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This article is organised as follows:

  • Part 01: Introduction to the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA).
  • Part 02: Hierarchy of CoBRA.
  • Part 03: Organisation of CoBRA.
  • Part 04: Recruitment, Selection and Training of CoBRA.
  • Part 05: Training Establishments.
  • Part 06: Miscellaneous.

1.0     Introduction

“Victory or Death”

cobra-commando-battalion-for-resolute-action-crpf-2 This article is about the Indian unit known as the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action or COBRA as it is commonly referred to.

Established in 2008, COBRA is a specialised unit of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and is proficient in guerrilla tactics and jungle warfare (MHA, 2016).

Originally established to counter the Naxalite problem (it was originally trained to track, hunt and eliminate small Naxalite groups), COBRA is deployed (within India) to address any insurgent group engaging in asymmetrical warfare.

Currently numbering ten battalions (established between 2008 and 2011), COBRA is ranked among one of India’s more experienced and successful law enforcement units.

This article will provide the reader with an outline of COBRA, providing a brief history and their role and purpose. It will then provide an outline of the hierarchy and organisation of COBRA before moving on to describe the selection and training process. Finally, the article will discuss some of the training establishment which deliver training to COBRA candidates before providing some useful links, publications and references.

1.1     Brief History of COBRA

MHA U.O. NO. 16011/5/200-PF.IV dated 12/09/2008 provides the approval for the establishment of COBRA for guerrilla/jungle warfare-style operations against internal extremists and insurgents.

The Government of India approved the establishment of 10 unattached COBRA battalions within the CRPF, each with a Sector Headquarters (HQ) and led by an Inspector General (CRPF, 2017b).

  • 2008-2009: Two COBRA battalions and Sector HQs;
  • 2009-2010: Four COBRA battalions; and
  • 2010-2011: Four COBRA battalions.

Since 2009, COBRA battalions have been involved in 12,817 operations in which (CRPF, 2017b):

  • 261 Naxal/insurgents have been killed;
  • 2,018 apprehended;
  • 775 surrendered;
  • 827 various types of arms captured;
  • 21,064 different types of ammunition captured;
  • 9,989 kilograms of explosives captured;
  • 2,887 bombs, IEDs and grenades captured; and
  • 9,758 detonators captured.

1.2     General Duties of Special Operations Forces

SOF personnel are required to infiltrate and exfiltrate to and from operational areas dismounted, carrying heavy loads and manipulating personal and support weapons systems and other heavy equipment. SOF personnel perform insertions and assaults on targets by:

  • Parachuting onto ground or into water;
  • Climbing ladders and cliffs;
  • Rappelling;
  • Conducting close-quarters battle (CQB); and
  • Battle drills in varying types of terrain and climatic conditions day or night.

SOF personnel are also required to board ocean vessels while they are underway from another floating or airborne platform in all sea states day or night, and where speed and stealth are imperative. These duties are performed while wearing heavy rucksack and body armour. SOF personnel perform individual CQB and detainee handling which may require the individual to:

  • Combat and detain another person using blocking strikes;
  • Disarming;
  • Lifting;
  • Pulling;
  • Ground fighting;
  • Grappling; and
  • Moving a non-compliant person.

There is no tolerance for a lapse in attention when conducting CQB and other assaults while wearing night vision goggles as well as Special Operations Insertion and Extraction (SOIE) techniques. Accurate discrimination of non-combatants and precision engagement of enemy combatants requires extreme concentration.

Similarly, high-risk roped and un-roped insertions with no redundant safety systems require constant attention. SOF personnel require the ability for continuous analysis of the situation, environment, mission aims and unique foreign societal complexities during operations.

1.3     Role and Purpose of COBRA

The role and purpose of COBRA is defined by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in two paragraphs of the 2016 Annual Report:

“Central Government has deployed Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to aid the State authorities for carrying out counter insurgency operations and providing security for vulnerable institutions and installations. CAPFs including COBRA teams are deployed in the North-Eastern States for Internal Security and Counter Insurgency (Operations) duties.” (MHA, 2016, p.16).

“The Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) are specialized wings of the CRPF to deal with the riots and Left Wing Extremism/insurgency respectively.” (MHA, 2016, p.167).

2.0     Hierarchy of COBRA

This section provides an outline of the civilian and military personalities and organisations that have some form of control, impact or direction over COBRA.

2.1     Ministry of Home Affairs

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is a ministry of the Government of India and led by the Union Minister of Home Affairs.

As an interior ministry, the MHA has several responsibilities, including:

  • The maintenance of internal security and domestic policy.
  • Cadre Controlling Authority, via the Police-I and Union Territories (UT) divisions, for:
    • The Indian Police Service (IPS);
    • Delhi-Andaman and Nicobar Island Civil Service (DANIPS);
    • Delhi-Andaman and Nicobar Island Police Service (DANICS); and
    • Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

The Department of Internal Security has responsibility for police, law and order, and rehabilitation.

2.2     Central Armed Police Forces

The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) is the term used to describe several paramilitary organisations, which include (MHA, 2014):

  • Border Security Force (BSF).
  • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
  • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • Assam Rifles (AR).
  • National Security Guard (NSG).
  • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF): with approximately 325,000 personnel in 239 battalions (CRPF, 2017a), includes:
    • The Rapid Action Force (RAF), a 10-battalion anti-riot force trained to respond to sectarian violence; and
    • The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA), a 10-battalion strong anti-Naxalite/counter-insurgency (COIN) force.
  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP): with approximately 77,00 personnel in 56 fighting and 4 reserve battalions it is deployed for guarding duties on the border with China from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La (in Arunachal Pradesh) covering a total distance of 2488 km.

The various CAPF report directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and are organised along police lines. Despite each CAPF having its own cadre of officers, the senior managers and the head of service are officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS). The head of each CAPF is known as the Director General, broadly equivalent to a Lieutenant General (OF-8).

2.3     Commander COBRA

Each COBRA battalion is headed by an Inspector General (IG), broadly equivalent to a Major General (OF-7).

The IG is assisted in their sector by a variety of staff officers, which may include:

  • Deputy Inspector General (DIG) (Administration);
  • DIG (Prov);
  • DIG (LSC);
  • DIG (Works and Accts);
  • DIG (TAC Jagdalpur);
  • Commandant (Prov/Works and Accts);
  • Commandant (Operations and Training);
  • A/C IED Advisor; and
  • A/C IRLA.

3.0     Organisation of COBRA

cobra-commando-battalion-for-resolute-action-crpf-3As well as the traditional leadership and staff officer roles identified above, COBRA contain personnel in enabler, supporter and other roles (e.g. administrative and logistical).

There are currently ten battalions within COBRA, unchanged since establishment in 2008:

  • 201 Battalion.
  • 202 Battalion.
  • 203 Battalion.
  • 204 Battalion.
  • 206 Battalion.
  • 207 Battalion.
  • 208 Battalion.
  • 209 Battalion.
  • 210 Battalion.

“Like RAF, these Bns, have been organized on an unattached pattern under the supervision of an Inspector General. To facilitate the Force to take spot decisions, an officer of the rank of Assistant Commandant has been provided at the Team level (each Battalion has 18 teams) and an officer of the rank of Deputy Commandant has been provided at the Company level (each Battalion has 03 Companies).” (MHA, 2016, p.174).

4.0     Selection and Training

cobra-commando-battalion-for-resolute-action-crpf-4Application for COBRA is made by male volunteers through initial-entry recruitment, i.e. civilians.

Currently, women are not permitted to attend COBRA training but there may opportunity in the future.

“The Central Reserve Police Force is not averse to the idea of imparting the rigorous Cobra commando training to its women personnel. If a situation arises, women will be imparted the training at the centre in Jamboti in Khanapur taluk, Belgaum, said CRPF director general Durgaprasad.” (The Times of India, 2016).

Candidates will generally go through three phases to become a fully-qualified COBRA Commando, which include:

  • Phase 1: Pre-Selection.
  • Phase 2: Selection.
  • Phase 3: COBRA Basic Training.
  • Phase 4: COBRA Advanced Training.

Phase 1 primarily consists of administration and eligibility criteria. The training undertaken during Phase 3 and 4 is approximately 17 weeks in duration, 5 weeks and 12 weeks respectively.

4.1     COBRA Basic Training

cobra-commando-battalion-for-resolute-action-crpf-1Candidates who successfully complete the pre-selection and selection process will move on to the “5-week basic training” programme (Outlook India, 2017).

Basic training may be delivered at one of eight Recruit Training Centres (RTCs), each headed by a Commandant, a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP).

Training delivered to candidates, during both Basic and Advanced training, is varied and demanding in nature, and consists of:

  • Guerrilla and jungle warfare;
  • Camouflage and concealment;
  • Heliborne insertions;
  • Field engineering and demolitions;
  • Land navigation;
  • Physical training
  • Weapons handling;
  • Reconnaissance and long range patrolling;
  • Intelligence gathering; and
  • Direct action (e.g. ambush and precision strikes).

4.2     COBRA Advanced Training

“Newly inducted personnel in CoBRA units are being put through 12 week pre-induction specialized training in CoBRA School of Jungle Warfare and Tactics (CSJWT) located at Belgaum (Karnataka). Further, pre-induction training at CSJWT Belgaum (Karnataka) is a mandatory course which is required to be done by each and every personnel who are being inducted into the CoBRA unit.” (MHA, 2016, p.174).

Sometimes known as the “Jamboti training centre.” (The Times of India, 2016).

4.3     Graduation

Candidates who successfully complete all their training will become fully-qualified COBRA Commandos and deploy to a COBRA battalion.

5.0     Training Establishments

There are several training establishments involved in the delivery of training to candidates during their basic and advanced training. Some of these training establishments are outlined below.

5.1     COBRA School of Jungle Warfare and Tactics

Vide letter No.II-27012/17/2011-PF.III, dated 23/05/2013 provided approval for the establishment of the COBRA School of Jungle Warfare and Tactics (CSJWT) at Belgaum (Karnataka) (CRPF, 2017c).

5.2     Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism Schools

There are currently (March 2017) three Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism CIAT) Schools within the CRPF.

  • CIAT Silcher (Dayapur, Udharband), since 2005;
  • CIAT Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh), since 2009; and
  • CIAT Chittoor: Vide letter No.II-27012/17/2011-PF.III, dated 23/05/2013 provided approval for the establishment of a new CIAT School at Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) (CRPF, 2017c).

Each CIAT is led by a Principal, generally a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP), who is assisted by a Commandant.

5.3     CRPF Intelligence School

Formally established on 08 February 2012 (Tribune News Service, 2012), the CRPF Intelligence School provides CRPF personnel with intelligence-related courses and skills.

“Faculty members from the Border Security Force (BSF), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Military Intelligence and the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) will train the CRPF personnel.” (Tribune News Service, 2012, p.4).

6.1     Useful Links

6.2     Useful Publications

6.3     References

CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) (2017a) About CRPF. Available from World Wide Web: http://crpf.nic.in/. [Accessed: 28 January, 2017].

CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) (2017b) CoBRA Sector. Available from World Wide Web: http://crpf.nic.in/cobra-sector.htm. [Accessed: 27 February, 2017].

CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) (2017c) IIM Pune. Available from World Wide Web: http://crpf.nic.in/iim-pune.htm. [Accessed )3 March, 2017].

MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) (2014) Central Armed Police Forces. Available from World Wide Web: http://mha.nic.in/armedforces. [Accessed: 28 January, 2017].

Ministry of Home Affairs (2016) Annual Report 2015-2016. Available from World Wide Web: http://mha.nic.in/sites/upload_files/mha/files/AR(E)1516.pdf. [Accessed: 15 February, 2017].

Outlook India (2017) Trainee CoBRA Commandos ‘Bunk’ Duty; CRPF Orders Inquiry. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/trainee-cobra-commandos-bunk-duty-crpf-orders-inquiry/982425. [Accessed: 27 February, 2017].

The Times of India (2016) Women in CRPF may receive COBRA Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/Women-in-CRPF-may-receive-cobra-training/articleshow/51655896.cms. [Accessed: 03 March, 2017].

Tribune News Service (2012) CRPF Gets Intelligence School in Gurgaon. Available from World Wide Web: http://cbi.nic.in/newsarticles/pressclips/feb_2012/pc_20120209_1.pdf. [Accessed: 03 March, 2017].