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This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Introduction to Indian Army SOF.
- Part 02: Hierarchy of Indian Army SOF.
- Part 03: Organisation of Indian Army SOF.
- Part 04: Selection and Training.
- Part 05: Training Establishments.
- Part 06: Miscellaneous.
“Men Apart, Every Man an Emperor”
- Elite Forces (EF) known as Parachute (Airborne): operate in large teams and coordinate with other units, as their role involves occupying large areas behind enemy lines. Abbreviated as Para (Air) for this article.
- Special Forces (SF) known as Parachute (Special Forces): operate in small assault teams, which work individually behind enemy lines. Commonly known as the Para Commandos or Para (SF).
The Para (SF) are broadly comparable with the US Army’s Special Forces (aka Green Berets) and the British SAS. There are approximately 4,500 paratroopers, of which approximately 1200 are Para (SF); although others figures suggest 7,500 Para (Air) with 2,500 being Para (SF).
Interestingly, “…US SOF, which number 66,000 have an operational budget of US$ 10 billion which excludes pay and allowances and equipment costs. India, on the other hand, has a total defence budget of US $45-50 billion for all of its Armed Forces.” (Sinha & Balakrishnan, 2016, p.9). Indian SF have approximately 18,000 personnel (Sputnik News, 2016).
Unlike the US, UK and French models of SOF, Indian SOF is not unified under one organisation or command. Operational control of each SF unit is by the Chief of Service, for example the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).
This article will provide the reader with an outline of the Indian Army’s SOF, providing a brief history and their role and purpose. It will then provide an overview of the hierarchy and organisation of Indian Army SOF before moving on to outline the selection and training process. Finally, the article will discuss some of the training establishments which deliver training to Indian Army SOF candidates before providing some useful links, publications and references.
1.1 Brief History of Indian Army SOF
When researching for this article, internet and book sources provide an array of different dates and evolution for the Indian Army’s SOF and, as they are part of the Indian Army, the Indian Army is the authority regarding dates and evolution.
Contemporary India Army SOF units can trace their lineage back to airborne units raised during the Second World War, the first being the 50th Parachute Brigade (consisting of 151 British, 152 Indian, and 153 Gurkha Parachute Battalions, alongside other support units) which was established on 29 October 1941.
Interestingly, one of the first to make a military parachute descent was a member of the Indian Medical Service, Lieutenant (OF-2) AG Rangarai, along with Havildar Major (Sergeant-Major) Mathura Singh of the Infantry.
The 152 Indian Parachute Battalion saw action against the Japanese between 1942 and 1944, predominantly around the area of Burma. In late 1944, the 50th Parachute Brigade was uprated and became the 44th Indian Airborne Division; later re-designated the 2nd Indian Airborne Division in 1945. The Indian airborne regiment was also disbanded in the same year, although the airborne role was retained.
After independence from the UK, the brigades of 2nd Airborne Division were divided between the armies of India and the newly formed Pakistan, with India retaining 50th and 77th brigades (later disbanded) and Pakistan taking 14th Parachute Brigade.
On 15th April 1952, the Parachute Regiment was formally re-established and absorbed the three existing parachute battalions (which formed the 50th Parachute Brigade and had been carrying out parachute duties post the disbandment of the Parachute Regiment), namely:
- 1st Battalion, The Punjab Regiment (Para) re-designated 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Punjab).
- 3rd Battalion, The Maratha Light Infantry (Para) re-designated 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Maratha).
- 1st Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment (Para) re-designated as 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Kumaon).
- On the same date:
- The Parachute Regiment Depot and Records was raised at Agra (all personal documents were transferred to Depot and Records from the Punjab, Maratha and Kumaon Regiments.
- A Personal Accounts Office (PAO) for the regiment was raised at Mathura as part of PAO(OR) Artillery.
In 1961, 4th Battalion was established to augment the strength of the regiment.
Katoch and Datta (2013) provide the first comprehensive book written on India’s SOF. In their own words the book “…is attempted as a critique of Special Forces as they have emerged in India, as related to counterparts in all important armed forces around the world, emphasizing the concept as it has developed in our Army and the current name it has come to acquire. It delves into the creation of Special Forces in India; evolution, development through the years and why they are called Special Forces.” (Katoch & Datta, 2013, n.p.).
Katoch and Datta (2013) state that the first true special force of an independent India was the Special Frontier Force (SFF), which recruited exiled Tibetans, in 1962.
On 01 May 1962, the training wing of the Parachute Regiment was established, at Kota, as part of the Brigade of Guards Training Centre. This enabled the direct recruitment (i.e. civilians) for paratrooper training as well as in-service transfers (i.e. soldiers from other units).
After some shenanigans with the Chinese in 1962, another four battalions (the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) were established within the short span of two years. A second parachute brigade, the 51st, was also established to compliment the 50th Brigade but was reverted to a normal infantry role in 1976.
In March 1963, the Government of India authorised the establishment of an independent training centre for the Parachute Regiment. Consequently, the Depot was re-designated the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC), and still located at Agra. In September 1963, the training wing at Kota joined the PRTC and during February 1965 the PRTC was relocated to Morar Cantonment, Gwalior.
The first Indian Army special force would be touted in 1965 and would become known as the Meghdoot Force after its creator, Major Megh Singh, an Infantry officer from the Brigade of Guards (Katoch & Datta, 2013). Interestingly, when setting up this new Commando unit, experience gained from the SFF was not used.
The unit was used successfully to infiltrate and disrupt Pakistani Army logistics and led to the creation of a formal Commando unit (9th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (Commando) or 9 Para (Commando), specialising in mountain operations), and a second Commando unit (10 Para (Commando)) in 1967 specialising in desert operations (Katoch & Datta, 2013). It was originally intended that 9 Para (Commando) would be part of the Brigade of Guards, however, due to the parachute qualification being deemed an essential part of Commando training it became part of the Parachute Regiment in 1966.
In April 1966, a Parachute Holding Wing was established at PRTC. Its role was to deliver basic and reservist training for eligible personnel, with the additional task of providing transit camp facilities for launching airborne operations during wartime.
A third Commando unit was raised in 1978, which had originally been established in 1761 (Katoch & Datta, 2013). At this point the three units where still Commando units and not SF like their western counterparts, for example the British SAS.
During October 1975, the PRTC, Records and PAO(OR) were re-located to Agra.
In January 1977, the Parachute Holding Wing was disbanded and additional staff and vehicles were authorised to the PRTC to carry out all of the above functions of the wing. However, the wing continued functioning from Kheria and its old name was retained, finally merging with the Army Airborne Training School, located at Agra, during January 1992.
In 1977, a decision was made to convert 9 Para (Commando) so it could conduct missions like the British SAS, although this decision was changed to convert the oldest Parachute Battalion and commenced in 1979 (Katoch & Datta, 2013). Once again experience gained from the SFF, now 9 and 10 Para (Commando), was not utilised during the conversion process and numerous problems were encountered.
Katoch and Datta (2013) suggest that a pivotal point in the evolution of Indian Army SF was in the early 1980s when Lieutenant Colonel Rustom K Nanavatty was posted to the UK, as the Indian Arm Liaison Officer in the School of Infantry, and secured a visit to the headquarters (HQ) of the Director SAS.
The outcome of the visit was a 5-page report sent by Lt Col Nanvatty to Army HQ which led to a study and proposal to reorganise the Para Commandos (Katoch & Datta, 2013). This led to the establishment of the current Para Commando (Special Forces) battalions or Para (SF) as they are generally known.
In 1987, the three Commando battalions formed part of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) operating in Sri Lanka to deal with the secessionist LTTE (Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelan). This necessitated the three battalions to be integrated for smooth command and control (C2) of operations and, consequently, the HQ Special Forces was established. In February 1996, 21st Battalion, the Maratha Light Infantry, was officially re-designated as the 21st Battalion (Special Forces) though it had been under conversion since 1994.
In January 1992, the PRTC, along with the Records and PAO(OR), re-located to Bangalore, occupying the Pioneer Corps and Training Centre.
“A separate Special Forces Regiment was created in 1994 clubbing the then three Special Forces units – 1, 9 and 10 PARA (SF).” (Katoch & Datta, 2013, p.82). Sinha and Balakrishnan (2016, p.8) inform us that “In 1995, when the Special Forces Regiment in the Indian Army was disbanded, it was done purely because of manpower constraints as volunteers were not forthcoming.” However, Katoch and Datta (2013) inform of some political infighting orchestrated by Para (Air) officers in the decline of the SF Regiment.
Katoch and Datta (2013, p.83) also state “…the appointment of Commandant & Chief Instructor, Special Forces Training Wing (SFTW), later renamed Special Forces Training School (SFTS) earlier always held by a PARA (SF) officer, was made tenable by a PARA / PARA (SF) officer…”
In 1999, 2nd Parachute Battalion was converted to the SF role, followed a few years later by the 3rd and the 4th battalions.
In 2010, 11 Para (SF) was established, in Agra, to augment the strength of the Indian Army’s SF.
In one form or another the battalions of the Parachute Regiment have been involved in a variety of operations, including:
- Operation Pawan, IPKF operations in Sri Lanka;
- Indo-Pakistan War (1971);
- Operation Cactus (1988): Thwarted an attempted coup d’état in the Maldives;
- Peacekeeping in Korea (1950–54);
- Peacekeeping in the Gaza Strip (1956–58);
- Counter-insurgency operations: both in North East and Jammu & Kashmir;
- Operation Vijay (1999): Nine out of ten of the parachute battalions were deployed for Operation
- Vijay in Kargil; and
- UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia/Eritrea.
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;
- 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;
- 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 Indian Army SOF
The core missions of the Para (SF) include:
- Intelligence collection and special reconnaissance;
- Subversion and sabotage of vital enemy infrastructure and communications through deep
- penetration and surgical strikes behind enemy lines;
- Covert and overt/direct action special operations as part of the Indian Army’s counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations; and
- Hostage rescue operations within and beyond Indian territory.
1.4 The Difference between PARA (SF) Battalions and PARA Battalions
Sinha and Balakrishnan (2016, p.3) provide the reader with a clear statement on the difference between the two units:
“While PARA (SF) units work in small teams and are focused on operations other than war (OOW) and on strategic reconnaissance, surveillance and target designation (RSTAD) and direct action (DA) tasks. PARA units operating in strength are focused on air assault, coup-de main, raids and rear area disruption missions along with providing the spearhead elements of our National Rapid Reaction Capabilities. That apart, they have overlapping mission requirements which require them to work in conjunction with each other.”
- Insignia for Para (Air): The regimental badge for the Parachute Regiment is an open parachute, partially behind a circle with the word “Parachute” at the top and a scroll at the bottom with the word “Regiment”; wings are spread out from the circle, and a dagger is superimposed on the parachute and upper portion of the circle; the whole in silver metal. As with much of the world’s parachute forces, the normal headgear is a maroon beret, although there is a maroon turban for Sikh personnel. Para (Air) personnel have the insignia ‘Shatrujeet’ meaning The Conqueror.
- Insignia for Para (SF): Like other parachute troops in the Indian military, Para (SF) wear a maroon beret. In addition, they wear a maroon curved shoulder title on each shoulder with ‘SPECIAL FORCES’ embroidered in light blue (succeeding the COMMANDO tab in 2006 which had been used since inception). Personnel who serve in the Para (SF) wear the ‘Balidaan patch (meaning Sacrifice) on their right pocket below the name plate, which is similar to the British SAS beret insignia; only Para (SF) are allowed to wear the patch. Para (SF) personnel may grow beards, as this allows them to blend in with the civilian population, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. The insignia on their beret is drawn from the near identical insignia of the British SAS.
2.0 Hierarchy of Indian Army SOF
This section provides an outline of the civilian and military personalities and organisations that have some form of control, impact or direction over the Indian Army’s SOF.
As a rule of thumb, one Para (SF) battalion is normally allocated to each theatre command of the Indian Army and (generally) subunits may be deployed to Corps/Divisions for operations only (CLAWS Research Team, 2011). The overall operational control and deployment, however, rests with the Indian Army’s Directorate of Military Operations (Section 2.4).
2.1 Ministry of Defence
The Defence Minister, or Raksha Mantri, is the head of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) which is comprised of four Departments and one division:
- Department of Defence (DOD);
- Department of Defence Production (DDP);
- Department of Defence Research & Development (DDR&D);
- Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare; and
- Finance Division.
The Defence Secretary functions as head of the DOD and is additionally responsible for co-ordinating the activities of the four Departments in the MOD. The DOD deals with the Integrated Defence Staff, the three branches of military service and various inter-service organisations. It is also responsible for the Defence Budget, establishment matters, defence policy, matters relating to Parliament, defence co-operation with foreign countries and co-ordination of all defence related activities.
2.2 Integrated Defence Staff
As noted in the introduction, Indian SOF is not overseen by a central organisation, however, by 2013, the Integrated Defence Staff had established a directorate, which administers the Amphibious and Special Forces but has no operational command (Chandramohan, 2013).
The post of Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), an OF-8 level officer, was established on 01 October 2001. The HQ, located in New Delhi, was established on 23 November 2001 (IDS, n.d.).
The HQ IDS is staffed by military personnel (both commissioned officers and other ranks) from the three Services, the Ministry of External Affairs/Indian Foreign Service, Defence Finance/Defence Accounts Department, DOD and the DDR&D.
Some of the directorate’s functions include:
- Co-ordinating with Services HQ to formulate a joint doctrine for Amphibious and Special Forces;
- Co-ordinating with Services HQ to formulate training policy, including training in the Special Forces Doctrine;
- Co-ordination of activities relating to training and doctrine for Amphibious and Special Forces with all outside agencies;
- The establishment of amphibious cells.
2.3 Directorate of Amphibious and Special Forces
The Directorate of Amphibious and Special Forces (AMPH SF) is led by the Deputy Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (DACIDS AMPH SF), an OF-?5 level officer (IDS, n.d.; Chandramohan, 2013).
DACIDS AMPH SF reports to the Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Doctrine, Organisation and Training) (ACIDS (DOT)), an OF-?6 level officer, who reports to the Deputy IDS (DOT), an OF-?7 level officer. DOT is one of eight major branches of IDS.
2.4 Directorate of Military Operations
The Directorate of Military Operations (DMO), located in New Delhi, is led by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), a Lieutenant General (OF-8).
DMO is responsible for future and extant operational planning.
Within DMO was the post of Deputy Director General Military Operations (Special Forces) (DDGMO (SF), filled by a Brigadier (OF-6), which could be filled by either Para (Air) or Para (SF) officers. (Katoch & Datta, 2013). Datta (2008) states “Within the directorate [DMO], Division 8B, headed by a brigadier, which looks after all Special Forces (SF) operations…”
The post of DDGMO was later elevated to the rank of Major General (OF-7) with the new title of Additional Director General Military Operations (ADGMO (Special Forces)) (Katoch & Datta, 2013).
2.5 Commander Parachute Regiment
The Commander Parachute Regiment is a Lieutenant General (OF-8) acting in the role of Colonel of the Parachute Regiment.
The Director General Infantry, a Lieutenant General (OF-8), also has some impact and leadership with regards to airborne infantry due to their position.
The Commander Parachute Regiment is assisted by the operational commander of each battalion, a Colonel (OF-5).
3.0 Organisation of Indian Army SOF
As well as the traditional leadership and staff officer roles identified above, the Parachute Regiment has personnel in enabler roles and personnel from conventional units act in supporter and other roles (e.g. administrative and logistical).
The Para (SF) are broadly comparable with the US Army’s Special Forces (aka Green Berets) and the British SAS. Prior to (approximately) 2010, there were approximately 4,500 paratroopers, of which approximately 1200 were Para (SF). With the establishment of further Para (SF) battalions and other upscaling, it has been suggested there are now 7,500 paratroopers, of which 2,500 are Para (SF) qualified (needs verification).
The Parachute Regiment is part of the Infantry, a combat arm of the Indian Army. Currently, the Parachute Regiment is composed of five paratrooper battalions, one commando battalion, nine SF battalions and two reserve battalions.
Chandramohan (2013, p.3) states “The Indian Army also has an amphibious brigade stationed in Port Blair under Fortress Commander, Andaman and Nicobar – the only integrated command in the Indian military. These units [including the Parachute Regiment battalions] constitute the sum total of what may be called a special operations capability.”
3.1 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade
The 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade is the major Airborne Formation of the Indian Army. The brigade is commanded by a Brigadier (OF-6) and is composed of the following units:
- 2 Parachute (Airborne) battalions;
- 1 Parachute (Special Forces) battalion, in rotation (Section 3.4);
- 1 Parachute Field Regiment (Artillery) (9 & 17 Parachute Field Regiments in rotation);
- 60 Parachute Field Hospital;
- 411 (Independent) Parachute Field Company (Bombay Sappers);
- 622 Parachute Composite Company (ASC);
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade OFP (Ordnance);
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade Signal Company;
- 2 (Independent) Parachute Field Workshop Company (EME);
- 252 (Para) Air Defence Battery; and
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade Provost Section.
The President’s Body Guard also forms part of the brigade as the pathfinder’s company, they are both trained paratroopers and armoured vehicle crewmen. During the Second World War, they performed a reconnaissance role and where known as the 44th Divisional Reconnaissance Squadron.
3.2 Paratrooper Units
The Parachute (Airborne) battalions form the Airborne Infantry element of the Indian Army, and include:
- 5 PARA: 5th Battalion (Airborne), first established in 1962.
- 6 PARA: 6th Battalion (Airborne), first established in 1963.
- 7 PARA: 7th Battalion (Airborne), first established in 1964.
- 23 PARA: 23rd Battalion (Airborne), first established in YEAR.
- 29 PARA: 29th Battalion (Airborne), first established in YEAR.
Para (Air) qualified personnel are eligible for Para jump allowance, with the amount based on rank (Indian Army, 2017b).
3.3 Commando Unit
The 31st Battalion (Commando), Rashtriya Rifles, form the Commando element of the Indian Army and is affiliated to the Parachute Regiment for special operations conducted by the counter-insurgency force.
The “Rashtriya Rifles is a specialist elite force raised in 1990 to combat insurgency in the country and is the premier counter insurgency force of the Army, today. The Rashtriya Rifles is an excellent classical example of Olive Green integration with its rank and file drawn from all arms and services.” (Indian Army, 2017a).
The Rashtriya Rifles is “…a force that is permanently situated in Jammu and Kashmir for counter insurgency operations…” [and] “…deployed under Victor Force (the formation dedicated for operation[s] in the Kashmir Valley region) …” (Datta, 2016).
3.4 Special Forces Units
The Para (SF) battalions form the SF element of the Indian Army, and include:
- 1 PARA (SF): 1st Battalion (Special Forces) (former 1st Battalion, 2nd Punjab Regiment), first established in 1761 and converted to SF in 1978.
- 2 PARA (SF): 2nd Battalion (Special Forces) (former 3rd Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry), first established in 1797 and converted to SF in 2000.
- 3 PARA (SF): 3rd Battalion (Special Forces) (former 1st Battalion, Kumaon Regiment), first established in 1813 and converted to SF in 2002.
- 4 PARA (SF): 4th Battalion (Special Forces), first established in 1961 and converted to SF in 2003.
- 9 PARA (SF): 9th Battalion (Special Forces), first established in 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion.
- 10 PARA (SF): 10th Battalion (Special Forces), first established in 1967 as 10th Parachute Commando Battalion.
- ?11 PARA (SF): 11th Battalion (Special Forces), first established in 2011.
- ?12 PARA (SF): 12th Battalion (Special Forces), first established in YEAR as the 23rd Battalion, Rajputana Rifles.
- 21 PARA (SF): 21st Battalion (Special Forces) (former 21st Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry), first established in 1985 and converted to SF in 1996.
Previously, each Para (SF) battalion operated under the concept of ‘geographical specialisation’ and remained assigned to that sector. For example, 1 Para specialised in mountain warfare, 9 Para specialised in jungle warfare and 10 Para specialised in desert warfare. However, this geographical specialisation was removed and each Para (SF) battalion is trained to operate in all environments/terrains.
Para(SF) are trained to operate in six person teams, usually consisting of personnel specialised, in (for example): commander (officer/NCO); weapons; demolitions; navigation; communication; and medical.
During the 2000s, “…a fourth assault team was added to each unit…” (Katoch & Datta, 2013, p.83).
Para (SF) qualified personnel are eligible for the SF allowance, with the amount based on rank (Indian Army, 2017b).
3.5 Reserve Units
Two reserve, or Territorial Army (TA), battalions form the reserve Airborne Infantry element of the Indian Army and are part of the Terriers (as the TA is popularly known), and include:
- 106 PARA: 106th Infantry Battalion (PARA) Territorial Army, first established in YEAR and located in Bengaluru.
- 116 PARA: 116th Infantry Battalion (PARA) Territorial Army, first established in YEAR and located in Deolali.
It is understood that both units are currently engaged in counter-insurgency operations.
4.0 Selection and Training
This section provides an outline of the selection and training process that all candidates for Para (SF) must undertake. The process described here also includes Parachute (Airborne) training, as all Para (SF) candidates must first qualify as paratroopers.
Candidates may join the Parachute Regiment through direct recruitment (i.e. as civilians) or as in-service transfers (i.e. as trained soldiers from another unit). Application for the Para Commandos is made by male volunteers of the Indian Army. Volunteers can be either commissioned officers or enlisted soldiers.
Candidates will generally go through four phases to become a fully-qualified Para (SF), which includes:
- Phase 1: Phase 1 or basic military training
- Phase 2: Pre-Selection.
- Phase 3: Selection (encompassing a selection process and basic SF training).
- Phase 4: Advanced SF Training.
Once recruit candidates have completed their basic military training or trained soldier candidates apply to transfer, the first phase on the journey to becoming a Para (Air) or Para (SF) is pre-selection.
This is an administrative and medical process to be completed by all candidates. The following provides the criteria for officers:
- Pre-Commission: Volunteer Officer Cadets from IMA/OTA are commissioned at the scale of two officers per battalion per year. Officers Cadets are allotted a parent regiment by the MS Branch.
- Post-Commission: Commissioned Officers of the Indian Army from all Arms and Services can volunteer for the Parachute Regiment, subject to them:
- Having less than five years’ service on the day they volunteer;
- Being in medical category SHAPE-I; and
- Being graded `Excellent’ in BPET (Section 0.0).
Commissioned Officers retain their affiliation to their Regiment/Corps (as parent regiment). Candidates must also have their application countersigned by an officer for enlisted soldiers and the Commanding Officer (CO) for officers.
Candidates who successfully complete the pre-selection process will start the selection process with their prospective unit.
The selection process, known as probation, must be completed by all candidates (both officers and enlisted) volunteering for the Parachute Regiment, although the duration and intensity differ depending on the candidate’s prospective unit (Katoch & Datta, 2013):
- Para (Air): 90 days (45 days after 1999 and 28 before); or
- Para (SF): 180 days (formerly 90 days), to include continuation training.
Para (SF) selection, which takes place twice a year in the spring and the autumn term, is one of the longest and toughest military selection phases in the world. Candidates will undergo a variety of physically and mentally demanding tests, during which up to 90% may fail/be rejected. It is difficult to exaggerate the harsh nature of the physical strain and mental stress that candidates will endure.
Some of the tasks that candidates may encounter during this phase include:
- Morning runs of 20-kilometres (12.4 miles).
- Night marches of 20-kilometres (12.4 miles) carrying a 60 kg (132 lb) load.
- Conduct training with live ammunition.
- Once per week, conduct a march of 120 kilometres carrying a 60 kg (132 lb) load in a specified time limit; believed to be 13 hours (needs verification).
Any candidate who is not selected will be reverted to their parent regiment. Successful completion of probation means a permanent transfer to the Parachute Regiment and individual documents are forwarded to the Record Office.
4.3 Parachute Training
Candidates who successfully complete the selection process will move on to the 3-week Basic Parachute Course (BPC) at the Indian Army’s Parachute Training School, located at Agra.
Five static line jumps at 1250 feet, including one at night, entitle candidates to wear the coveted parachute wings on the right chest and the maroon beret, with the parachute badge attached to it.
Any candidate who does not volunteer to jump will be reverted to their parent regiment.
Candidates who successfully complete the BPC will move on to specialised/SF training.
4.4 SF Training
Candidates will undergo a variety of training with several different organisations, although all training is overseen by the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (Section 5.2) and/or the Special Forces Training School (Section 5.3). Training during this phase consists of:
- Weapons handling training;
- Land navigation and field craft training;
- Infiltration, assault and ambush tactics;
- Close quarter battle (CQB) training;
- Urban warfare;
- Unarmed combat training.
- Junior Leaders’ Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka;
- 4-week High-Altitude Commando Course at the Parvat Ghatak School (for high altitude mountain warfare) in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, along with other SF units;
- Desert Warfare School in Rajasthan;
- High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir;
- Basic Combat Divers course at the Indian Navy’s Dive School, located at Kochi.
- Counter insurgency, at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram;
- Indian Special Forces Training School in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh; and/or
- Combat free-fall training (HAHO and HALO) at the Parachute Training School, located at Agra.
Approximately 10% of candidates ‘survive’ to graduate this long and gruelling selection and training process.
However, for those who are successful, there is a tenure with one of the most prestigious organisations within the Indian military, paramilitary and police forces.
5.0 Training Establishments
There are several training establishments involved in the delivery of training to candidates during their basic SF and advanced SF training. Some of these training establishments are outlined below.
5.1 Army Training Command
Established in 1991, the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) is located at Shimla and is commanded by the General Officer Commander-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) ARTRAC, a Lieutenant General (OF-8) (Indian Army, 2017c).
ARTRAC has responsibility for the various Army training establishments which are divided into two categories:
- Category A commanded by a Lieutenant General (OF-8) or Major General (OF-7); and
- Category B commanded by a Major General (OF-7) or Brigadier (OF-6).
5.2 Parachute Regiment Training Centre
The Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC) is located at Bangalore.
Originally commanded by a Major (OF-3), the PRTC is now commanded by a Colonel (OF-5) or a Brigadier (OF-6), with the title of Commandant. The PRTC is a training establishment of the Indian Army specialising in airborne training.
5.3 Special Forces Training School
Established in 1993 as the Special Forces Training Wing (SFTW), and as part of a broader reorganisation, the school was renamed the Special Forces Training School (SFTS) in 2003.
The SFTS is located at Nahan, a town in Himachal Pradesh, and is the training establishment of the Indian Army’s SF. It is led by the Commandant SFTS, a Major General (OF-7), who is also the Chief Instructor. The SFTS is Category A training establishment.
5.4 Indian Navy Diving School
For combat diving training, personnel are sent to the Naval Diving School, part of INS Venduruthy in Kochi, which is part of the Southern Naval Command (SNC).
The diving school delivers basic and specialist training in military diving for both officers and sailors of the Indian Navy, Indian Army, Indian Air Force and paramilitary forces.
Divers are divided into two broad categories:
- Ships divers: undergo a basic course of 8 weeks using only compressed air sets and acquire a basic knowledge of diving.
- Clearance divers (CD): undergo a longer course using pure oxygen, mixture and compressed air sets. They are also qualified in operating compression chambers, underwater demolition, clandestine operations and underwater salvage techniques.
During the 2009-2010 training year, the training curriculum was revised so all students (both CD and MARCOS) would pass out as CD (MARCOS) (Indian Navy, 2017).
5.5 High-Altitude Warfare School
Candidates will attend the 4-week High Altitude Commando Course at the High-Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), along with other Indian SF units.
Operating from three different locations in Kashmir, the HAWS conducts (Hooda, 2016):
- Winter warfare course at HAWS Gulmarg which is situated close 9,000 feet above sea level and is where military personnel learn to survive and fight in the world’s highest battleground at 20,000 feet. The first week of training entails a march of 1.5 km with a small load, but quickly progresses from 5, 10 and 15 kg after two weeks to traversing on skis carrying 15 kg and a weapon in hand. Students must complete a one-week exercise, with 72 hours with nothing but the survival skills they have learnt. The course is delivered between January and April each year and has an attrition rate of 30% to 40%.
- Mountain warfare course at HAWS Sonamarg, delivered between May and October each year.
- Ice craft at HAWS Machoi across Zojila.
5.6 Desert Warfare School
The Desert Warfare School is located in Rajasthan.
6.1 Useful Links
- Integrated Defence Staff, India: http://ids.nic.in/.
- Ministry of Defence, India: http://mod.nic.in/.
- President’s Body Guard (PBG): http://presidentofindia.nic.in/president-bodyguard.htm.
- Indian Army:
- Official: http://indianarmy.nic.in/index.aspx.
- Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS): https://www.facebook.com/CIJWS/.
- Para Commandos: https://www.facebook.com/Indianparasf/.
- Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC): http://www.indianparachuteregiment.kar.nic.in/home.html.
- Army Training Command (ARTRAC): http://www.indianarmy.nic.in/Site/FormTemplete/frmTempSimple.aspx?MnId=Fqb7Jrhws56P2Wy+MfYa4g==&ParentID=aPjknQrvhPMr72wEmOdzJw==&flag=b6cGeW3iC5HLeW+8LtZqZw==.
- Parachute Regiment (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/pararegt.in/.
- Territorial Army: http://www.territorialarmy.in/.
- Indian Navy:
- Official Website: https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/.
- Diving School: https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/node/5063.
- INS Abhimanyu: https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/node/5059.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefewthefearless/.
- Indian Air Force: http://indianairforce.nic.in/.
- Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA): http://www.mha.nic.in/.
- Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF): http://crpf.nic.in/.
- COBRA: http://crpf.nic.in/cobra-sector.htm.
- Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBF): http://itbpolice.nic.in/itbpwebsite/index.html.
- National Security Guard (NSG): http://nsg.gov.in/.
- Special Frontier Force (SFF):
- Force One:
- Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh Police:
- Cabinet Secretariat: http://www.cabsec.nic.in/index.php.
6.2 Useful Publications
- Katoch, P.C. & Datta, S. (2013) India’s Special Forces: History and Future of Special Forces. New Delhi: Vij Books India.
- Summer, I. & Chappell, M. (2001) The Indian Army, 1914-1947. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd.
- Sinha, D. & Balakrishnan, R. (2016) Employment of India’s Special Operations Forces. ORF Issue Brief, No.150. June 2016. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ORF_IssueBrief_150_SinhaBalakrishnan.pdf. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
- Katoch, P.C. (2011) Indian Special Forces: 2030. CLAWS Journal. Winter 2011, pp.33-40. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.claws.in/images/journals_doc/1395292151PC%20Katoch%20%20CJ%20Winter%202011.pdf. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
- Chandramohan, B. (2013) The Indian Special Forces: An Evolving Approach. Strategic Analysis Paper. Available from World Wide Web: http://futuredirections.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/FDI_Strategic_Analysis_Paper_-_28_March_2013.pdf. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
- Joint Doctrine for Special Forces Operations (JP-5), HQ IDS, 2008
- Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy, Naval Strategic Publication (NSP) 1.2. Integrated HQ, MOD (Navy). October 2015.
- Rinaldi, R.A. (2008) Indian Army Airborne/Special Forces Units. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.orbat.info/cimh/regiments/Indian%20Army%20AirborneSF.pdf. [Accessed: 03 February, 2017].
First aired in August 2016, the Discovery Channel’s ‘India’s Paratroopers: Earning the Badge’, provides the viewer with some insight to the rigorous training process undertaken by those aspiring to be EF and SF soldiers.
Chandramohan, B. (2013) The Indian Special Forces: An Evolving Approach. Strategic Analysis Paper. Available from World Wide Web: http://futuredirections.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/FDI_Strategic_Analysis_Paper_-_28_March_2013.pdf. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
CLAWS Research Team (2011) Special Forces: De We Need a Unified Tri-Service Command? Scholar Warrior. Autumn 2011, pp.33-36. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.claws.in/images/journals_doc/1676494754_SpecialForceCLAWSResearchTeam.pdf. [Accessed: 15 December, 2016].
Datta, S. (2008) A Hit Wicket: Our Special Forces, with their Varied Commands, have no Focus. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/a-hit-wicket/239374. [Accessed: 03 February, 2017].
Datta, S. (2016) India’s Special Forces: Are We Misusing Them & Losing Precious Lives? Available from World Wide Web: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/indias-special-forces-we-misusing-them-losing-precious-saikat-datta. [Accessed: 25 January, 2017].
IDS (Integrated Defence Staff) (n.d.) Role and Organisation. Available from World Wide Web: http://ids.nic.in/organisation.htm. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
Indian Army (2017a) Combat Edge. Available from World Wide Web: http://indianarmy.nic.in/Site/FormTemplete/frmTempSimple.aspx?MnId=rc8zVE+Advq4pdbHzcfA6Q==&ParentID=DHaildV8D6ueFpwp6IZZ2w==. [Accessed: 03 February, 2017].
Indian Army (2017b) Terms and Conditions of Service. Available from World Wide Web: http://indianarmy.nic.in/writereaddata/documents/PS010113.pdf. [Accessed: 03 February, 2017].
Indian Army (2017c) ARTRAC: An Introduction. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.indianarmy.nic.in/Site/FormTemplete/frmTempSimple.aspx?MnId=Fqb7Jrhws56P2Wy+MfYa4g==&ParentID=aPjknQrvhPMr72wEmOdzJw==&flag=b6cGeW3iC5HLeW+8LtZqZw==. [Accessed: 03 February, 2017].
Indian Navy (2017) Diving School. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/content/diving-school. [Accessed: 30 January, 2017].
Katoch, P.C. & Datta, S. (2013) India’s Special Forces: History and Future of Special Forces. New Delhi: Vij Books India.
Sinha, D. & Balakrishnan, R. (2016) Employment of India’s Special Operations Forces. ORF Issue Brief, No.150. June 2016. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ORF_IssueBrief_150_SinhaBalakrishnan.pdf. [Accessed: 26 January, 2017].
Sputnik News (2016) India Approves $45Mln Plan to Add Teeth to Elite Forces for Surgical Strikes. Available from World Wide Web: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201612261049008335-india-elite-forces-surgical-strikes/. [Accessed: 25 January, 2017].