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Fast-roping, also known as Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES), is a technique for descending a thick rope. It is useful for deploying troops from a helicopter in places where the helicopter itself cannot touch down. Fast roping allows soldiers to respond to crises as a quick reaction force, conduct missions requiring stealth and board vessels while at sea. First developed by the British with UK rope manufacturer Marlow Ropes, its first combat use was during the Falklands War. The original rope was a thick nylon that could be used in a manner akin to a firepole. The special ropes used today are braided (plaited), which results in pattern on the outer circumference that is not smooth and so is easier to grip. Originally, each person would hold the rope for the next person; however this has been phased out.
It is quicker than abseiling (rappelling), although more dangerous, particularly if the person is carrying a heavy load, because the rope is not attached to them with a descender. The person holds onto the rope with his gloved hands and feet and slides down it. The British method advises not to use the feet as this can make the descent for following personnel more dangerous because boot polish or the leather of the boot can make the rope extremely slippery. Several people can slide down the same rope simultaneously, provided that there is a gap of approximately 3 metres (9.8 ft) between them, so that each one has time to get out of the way when they reach the ground. The rope must be thick, typically 40 millimetres (1.6 in) diameter, to prevent it from being wildly jerked about from the rotor blast of the helicopter. It is essential to wear gloves, as sliding down a rope generates great heat from friction.
Fast roping onto a ship can take approximately 30 seconds, and is used when a rapid build up of boarding forces is required.
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