India has several special forces (SF) units. The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have separate special forces units, viz. the Para SF of the Indian Army, the MARCOS of the Indian Navy and the Garud Commando Force of the Indian Air Force. There are other special forces which are not controlled by the military but operate under civilian organisations such as Home ministry’s National Security Guard. Small groups from the military SF units are deputed in the Armed Forces Special Operations Division, which has a unified command and control structure.
Para (Special Forces)
The Parachute Regiment (Special Forces), or Para (SF), are the special forces of the Indian Army. This unit was created in June 1966 in the aftermath of the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war. An impromptu commando unit called Meghdoot Force, which took part in the 1965 war, formed the first nucleus of the permanent Para commando battalion which was to be raised under the Parachute Regiment. By 1969, the unit had grown into 2 battalions, viz. the 9 Para and the 10 Para. The unit's first combat missions were conducted during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war in which they undertook raids against Pakistan's military.
In 1988, the 3 Para (SF) and 6 Para participated in the first known foreign intervention by the Indian Army during Operation Cactus in Maldives. Operation Cactus was launched to thwart a coup against the government of president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. In the late 1980s, the Para (SF) were deployed in Sri Lanka where they conducted helicopter-borne assaults and security operations.
Since the 1990s, the Para (SF) have been deployed on counter-terrorism operations in the Kashmir region against insurgents. These operations include raids and ambushes. In 1999, Para (SF) undertook operations against Pakistan’s military during the Kargil war which included raids against Pakistani infantry and special forces. In 2002, the 2 Para (SF) participated in Operation Khukri in Sierra Leone to rescue 223 soldiers of the Indian Army's 5/8 Gorkha Rifles who were deployed as UN peacekeepers but were surrounded by militants from the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone. Some of the later reported missions carried out by Para (SF) include the 2016 ′Surgical Strikes′ and the 2015 Operation Hot Pursuit, purportedly undertaken inside Myanmar.
- 1 PARA (SF)
- 2 PARA (SF)
- 3 PARA (SF)
- 4 PARA (SF)
- 9 PARA (SF)
- 10 PARA (SF)
- 11 PARA (SF)
- 12 PARA (SF)
- 21 PARA (SF)
First conceived in 1985, the Marine Commando Force, also called MARCOS, was raised in February 1987. It is the special forces unit of the Indian Navy. Initially, the U.S. Navy SEALs and British special forces trained a few officers of the Indian navy who formed the first core of MARCOS. Months after their creation, MARCOS were deployed in Sri Lanka against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in July 1987. In the 1990s, MARCOS undertook numerous operations such as Operation Tasha (1991) against the LTTE, Operation Zabardust (1992) against a ship that was smuggling arms and in support of the United Nations in Somalia (1993). They also participated in the 1999 Kargil War. Since 1995, MARCOS are permanently deployed for counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir against militants. MARCOS had participated in efforts against the 2008 Mumbai attacks alongside the National Security Guards but their effectiveness was diluted due to bureaucratic indecision. MARCOS have also been deployed in anti-piracy operations.
After a 10 week long basic training, MARCOS are sent to train alongside Indian Army’s Para commandos for 3 weeks. Advanced training follows, during which MARCOS learn skills such as sky-diving, weapons training, counter-insurgency, languages and warfare in different terrains, among other things. Each MARCOS squad, called Prahar, is composed of 8 soldiers.
Some of the responsibilities of MARCOS are-
- Providing support to Amphibious operations.
- Special surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
- Clandestine operations inside hostile territory, including diving operations and raids.
- Counter-terrorism operations.
Indian Air Force
Garud Commando Force
The Garud commandos are the special forces of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Their tasks include counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, providing security to IAF’s vulnerably located assets and various air force-specific special operations. First conceived in 2002, this unit was officially established on February 6, 2004.
All Garuds are volunteers who are imparted a 52-week basic training, which includes a three-month probation followed by special operations training, basic airborne training and other warfare and survival skills. The last phase of basic training sees Garuds been deployed to get combat experience. Advanced training follows, which includes specialised weapons training.
The mandated tasks of the Garuds include direct action, special reconnaissance, rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory, establishing airbases in hostile territory and providing air-traffic control to these airbases. The Garuds also undertake suppression of enemy air defences and the destruction of other enemy assets such as radars, evaluation of the outcomes of Indian airstrikes and use laser designators to guide Indian airstrikes.
Research and Analysis Wing
The Special Group is a confidential special forces unit of the Research and Analysis Wing. It was formed in 1981. The responsibilities of the Special Group includes clandestine intelligence operations and covert operations, with which the Government of India may not wish to be overtly associated.
Special Frontier Force
The Special Frontier Force is a confidential special forces unit of the Research and Analysis Wing which was created on 14 November 1962 to undertake operations against the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand, SFF is also known as the Establishment 22. The force was put under the direct supervision of the Intelligence Bureau, and later, the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency. It consists primarily of Tibetan people who are tasked to undertake operations in the tough terrain of the Himalayas and Tibet, whose main goal was to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in case of another war between the People's Republic of China and India.
Internal security agency with SF mandate
National Security Guard
The National Security Guard, which is a specialized counter-terrorism Federal Contingency Force. The NSG was formally created in 1986. It is modelled on the basis of the British Special Air Service and the German GSG 9. The NSG are popularly referred to as the 'Black Cats' due to their distinct black uniforms. It consists of the following two elements-
- SAG (Special Action Group), which recruits personnel from the Indian Army.
- SRG (Special Rangers Group), which recruits personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces.
Special Protection Group
The Special Protection Group is a specialised unit which provides protection to former Prime Ministers and the current Prime Minister of India, along with their family members for a minimum duration of 5 years. It was set up in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It is also special operations capable and has well-equipped soldiers trained for that purpose.
In Popular Culture
- In January 1988, a TV series titled Fauji (TV series) was released, which was the debut of Shahrukh Khan, following the training of an Indian Army commando regiment
- In April 2017, a web series titled The Test Case was released featuring the fictional story of the first woman training to serve in a combat role within the Indian special force.
- Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) is a dramatised account of the tactical strike reportedly conducted by the Para (Special Forces) on the camps of terrorists across the Line of Control in retaliation for the 2016 Uri attack.
- Armed Forces Special Operations Division, tri-services command at operational level
- Special Operations Forces Command (KSSO) - Russian equivalent command
- Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - U.S. equivalent command
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As second-in-command, or 2IC, of an elite Parachute Regiment (Special Forces), or the Para-SF as it is called, Maj. Tango had...
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In 1988, India helped foil a coup attempt being assisted by Tamil rebels after it launched Operation Cactus on receiving a distress message from the then President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
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The newly raised 11 and 12 Para (SF) units...
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Volunteers from the diving unit were sent to train with the US Navy SEALs at Coronado, and a series of exchanges followed with the SBS. The result of this education in maritime special forces practice was the formation of the Indian Marine Special Forces in February 1987.
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