MGS V: The Phantom Pain’s Fulton System Was Used By CIA After World War II

After years of waiting, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain finally became available on September 1. This new entry in the series features a much darker tone, and deals with some issues that are considered taboo.

Kojima really did outdo himself with this one.

The game not only impresses us with its story, but it is so far the best MGS title in terms of gameplay. Of course, the trademark humor and some supernatural elements have always been a part of the series, and this entry is no-different.

Still, Kojima managed to put a sense of realism in MGS V.

From costumes of Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan, to the level of detail in each character’s personality, historical and geopolitical details, accurate firearms, Kojima-san did an absolutely amazing job.

Not only will MGS V but throughout the series, most of the historical and geopolitical details seen are correct.

The most fun part of the game for me was building Motherbase, assigning soldiers to different departments and how cute is DD when he’s running around the base?

The essential part of building your base is manpower. Boss needs recruits to combat Cipher, but Motherbase was taken down by Cipher in GZ, so where will he get more soldiers?

He gets them from the field.

Boss can use a Fulton extract system to deploy enemy soldiers to Motherbase where Kaz convinces them to join Diamond Dogs.

Now, you surely have used MGS V’s Fulton recovery system and may have been thinking of it as “ridiculous,” or “unreal.” Well, it’s not.

Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain

Kojima-san may have modified it to suit the needs of the game, but let me tell you, the system actually existed during World War II. Of course, it wasn’t as easily done or worked as smoothly, but it was there.

It was created by a genius named Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. and it was used by the CIA and United States Air Force.

Fulton was born on April 15, 1909 and was an American inventor and adventurer. The system he created was known as Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS) or Skyhook.

Fulton used a nylon line, weather balloon and 10 to 15 pounds of weight. Following a number of experiments, Fulton was successful at last. Fulton took the system to Admiral Luis de Florez, who was director of technical research for CIA at the time.

After being put in touch with Office of Naval Research, Fulton managed to get a development contract from ONR’s Air Programs Division.

Experiments on the system began in 1950s by CIA and United States Air Force. The goal of the project was to exfiltrate agents and prisoners from behind enemy lines

Fulton’s Skyhook was refined for the next few years, gradually increasing the weight of the pick-up, testing different types of lines.

At last, he found the right one.

Fulton was now using a braided nylon line that could manage up to 4,000 pounds pick-up. At this point, Skyhook was starting to take its final shape.

It was a very simple but brilliant idea.

A special delivery aircraft dropped a packed from above to a downed soldier, POW etc. The package contained all necessary items to prepare for a Skyhook exfiltration.

Package dropped with a harness for the person or cargo, attached to a 500-foot nylon line. Person using Skyhook was also provided with a helium bottle to inflate a dirigible-shaped balloon, which raised the 500-foot line.

The aircraft on the other hand had two 30 feet long tube-shaped poles attached to its nose at a 70° angle. The balloon was caught in the forks and the person was extracted.


The system was authorized for first human pick-up in Manchuria on 29 November 1952. CIA paramilitary officers John T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau were going to pick-up a POI, but the mission failed when Chinese forces took down the aircraft.

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Later, on 12 August 1958 the first successful pick-up was made when Staff Sergeant Levi W. Woods of the U.S. Marine Corps was extracted.

Since then, CIA has used the system during many operations.

If you remember, Fulton extraction was also seen during one of Christian Bale’s Batman films.

In MGS V: The Phantom Pain, Boss didn’t use any ground equipment to extract packages, soldiers, animals etc. Boss just attached a line and balloon to the person itself, and he’ll fly away to Motherbase.

Not very practical, but now we know that the idea and a real life system for such infiltrations actually exist.

Sarmad is our Senior Editor, and is also one of the more refined and cultured among us. He's 25, a finance major, and having the time of his life writing about videogames.