While there are around 20-odd countries in the world with no ‘standing army’ of their own, the rest of the nations prefer to maintain armed forces usually comprising either the Army, Navy or the Air Force, or a combination of all three of them- in some cases- just two.
Apart from this standard paradigm of a national defence mechanism, there are additional Special Operational Forces (SOF) that are best defined by retired Canadian Regular Force infantry officer Colonel Bernd Horn in his book ‘No Ordinary Men: Special Operations Forces Missions in Afghanistan’:
“SOF are organizations containing specially trained personnel that are organized, equipped and trained to conduct high-risk, high-value, special operations to achieve military, political, economic, or international objectives by using special and unique operational methodologies in hostile, denied or politically sensitive area to achieve desired tactical operational, and/or strategic effects in times of peace, conflict, or war.”
To put it simply, Special Forces (SF) specialize in operations deep within the enemy territory to ensure an added advantage for conventional forces operating in war-like scenarios.
India too is no exception boasting of world-class SFs such as the PARAS of the Indian Army, the MARCOS of the Indian Navy and the GARUDS of the Indian Air Force.
Apart from these, the country has five more special forces that compare with the best in the world. These are:
- National Security Guards or the Black Cats
- Special Frontier Force
- Force One
Here’s a quick look at each one of them:
It was during the 1965 Indo-Pak War that an ad hoc group consisting of a select few drawn from various infantry units operated behind enemy lines under Major Megh Singh.
Its significant contribution thus led to the raising of a new battalion (from the disbanded Meghdoot Force) which was initially part of the Brigade of the Guards, Major Megh Singh’s parent unit.
Later however it was transferred to the Parachute Regiment for practical reasons, as para-trooping formed an integral part of commando training. That is how 9 Paras –the very first Para Commando Force came into being in July 1966.
It proved its worth right in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, Operation Blue Star (Amritsar) in 1984, Operation Pawan (Sri Lanka) in the 1980s, the 1988 Operation Cactus (Maldives) and the Kargil War of 1999.
1,2, 3,4, 10, 11, and 12 PARA (SF)s are the other special forces of the Parachute Regiment which is one of the oldest airborne units in the world. These are the only Indian Army units whose members are allowed to tattoo their torsos. Their training is on par with that of the toughest in the world and involves elaborate drills on land, air and water.
The ‘Balidaan’ (Sacrifice) badge that a paratrooper sports epitomizes all that this SF stands for.
It came into being in 1987 and have been part of Op Pawan, Op Cactus, operations carried out on Jhleum and Wular Lakes (major infiltration points for terrorists) and also 2008 Mumbai attacks, apart from having undertaken numerous joint exercises with SFs from all over the world.
A Marcos aspirant has to undergo deadly training with hardly 20% of the recruits making it past the first three days. The troops specialize in amphibious operations and are capable of being para-dropped into the sea with full combat load.
They are also reportedly capable of firing from any position be it supine, on the go, looking into a mirror or even dashing up from the waters, thanks to the Israeli weather-resistant assault rifle Tavor TAR-21.
It is also popularly known as the ‘Daadiwala Fauj’, as its members are allowed to sport beards to merge with the crowd, especially in Jammu & Kashmir.
Formed in 2004, its primary task is to protect IAF installations from terror attacks, besides undertaking offensive missions deep inside enemy territory when needed. The 72-week basic training course is the longest among India’s SFs, and a trainee becomes a Garud in all senses only after almost three years of gruelling preparation.
Sealing off defense systems during invasions and conflicts too form part of their duties in times of extreme crises. The aftermath of the terror attack on the Pathankot air base saw the IAF deciding to form an additional ten squadrons of Garud commandos to avert similar strikes in future.
Also known as the National Security Guard that was formed in 1984, it specializes in all sorts of counter-terrorism operations. Its personnel comprise of troops drawn from the Indian Army which form the Special Action Group and those from the Central Armed Police Forces and the State Police Forces which form the Special Ranger Groups.
Headed by an IPS officer of the rank of a DGP, the group got its moniker because of its uniform and signage. With the passing of time, ensuring personal security of top-notch politicians too was included in its gambit of duties.
The Commando Battalion For Resolute Action (COBRA) has been integrated into the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) since 2008 to solely take on insurgent groups like the Naxalites or the Maoists who engage in guerrilla or jungle warfare in the country.
Trained in sudden ambushes, camouflage, parachute & precision strikes, it is one of the best armed Central Armed Police Force in India.
Every infantry unit has a Ghatak (Killer) platoon which is in charge of spearheading any assault that the battalion carries out as part of its operations.
Special Frontier Force
This is a covert para-military mountain-warfare SF that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) controls and reports only to the Indian Union’s Cabinet Secretariat, and is not answerable even to the Parliament.
Raised post 1962 Indo-China war, Tibetan resistance fighters comprise the majority of its members. It is headquartered in Chakrata, Uttarakhand.
With a razor sharp reaction time of less than 15 minutes, this Mumbai Police SF came into being post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Its only purpose of existence is to protect India’s financial capital when faced with an imminent terror threat.
Trained by the Israeli Special Forces, the members take their cue from both Israel’s Mossad and the German Police and specialize in first response and tactical expertise.