

Soviet military gliders

The Soviet Union built the world's first military gliders starting in 1932, including the 16-seat Grokhovski G63, though no glider was built in quantity until World War II. During the war there were only two light gliders built in series: Antonov A-7
Antonov A-7
|-See also:-External links:* at *...

 and Gribovski G-11
Gribovski G-11
|-References:* at * -See also:...

 - about 1,000 altogether. A medium glider, the KC-20
Kolesnikov-Tsibin KC-20
The Kolesnikov-Tsibin KC-20 or KTs-20 was a Soviet light troop military glider of World War II.-Development:Shortly after the German attack in 1941, Soviet headquarters realized a need for transport gliders and ordered the development of several designs...

, was built in a small series. They were used mostly for providing partisans
Soviet partisans
The Soviet partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II....

 in Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 with supplies and armament in 1942-1943. On 21 September 1943 35 gliders were used in the Dnepr crossing. Later types gliders were built: the Cybin C-25 (25 trooper) in 1944, Yakovlev Yak-14
Yakovlev Yak-14
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* at * Gunston, Bill. Yakovlev Aircraft since 1924. London, UK: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1997. ISBN 1-55750-978-6....

 (35 trooper) in 1948 and Ilyushin Il-32
Ilyushin Il-32
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography** - Total pages: 339...

 (60 trooper) in also in 1948. In 1950 a Yak-14 made worldwide headlines when it became the first glider to fly over the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...


The Soviet Union maintained three glider infantry regiments until 1965. However Soviet Air Force transport gliders were gradually withdrawn from service with the arrival of turbo-prop transports like the Antonov An-24
Antonov An-24
The Antonov An-24 is a 44-seat twin turboprop transport designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union by the Antonov Design Bureau from 1957.-Design and development:...

 and Antonov An-12
Antonov An-12
The Antonov An-12 is a four-engined turboprop transport aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. It is the military version of the Antonov An-10.-Design and development:...

, which entered service in the late 1950s.

See also

  • List of World War II military gliders
  • Glider Pilot Regiment
    Glider Pilot Regiment
    The Glider Pilot Regiment was a British airborne forces unit of the Second World War which was responsible for crewing the British Army's military gliders and saw action in the European Theatre of World War II in support of Allied airborne operations...

  • Museum of Army Flying
    Museum of Army Flying
    The Museum of Army Flying is an award-winning British military aviation museum about the history of flying in the British Army. It is located beside the Army Air Corps Centre in Middle Wallop, close to Andover in Hampshire, England....

  • Silent Wings Museum
    Silent Wings Museum
    Silent Wings Museum, "The Legacy of The World War II Glider Pilots", is a museum in Lubbock, Texas.-History:The museum is located on the site of the World War II South Plains Army Air Field, where glider pilots were trained between 1942 and 1945, after which time they were required also to command...

External links

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