Parachute Flares

Distress signal or UFO?

A parachute flare is a small parachute with an illuminating flare connected to it so as the flare burns it is slowly dropped to the ground. They are used to illuminate areas at night or in low light. Flare parachutes have often been used in Iraq so soldiers could illuminate various areas and see more clearly at night.

The flares are suspended specifically from the parachute assembly for maximum brightness and coverage. The length of the illumination depends on how high the release is done and the parachute size. They are mostly used in landings, observations, and other military actions done at night and can be dropped from aircraft or sometimes fired from a rocket or a gun.

The #52 WHITE STAR PARACHUTE SIGNAL was the standard shipboard signal of World War II. The flare cartridge is 7.25 inches long. It is fired from a long-barreled 37-mm signal pistol. The long barrel was required for the proper functioning of the flare cartridge. A flare is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a bright light or intense heat without an explosion.


Flares are used for distress signaling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications. Flares may be ground pyrotechnics, projectile pyrotechnics, or parachute-suspended to provide maximum illumination time over a large area. Projectile pyrotechnics may be dropped from aircraft, fired from rocket or artillery, or deployed by flare guns or handheld percussive tubes.

While over the range, the Eurofighters popped flares: while normal in a real operational environment, it’s not that usual to see a Typhoon (even more so, an Italian F-2000) using flares, i.e. high-temperature heat sources used to mislead surface-

to-air or air-to-air missile’s heat-seeking targeting systems, creating a pyrotechnic visual effect similar to a fireworks display. Such countermeasures are used against MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) and IR-guided surface-to-air missiles.

Parachute flares are often mistaken for UFOs. At a distance, they appear as a group of UAPs that is descending very slowly and giving off a bright, fairly constant glow. They can even be caught in thermals[1] which can slow their descent and make them look more mysterious from afar.

  1. A thermal column (or thermal) is a rising mass of buoyant air, a convective current in the atmosphere, that transfers heat energy vertically. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface from solar radiation and are an example of convection, specifically atmospheric convection.


The Aviationist

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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