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This article is organised as follows:

  • Part 01: Introduction to Indian National Security Guard
  • Part 02: Hierarchy of NSG
  • Part 03: Organisation of NSG
  • Part 04: Recruitment, Selection and Training of NSG
  • Part 05: Miscellaneous.

1.0     Introduction

“Sarvatra Sarvottam Suraksha”
Roughly translates as ‘The Best Protection Everywhere’

This article is about India’s National Security Guard (NSG), or Black Cats as they are commonly known, considered the premier agency responsible for taking on terrorists.

national-security-guard-nsgEstablished in 1984, the Black Cats are considered the premier counter-terrorism – although the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Indian Navy have developed their own expertise in dealing with such threats – and Regional NSG hubs have been established in major metropolitan areas after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks to ensure better response times to any future attacks. The other mandate for the NSG is the protection of VIPs, hostage rescue, anti-hijacking and bomb disposal missions.

Known as the Black Cats (due to the all-black Nomex coveralls, balaclavas and assault helmets they wear), the unit is part of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) (Section 2.2).

Although the NSG mainly draws its manpower from the Indian Army, it also has personnel from other military, paramilitary and police forces.

There are also several references across the internet and news media discussing an elite unit of the NSG known as the ‘Phantom Commandos’, although not much is known about this unit except that it (supposedly) exists!

The NSG was established in the mid-eighties as an elite counter-terrorist force and is modelled on (by its own admission) the British SAS and Germany’s GSG9, both considered world-class experts in counter-terrorism.

Although NSG is tasked with handling counter-terrorism, anti-kidnapping, anti-sabotage, anti-hijacking and hostage rescue, over the years its primary focus has shifted from this to VIP protection. VIP protection is not in its charter but has been viewed as giving perks due to direct access to influential personalities; some would suggest this has had a debilitating impact on the organisation (Sinha, 2016).

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

Since its establishment, the NSG has been a 100% secondment (deputation) Force, meaning all personnel are posted on deputation from Indian Army, CAPF (Section 2.2), state police and other organisations.

1.1     Brief History of National Security Guard

national-security-guard-nsg-black-cats-5The National Security Guard was established in 1984 as a Federal Contingency Deployment Force for combating terrorist activities with a view to neutralise the threats posed by anti-National elements.

A Bill for the creation of the NSG was introduced in Parliament in August 1986 and, after receiving the assent of the President of India on 22 September1986, the NSG was formally raised as an Armed Force of the Union of India.

Since its establishment, the NSG has been a 100% secondment (deputation) Force, meaning all personnel are posted on deputation from Indian Army, CAPF (Section 2.2), state police and other organisations.

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 National Security Guard

national-security-guard-nsg-black-cats-2Sinha and Balakrishnan (2016, p.4) provide the reader with a clear statement of the role and purpose of the NSG:

“The National Security Guard (NSG) operates as an independent force and is tasked to act as a Counter Terror intervention force. It is involved in launching operations against terrorists (as witnessed during the 26/11[/2008] attacks in Mumbai), anti-hi jack operations and hostage rescue, apart from VIP protection, though the latter task is not mentioned in its charter of duties.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs (2016, p.167) states the:

“…NSG is a specialized strike Force trained in the Counter terrorism and anti-hijacking operations. It is also entrusted with the task of securing the high risk VIPs. It also acts as sky marshal for securing the domestic and international flights.”

Established as Federal Contingency Deployment Force, the NSG is a highly-specialised counter-terrorism force intended to be utilised only in exceptional circumstances, and not to subvert the role of the state police or paramilitary forces.

However, over the years its role has expanded to include:

  • Mobile security protection to influential politicians and high-risk personnel;
  • Conducting counter-terrorism operations, including anti-hijack missions, within land, sea and air environments;
  • Bomb disposal including search, detection and neutralisation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs);
  • Post-blast investigation (PBI);
  • Hostage rescue; and
  • Sky marshalling duties aboard aircraft.

“In addition to its operational tasks, the [NSG] Force provides training on special commando action, bomb disposal techniques and VIP security to personnel of the Armed Forces, CAPFs, State Police Forces and security force personnel of friendly neighbouring countries. In Delhi, NSG commandos are kept on alert at fixed locations to meet any national contingency. These commandos are also deployed for special security coverage on occasions of national importance like Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations and also during visits of foreign dignitaries and Heads of States/Government.” (MHA, 2016, p.177).

2.0     Hierarchy of National Security Guard

“A little prior to that [the 1990s], the SAGs of the NSG were proposed to be placed under the command of the army but the army did not agree, not wanting to take on the additional responsibility of anti-hijacking.” (Kotach, 2011, p.36).

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

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, 2017), 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 National Security Guard

national-security-guard-nsg-black-cats-4The Commander of the National Security Guard is known as the Director General National Security Guard (DG NSG).

The DG NSG, broadly equivalent to a Lieutenant General (OF-8), is a serving officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS); as per Indian Federal Government policy.

Between 1984 and 2014, the NSG had 28 DGs with an average tenure of just over one year. It has been suggested that none of the DGs has had experience of commanding NSG special actions groups or any other SF command experience.

However, the direct-action units within NSG are commanded by Indian Army officers, although with current policy none will be able to become the DG NSG.

3.0     Organisation of National Security Guard

As well as the traditional leadership and staff officer roles identified above, the NSG is comprised of 8,000 personnel in enabler, supporter and other roles (e.g. administrative and logistical).

NSG is modelled on Germany’s GSG 9 (Grenzschutzgruppe 9 or Border Guard Group 9) and the British SAS and is divided into several branches, as noted below:

  • Headquarters (HQ), based at Mehram Nagar, Palam, New Delhi:
    • Administration (possibly renamed Establishment Branch);
    • Intelligence Branch;
    • Operations and Training;
    • National Bomb Data Centre; and
    • Composite Hospital NSG, located at Manesar.
  • Special Action Group; and
  • Special Ranger Group.

The NSG HQ and the Training Centre are manned by a mix of personnel from all the forces. Aspects pertaining to training and operations are the domain of Army personnel while budgeting and logistics are dealt with by personnel from the paramilitary and police forces.

Regional NSG hubs have been established in major metropolitan areas after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks to ensure better response times to any future attacks (MHA, 2016). Each Hub is headed by the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Regional Hub.

  • Regional Hub Mumbai (MBI);
  • Regional Hub Chennai (CHI);
  • Regional Hub Kolkata (KOL); and
  • Regional Hub Hyderabad (HYD).

“Augmentation of four Regional hubs (at Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai & Chennai) from existing strength 241 to 460 has been approved by the Government.” (MHA, 2016, p.177).

In 2008, the Indian Express (2008a & 2008b) reported six new regional hubs and 300 vacancies. In 2009, when the Hubs were first considered, India Today (2009) reported “This has raised apprehensions that how will the government arrange for 4,000 additional trained men for these new regional centres without compromising the recruitment standards?” However, by 2015, Bedi (2015) suggests “…there are 4,000-5,000 SF personnel from the 51 and 52 Special Action Group (SAG), drawn exclusive from the army, that constitute the principal strike arm of the National Security Guard (NSG), a Federal Contingency Deployment Force that operates under the Cabinet Secretariat.”

Sinha and Balakrishnan (2016, p.8) suggest that there needs to be a reorganisation of the NSG:

“There is also a need to review the NSG, as joint functioning of Police and Army personnel has not proved particularly effective over the years. Moreover, there has been a change in the nature of how terrorists operate with the emphasis now on causing maximum damage to lives and property in the shortest period of time. These new terrorist tactics require counterterrorism doctrines to be suitably modified to meet future contingencies. There is a necessity to consider removing the SAGs from the NSG and placing them under the SOC, to ensure better utilisation of manpower. The NSG should increase the number of Ranger Groups to ensure pan-India deployment for quicker response. In the event of hostage taking, for instance, the SAGs can be requisitioned for intervention 13 operations and utilised as hither-to-fore.”

3.1     Headquarters National Security Guard

The HQ NSG is located at Mehram Nagar, near the domestic airport in Palam, New Delhi

Within the realm of the HQ NSG there are three sub-branches, which include (Hindustan Times, 2012):

  • Administration: The DG NSG is assisted by several IPS officers and civil servants for administrative matters:
    • Inspector General (Administration), broadly equivalent to a Major General (OF-7), who is assisted by a Deputy Inspector General, broadly equivalent to a Brigadier (OF-6).
    • Inspector General (HQ), assisted by a Deputy Inspector General.
    • Director (Finance), an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer with the rank of Joint Secretary, and is assisted by:
      • Deputy Director from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service; and
      • Deputy Director from the Indian Civil Account Service.
  • Intelligence Branch.
  • Operations and Training: The DG NSG is assisted by several Indian Army officers for operational and training matters:
    • Inspector General (Operations) (IG(Ops)), a Major General (OF-7) on secondment, is responsible for the planning and conduct of NSG operations. Assisted by the Deputy Inspector General (Operations), a Brigadier (OF-6).
    • Inspector General (Training) (IG(T)), a Major General (OF-7) on secondment, is located at Manesar (Gurgaon) and is responsible for the planning and delivery of NSG training. Assisted by the Deputy Inspector General (Training), a Brigadier (OF-6).
    • Deputy Inspector General (Communications), a Brigadier (OF-6) from the Indian Army Corps of Signals, is responsible for the communications systems used by NSG.
  • National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC): A nodal agency covering all facets of Bombing incidents in India.
  • Composite Hospital.

3.2     Special Action Group

national-security-guard-nsg-black-cats-6The Special Action Group (SAG), described by some as the Special Activities Group, is the combat arm of NSG and is comprised entirely of selected personnel, both officers and other ranks, from the Indian Army.

The SAG is organised as follows (Hindustan Times, 2012):

  • HQ;
  • 51 SAG for counter-terrorism operations;
  • 52 SAG for counter-hijack operations;
  • Training wing; and
  • Support units.

The smallest operational unit within the SAG is called a ‘hit’ and is usually commanded by a non-commissioned officer (NCO). A hit has five members consisting of two pairs and a technical support member. Four hits make a team which is usually commanded by a Captain (OF-2).

Depending on the operational requirements, several teams may operate together.

“Post 26/11[/2008], the NSG has expanded manifold albeit with much less contribution from the army, particularly against the demand of provisioning some 434 additional officers. An NSG hub has come up at Mumbai and a similar hub is being established in Kolkata. Plans to add two more SAGs and an equal number of SRGs have been toned down to one SAG and one SRG for the present.” (Kotach, 2011, p.35-36).

One web source suggests that when the NSG was established, it was intended to replace all Indian Army personnel in the SAG with paramilitary personnel after a short period (Sinha, 2016).

3.3     Special Ranger Group

The Special Ranger Group (SRG) is the supporter arm of NSG and is comprised entirely of personal drawn from seconded paramilitary forces of the Central Armed Police Forces [LINK] and state police forces.

The SRG is organised along battalion lines with approximately 900 personnel in each, and includes: 11 SRG; 12 SRG; and 13 SRG.

Initially, the SRGs mandate was to provide logistical support to the SAG during operations, such as cordons. However, they have also been utilised to provide VIP security duties.

However, it was reported in The Times of India (2012) that “the 11 SRG will be taken out from its present task and converted into a regular SAG-like unit for undertaking specific counter-terror operations.” It was also reported that 12 SRG may be converted also (The Times of India, 2012).

3.4     National Bomb Data Centre

Established in 1988, the National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) is headed by the Director NBDC, a Colonel (OF-5) on secondment from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.

The NBDC, located in Manesar, has the following responsibilities (MHA, 2016):

  • Collect, collate, analyse and evaluate all terrorist bombing activities reported in India and abroad.
    • Conducts Post Blast Studies in various parts of the country, mostly on request from the State authorities.
  • Disseminate relevant information to concerned law enforcement agencies, as required.
    • It maintains a data bank on explosives and incidents of blasts, for use by the Security Forces in the country.
  • Remain abreast with the latest techniques in the field of terrorist bombings in India & abroad.
    • NBDC regularly interacts with other Bomb Data Centres of the world.
    • The NBDC also organises an international seminar every year and publishes a professional journal ‘Bombshell’ on explosion related issues.
  • Compile and disseminate periodic statistical data and analytical information on terrorist bombing activities.
  • Carryout limited research and innovation in the field of bomb disposal.
  • Research and develop concepts for dealing with terrorist bomb threat situations.

4.0     Selection and Training

national-security-guard-nsg-black-cats-3Application for the National Security Guard is made by male volunteers of the Indian Army for the SAG, male volunteers of the paramilitary and police forces for the SRG, and male and female volunteers for the various support roles (e.g. administration and logistics).

This section focuses on the selection and training of Indian Army personnel applying for the SAG.

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

  • Phase 1: Pre-Selection.
  • Phase 2: Selection/Initial Qualification Training (Basic NSG Training).
  • Phase 3: Advanced NSG Training.

Phase 1 primarily consists of administration and eligibility criteria. The training undertaken during Phase 2 and 3 is approximately 14 months in duration, 3 and 9 months respectively.

There are several websites which state that SAG personnel are reputedly recruited by the Research and Analysis Wing or R&AW, India’s external intelligence agency (needs verification).

4.1     Pre-Selection

The first phase on the journey to becoming a member of NSG is pre-selection.

Candidates must meet several pre-selection criteria before applying to NSG, which vary depending on whether the candidate is from the Indian Army or IPS/paramilitary forces, and includes:

  • Age factor;
  • Service experience factor;
  • Education factor;
  • Physical standards;
  • Health factor;
  • Training factor; and
  • Service factor (i.e. behaviour).

Ranks in the NSG range from junior commissioned officer to team commander. Aspirants for entry-level positions are required to be less than 30 years old and should have a minimum of 2 years in the defence services. There are also several physical and psychological tests to assess suitability for service in the NSG.

4.2     Basic NSG Training

The training of both SAG and SRG candidates is conducted by the NSG officers and NCOs drawn from the Indian Army.

Selection is reportedly demanding; however, commentators diverge on the exact dropout rate varying between 50% to 80% (some suggest 50%-70%, others 70%-80%).

Training lasts approximately 14 months and is delivered at the National Security Guard Training Centre located at Manesar, Haryana, approximately 50 km from New Dehli. The first three months (90 days) are devoted to basic NSG training, whilst advanced training is nine months in duration.

It has been reported that physical training during basic NSG training is delivered through 26 elements, ranging from a cross-country obstacle course to jumping from heights and across divides and scaling different kinds of terrain. One endurance test reportedly involves martial arts and target shooting at the end of an obstacle-ridden cross-country run. This is meant to gauge the candidate’s performance under conditions of stress and exhaustion.

Training also includes weapon handling using a variety of small arms/specialised weapons specific to anti-terror/anti-hijack operations, as well as communication equipment.

Those who successfully complete basic NSG training can progress on to advanced NSG training.

4.3     Advanced NSG Training

Advanced NSG training lasts for approximately nine months, and includes the following:

  • Unarmed combat and knife combat;
  • Surveillance and intelligence gathering;
  • Demolition and bomb disposal techniques;
  • Specialised insertion techniques; and
  • Rapid and reflex shooting, and mirror shooting etc.

Advanced training also covers ‘combat room shoot’ in which candidates must enter a dark room, adjust their vision to the darkness and shoot at a target within three seconds by torchlight or a compatible laser image intensifier. Similar training is also conducted under discotheque strobe lights (think nightclub). Shooting skills are honed at an electronic combat shooting range which is divided into 11 zones and spread over 400 metres. Candidates must cover the distance in 6.30 minutes and fire at 29 dynamic targets along the way, with the target exposure time between two and three seconds and the targets are of all kinds. The faster a candidate engages the various targets, the more points they score. It is not just non-reactive targets that they practice against. In twin room shooting, rival combatants enter contiguous rooms and watch each other’s movements on a screen. They are supposed to neutralise each other by shooting at the screen. This exercise tests the combatant’s response time and accuracy under near-field conditions. The candidates are also put through a battle inoculation programme where they must stand right next to the target while one of their follow candidates shoots at it.

4.4     Graduation

Only those candidates who successfully complete the 14 months of training are inducted into the NSG and given further specialised training. Some NSG personnel are sent to Israel for advanced training. Though it is not known exactly what training they receive, it could probably be the CT/HRT course with Unit 707.

Upon graduation, candidates will generally serve with NSG for 3-5 years before returning to their parent organisation.

5.0     Miscellaneous

5.1     Useful Links

5.2     Useful Publications

5.3     References

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

Hindustan Times. (2012) NSG Gets 3 Army Officers for Terror Ops, Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/nsg-gets-3-army-officers-for-terror-ops-training/story-K2YX6fUNTfpjRZg4Z59U2J.html. [Accessed: 15 February, 2017].

India Today. (2009) Modernising the NSG. Available from World Wide Web: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Modernising+the+NSG/1/24796.html. [Accessed: 15 February, 2017].

Indian Express. (2008a) Elite German Police Wing to Train NSG. Available from World Wide Web: http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/elite-german-police-wing-to-train-nsg/400650/. [Accessed: 15 February, 2017].

Indian Times. (2008b) Centre Clears NSG for Six Cities. Available from World Wide Web: http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/centre-clears-nsg-for-six-cities/392506/. [Accessed: 15 February, 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].

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

MHA (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].

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].

Sinha, D. (2016) Revamp National Security Guard. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/revamp-national-security-guard.html. [Accessed: 15 February, 2107].

The Times of India. (2012) NSG to pull out 900 commandos from VIP security for Counterterror Operations Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/NSG-to-pull-out-900-commandos-from-VIP-security-for-counterterror-operations-training/articleshow/14552227.cms?referral=PM. [Accessed: 15 February, 2017].