Parachute Regiment (India)

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The Parachute Regiment
ParasIndia.JPG
The Parachute Regiment
Active 1952 - Present
Country India India
Allegiance Indian Army
Branch Army
Type Parachute infantry and Special Forces
Role Airborne/Special Forces
Size 17 Battalions (9 Special Forces, 5 Special Forces Airborne , 2 Territorial Army and 1 Rashtriya Rifles)
Regimental Centre Bangalore, Karnataka
Nickname The Paras (red devil)
Motto Shatrujeet (The Conqueror)
Colors Maroon and sky blue
Equipment TAR 21 (Primary)
Decorations

AC-07
MVC-11
KC-13
PVSM-07
UYSM-06
AVSM-13
VrC-61
SC-53
YSM-10
VSM-28
SM-246
• Bar to SM-05

MiD-265 [1]
Battle honours

Post Independence

Shelatang, Naushera, Poonch, Jhanger, Hajipir, Poongli Bridge, Mandhol, and Chachro
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lt Gen NKS Ghei
Notable
commanders
Lt Gen IS Gill, PVSM, AVSM, MC
Lt Gen RS Dayal, PVSM, MVC, ADC
Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Padma Bhushan, PVSM
Lt Gen PC Katoch, UYSM, AVSM, SC
Lt Gen PC Bhardwaj, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, SC, VSM,
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, AVSM, SM.
Insignia
Regimental Insignia An open parachute with wings spread out and a dagger placed upright, between the wings.

The Parachute Regiment is the Special Forces/airborne regiment of the Indian Army.

Indian and US paratrooper during Yudh Abhyas 2013.

History[edit]

The first Indian airborne formation was the 50 Independent Parachute Brigade raised on 29 October 1941 with 151 British, 152 Indian, and 153 Gurkha Parachute Battalions and other support units.

Lt (later Col Retd) AG Rangaraj, MVC, of the Indian Medical Service and RMO of the 152 Indian Para Bn, became the first Indian along with Hav Maj Mathura Singh to make a parachute descent. In 1942-43, the formation saw limited action at Nara against the Pathan tribals in NWFP and some intelligence-gathering missions in Burma, utilizing their somewhat-limited airborne capabilities. Later, in March 1944, less the British battalion (which was transferred to Britain and renamed the 156th Para Bn and formed part of the 4th Parachute Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division), the brigade, less 154 Gurkha Para Bn, saw extensive action at Sangshak and later in the Imphal Plains on the Burmese border against two reinforced Japanese divisions. 154 Gurkha Para Bn, had not completed its air training, stayed back to attain the airborne status.

During the Battle of Sangshak (21–26 March 1944), which lasted six days, the brigade suffered extremely heavy casualties totalling 40 officers and VCOs and 545 other ranks, winning the appreciation of Lt Gen William Slim, the commander of British Fourteenth Army. The breakout on the night of 26 March 1944, saw the remnants of the once-proud parachute brigade fight its way south and then west through the Japanese-infested jungles to Imphal. But it achieved its task of keeping the outflanking Japanese forces from surrounding Imphal and destroying IV Corps. Despite the losses it suffered in Sangshak, the paratroopers formed ad hoc units and continued to participate in actions to destroy Japanese forces near and around Imphal until its withdrawal in July end.

Later in 1944, the brigade was expanded to form the 44th Indian Airborne Division as the original 9th Airborne Division was to be named because the 44th Armoured Division whose services were no longer required in the Middle East theatre of war was to be converted to airborne. The two ad hoc brigades from the Chindit operations, 14th and the 77th, were included to form the division. The original plan was to have a battalion each of British, Indian and Gurkhas in both the parachute brigades, with the 14th being converted for the airLanding role, though there is little known about gliderborne training or operations in India. 14 was later to be converted for the airborne role. The Governor General's Body Guard (GGBG) joined the airborne fraternity and named 44th Airborne Division Reconnaissance Squadron. 9 Field Regiment (RIA) and other support units too were inducted. 60th Indian Parachute Field Ambulance which till then had been in Burma and performed well, was selected to augment the medical element for the formation. The 44th Indian Airborne Division was finally designated the 2nd Indian Airborne Division in 1945. The plan was to raise an entire Airborne Corps with the 6 British Airborne Division (of D-Day/Normandy fame) to be brought to India as the second divisional formation), but the war ended before it could materialize.

The Indian Parachute Regiment was established on March 1, 1945, as the regiment to which its Indian and Gurkha parachute battalions would belong.[2] 152nd Indian Parachute Bn was split to form the 1st Parachute Bn consisting of Hindu troops and the Muslims troops forming the 4th Para Bn, while 153rd and 154th Gurkha Para Bns being renamed the 2nd and 3rd Bns respectively. Four independent parachute companies were also raised to complete the regiment, one each as a defence company for the divisional HQ and the brigade HQs and named thus.

The regiment's first airborne action was towards the end of the Second World War, when a reinforced Gurkha Parachute Bn was parachuted into Burma at Elephant Point on May 1, 1945, as part of Operation Dracula. The Bn performed well earning the respect of all, including the critics of airborne warfare. Despite the performance, the Indian Parachute Regiment was disbanded in late 1945 as part of the reduction and restructuring of the postwar British Indian Army.

They train at Paratrooper Training School Agra.

Insignia[edit]

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.

The special forces, which form part of the Parachute Regiment, have a distinct insignia called Balidaan, which has a commando dagger point downwards, with upward-extending wings extending from the blade and a scroll superimposed on the blade with “Balidaan” inscribed in Devanagiri; the whole in silver metal on an upright red plastic rectangle. The special forces personnel also wear a maroon curved shoulder title with SPECIAL FORCES embroidered in light blue, succeeding the COMMANDO tab in 2006 with was in use since inception.

There remains a single airborne brevet: an open parachute in white, with light blue wings extended from it, the whole on a grey-green drab background. (Some other variants have existed for ceremonial/mess uniforms, e.g., with gold wired wings on a maroon flanel, the same on a scarlet background for the PBG on their ceremonial tunics. This was formerly worn on the upper right sleeve but since, 1975 appears above the right chest pocket and name tab. There is also a small enameled version (white parachute with blue, yellow, or red wings) worn on the left pocket as Jump Indicator Wings (for 25, 50 or 100 descents, respectively). The small enameled badge has now been replaced by a brass badge with stars at the bottom of the parachute, with one star denoting 25 jumps, two stars 50 and three stars 100.

Post War developments[edit]

Indian independence, partition and formation of Pakistan[edit]

On Independence in 1947, the airborne division was divided between the Indian Army and the army of the newly formed Pakistan, with India retaining the Divisional HQ and the 50th and the 77th Parachute Brigades with the 14 Parachute Brigade (converted from the 14th Airlanding Brigade) going to Pakistan. The 77th Indian Parachute Brigade was later disbanded. On April 15, 1952, the Parachute Regiment was re-raised by absorbing the three infantry battalions which formed the 50th Parachute Brigade and had been carrying out parachute duties post the disbandment of the regiment. These units had continued to wear the uniform of their parent regiments except for a change in headgear [2] to maroon beret, the crown of the airborne worldwide and to distinguish them from the other battalions of their regiments, the word 'PARA' added after the name, namely:

  • 1st Battalion the Punjab Regiment (PARA), later 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (Punjab)
  • 3rd Battalion, the Maratha Light Infantry (PARA), later 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (Maratha).
  • 1st Battalion, the Kumaon Regiment (PARA), later 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (Kumaon).

Kashmir operations[edit]

Both 50th and 77th Parachute Brigades saw extensive action in the Kashmir operations of 1947-49. The three parachute battalions and the support units of the 50th Para Bde saw extensive action in the 1947-48 war in Kashmir and the battalions won a battle honour each in their respective sectors. The brigade commander, Brig. Mohd. Usman, was killed in action on July 3, 1948, and awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously.

60 Parachute Field Ambulance as part of the 50 Para Bde also saw action in Kashmir where it raised and maintained the now famous Cariappa Hospital catering to the needs of numerous units in its vicinity (27 Indian Army and State Forces battalions along with other units) and constantly faced shortages due to the war situation and inclement weather conditions. The unit's performance like other units of the parachute brigade was beyond all expectations and resulted in the awarding of numerous gallantry awards, including a Vir Chakra to Capt V. Rangaswami, the surgeon.

60 Parachute Field Ambulance and the Korean War[edit]

South Korean 500 won stamp issued in 1951 commemorating the role of the Indian 60PFA during the Korean War 1950-1953

With the communist invasion of South Korea in 1950, the UN sent out a call to the free world for assistance. India decided not to get involved militarily but contributed a medical unit, the 60 Parachute Field Ambulance (60 PFA) which served in Korea for a total of four years. 60 PFA was involved in providing medical cover to the forces of the UN Command as well as the ROK Army and local civilians, and earned the title, "The Maroon Angels". The unit also looked after the North Korean POWs.

The highlight of the tenure undoubtedly was when the unit provided their services during Operation Tomahawk on 21 March 1951 to the US Army’s 187 Airborne Regimental Combat Team for which the unit was awarded two Mahavir Chakras, one bar to Vir Chakra and six Vir Chakras. and a host of other Indian and international individual and unit decorations. These included the unit citations from the US and South Korean Army chiefs, commendations from the Commonwealth Division as well as the British commanders.

There was a special mention of the unit in the House of Lords in the British Parliament in London. The 12 members of the unit who participated in the airborne operation were also awarded the US parachute wings. On their return to India, the unit was awarded the President's Trophy by the first President of the Republic of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 10 March 1955 at Agra, the first one of its kind and the only one to date. The troops of the unit were also awarded 25 Mentioned-in-Despatches.

Reraising after independence[edit]

Raising of Parachute Regiment[edit]

In April 1952, these battalions were rebadged as the new Parachute Regiment along with its own depot and records and were taken away from their parent regiments. A new formation sign "Shatrujit" replaced the Pegasus (with India on the lower half) which the airborne formation had continued to use until 1952.

On the raising of the Parachute Regiment Depot in 1952 the three battalions were designated as follows:

  • 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (Punjab).
  • 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (Maratha).
  • 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (Kumaon).

Of the original units of 50 Parachute Brigade, only two exist as of date, namely 411 Parachute Field Company of the Bombay Sappers, the oldest parachute unit of the Indian Army and 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company. The original medical unit, 80 Parachute Field Ambulance was 'deparaed' and only one field ambulance, 60 Parachute Field Ambulance (now 60 Parachute Field Hospital) was retained in the airborne role. The other minor units followed suit. The Governor General's Body Guard was retained in the pathfinder role.

The 4th Battalion was raised on 1 August 1961 as the need was felt to increase the strength of the Regiment.

After the Chinese debacle of 1962 when the need to have a larger army was felt, the Parachute Regiment too had its share of expansion with the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th battalions being raised in a span of two years. A second parachute brigade, the 51st, was also raised to compliment the 50th Brigade but was reverted to normal infantry role in 1976.

Meghdoot Force and the raising of the Para Commandos[edit]

In the 1965 war, a small band of volunteers under a Guards officer, Maj Megh Singh, performed feats which necessitated it to be formed into a special operations unit. Originally to form part of the Brigade of the Guards, but due to the parachute qualification being an essential part of commando training, the unit was transferred to the Parachute Regiment and raised as the 9th Battalion (Commando), The Parachute Regiment on July 1, 1966. On July 1, 1967, the battalion was split into two and both brought up to strength as the 9th and the 10th Para Commando Battalions. In 1978, 1st Para Bn, was designated as the third commando battalion. The three commando battalions performed in all theatres of combat India was involved in. The IPKF operations in Sri Lanka necessitated the three battalions to be integrated for smooth conduct and coordination of operations and the HQ Special Forces was raised. On 1 February 1996, 21st Battalion, the Maratha Light Infantry was officially redesignated as the 21st Battalion (Special Forces) though it was under conversion since 1994.

In 1999, 2 Para Bn was also converted to Special Forces followed a few years later by the 3rd and the 4th battalions. In 2010, 11 Para SF was raised in Agra to augment the strength of the special forces.

1971 War[edit]

In 1971, the regiment saw numerous actions both in the eastern and western theatres. For the first time in the annals of independent India's history, a para battalion group (2 Para Bn Gp) was dropped at Tangail, which contributed substantially to speeding up the liberation of Bangladesh. Elements of the 2nd Bn became the first Indian troops to enter Dhaka. The Para Commandos proved their professional skills by conducting spectacular lightning raids into Chachro (Sindh, Pakistan) and Mandhol (Jammu and Kashmir). The Regiment earned battle honours Poongli Bridge, Chachro, Mandhol and Defence of Poonch during these operations. While the 51 Para Brigade saw action in Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, 50th Parachute Brigade saw action initially in Bangladesh with 2 PARA in the airborne role and 7 PARA as the advance guard and the rest of the brigade in a ground role and then moved to assist its sister brigade in the western sector, thus becoming the only formation to see action on both fronts.

1980-present[edit]

Operation Pawan[edit]

Five Parachute battalions (including the three Para Commando battalions) took part in Operation Pawan, the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka.

Operation Cactus[edit]

Main article: Operation Cactus

With 6 PARA as its spearhead and 7 PARA as reserve, the 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade took part in Operation Cactus in November 1988, the first successful overseas intervention operation since Korea to aid the duly elected government of Maldives.

Counter insurgency operations[edit]

Parachute battalions have been employed in counter-insurgency role, both in North East and Jammu & Kashmir, earning fifteen COAS Unit Citations. The Ashok Chakra, India's highest gallantry award in peace, has been awarded posthumously to Capt Arun Jasrotia, SM (1996), Major Sudhir Kumar Walia, SM** (2000), Ptr Sanjog Chhetri (2003), all from 9 Para (Special Forces), Capt. R. Harshan of 2 Para (Special Forces), Hav Bahadur Singh Bohra (2008), Hav Gajendra Singh (2009), the last two belonging to 10 Para (Special Forces). 9 Para (Special Forces) has been conferred the "Bravest of the Brave" honour in 2001. In 2009, Capt. Shabir Malik was posthumously awarded the Kirti Chakra for his determination, grit, cool confidence and raw courage in the face of enemy in the highest spirit and traditions of the Indian Army and the Regiment. Maj Mohit Sharma of 1 Para (SF) became the latest recipient (Posthumous) of the Ashok Chakra of the regiment in 2010.

Operation Vijay[edit]

Main article: Kargil War

In 1999, nine out of ten parachute battalions were deployed for OP Vijay in Kargil, which bears testimony to the operational profile of the regiment. While elements of the parachute brigade (6 PARA & 7 PARA )cleared the Mushkoh Valley intrusions, 5 Para was actively involved in the forgotten sector Batalik, where it exhibited great courage and tenacity, and was awarded the COAS unit citation.

United Nations operations[edit]

Calls of international peacekeeping have taken parachute units to Korea (1950–54), Gaza (1956–58), UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone (2000), Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia/Eritrea. The operations in Sierra Leone involved a daring rescue mission conducted by the 2 PARA (SF). The parachute battalions also have officers/PBOR serving in staff or as observers with various United Nations missions. Also of note is that the recent Military Advisor to the UN Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping Operations was Lt Gen Karia, who belongs to the Parachute Regiment of the Indian Army.

Paratroopers in mountaineering and first at The South Pole[edit]

The Parachute Regiment has been active in the field of mountaineering for very long. The late Capt (later Col Retd) Avtar Singh Cheema, SM of 7 PARA was the first Indian atop Mount Everest in 1965. Capt. Abhijeet Singh from 7 PARA also sumitted the peak while Colonel Saurabh Singh Shekhawat, KC, SC, SM, VSM scaled the peak thrice (2001, 2003 & 2005) apart from scaling peaks in the French Alps and in Africa.

The Parachute Regiment scaled Nanda Devi in 1981 when they attempted both main and East peaks simultaneously. The southwest face of Nanda Devi East was climbed for the first time, but both summitters, Premjit Lal and Phu Dorjee, were killed in the descent. Three others – Daya Chand, Ram Singh, and Lakha Singh – also fell to their deaths, leading to the highest ever number of casualties on the mountain.

Maj Jai Bahuguna, a famous climber of the Corps of Engineers who died on Everest, also served with the 50th Parachute Brigade. Maj Gen (then Maj) Mohd Amin Nayak and Col (then Capt) Anand Swaroop, SM also of the Corps of Engineers, summitted Nanda Devi in 1993. Maj N Linyu of 60 Para is the first lady officer paratrooper who has participated in numerous expeditions in the Himalayas. She summitted the Everest in May 2012. She is also an accomplished skydiver.

Col JK Bajaj,SM,VSM, a Para EME who commanded 2 (Indep) Para Field Wksp became the First Asian (Indian) to Ski to The South Pole with the Overland International Expedition to plant The Indian Flag at The South Pole on 17th Jan 1989. Col Balwant Sandhu and Col JK Bajaj have commanded the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi.

Strength[edit]

The regiment has a total of 11 regular, one Rashtriya Rifles and two territorial army battalions; of the regular bns, four are Special Forces (Airborne) battalions, while eight are special forces battalions. Formerly designated "commando" units, they are now designated special forces:

  • 1st Battalion (Special Forces) - ex 1st Battalion, 2nd Punjab Regiment Raised 1761, conversion to Special Forces 1978
  • 2nd Battalion (Special Forces) - ex 3rd Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry raised 1797, conversion to Special Forces 2000
  • 3rd Battalion (Special Forces) - ex 1st Battalion, Kumaon Regiment raised 1813, conversion to Special Forces 2002
  • 4th Battalion (Special Forces) raised 1961, conversion to Special Forces 2003.
  • 5th Battalion (Airborne) raised 1963
  • 6th Battalion (Airborne) raised 1963
  • 7th Battalion (Airborne) raised 1963
  • 9th Battalion (Special Forces) raised 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion.
  • 10th Battalion (Special Forces) raised in 1967 as 10th Parachute Commando battalion from 9 Para Cdo.
  • 11th Battalion (Special Forces) raised in 2011
  • 12th Battalion (Special Forces) raised in 2013
  • 21st Battalion (Special Forces) - ex 21st Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry raised 1985, conversion to Special Forces 1996
  • 23rd Battalion (Rajput) (Airborne) raised 2013
  • 29th Battalion (RajRif)(Airborne) raised 2013
  • 106th Infantry Battalion (Para) Territorial Army
  • 116th Infantry Battalion (Para) Territorial Army
  • 31st Battalion (Commando) - Rashtriya Rifles

Three of the Special Forces battalions were originally trained for use in certain environments; 1st Bn [strategic reserve], 9th Bn [mountain] and 10th Bn [desert] and the 21st Bn [jungle]. Currently, all Special Forces battalions are cross trained for all environments.

The 8th Battalion became 16th Battalion, Mahar Regiment in 1976 before reconverting to the 12th Battalion, Mechanised Infantry Regiment. A sizable part of the battalion was retained in the airborne role for some time, forming the armoured element of the 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade and equipped with their BMP2 Infantry Combat Vehicles. But due to administrative and logistic reasons, it was discontinued and their role being taken over by the para battalions themselves, with a platoon strength of each battalion being trained and equipped for the mechanized role within the brigade.

The 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade comprises the following units:

  • 02 Special Forces Airborne
  • 01 Special Forces
  • 01 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
  • 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade Provost Section.

The President's Body Guard also forms part of the brigade as the pathfinders company.

The Special Forces (Airborne) units in rotation form part of the parachute brigade alternatively serving their field tenures in counter-insurgency/high altitude areas. One of the eight SF battalions too serves in the brigade on rotation. One of the two field regiments (9 Para Fd Regt and 17 Para Fd Regt) also forms part of the brigade while the other serves out its field tenure on rotation.

The two Territorial Army battalions, 106th (Bangalore) and 116th (Deolali) form the airborne element of the Terriers (as the Territorial Army is popularly known) and are presently involved in COIN operations.

31st Battalion (Commando), Rashtriya Rifles, is also affiliated to the Parachute Regiment, for special operations conducted by the counter-insurgency force.

Regimental details[edit]

  • Regimental Centre: Bangalore with the airborne training establishment at Agra. Recruit training is imparted at Bangalore whereas parachute training is imparted at Agra jointly with the Paratroopers Training School of the Air Force.
  • Regimental Insignia: An open parachute with wings spread out and a dagger placed upright, between the wings. The badge was designed by Capt (later Lt. Gen) ML Tuli in 1951. The other badge, called Balidaan (Sacrifice), is worn on the right chest pocket and is the special forces qualification badge and used by the eight Parachute (Special Forces) Battalions.
  • Also worn by the special forces personnel are cloth patches on both the upper shoulders in maroon with "SPECIAL FORCES" inscribed in light blue.
  • Formation sign: A light blue Shatrujit (the Indian version of the Belerophone) half horse and half man with wings and a bow and arrow in ready position, signifying the operational readiness of the brigade, on a maroon background.

Honorary Officers[edit]

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni was commissioned into the 106 Para TA Bn with the Hon. Rank of Major by the President of India on 1 Nov 2011
  • Deepak Rao was commissioned into the 116 Para TA Bn with the Hon. Rank of Major by the President of India on 1 Nov 2011. He is cited to be Indias foremost pioneer and specialist in Close Quarter Warfare by the Indian Ministry of Defence.[3][4] His method of Reflex shooting has been used to modernize close quarter combat shooting in Northern Command and Eastern Command under directive of Army commanders.

References

  1. ^ "Parachute Regiment on Indian Army website". 
  2. ^ a b "Welcome to The Parachute Regiment". Indianparachuteregiment.kar.nic.in. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  3. ^ "Ministry of Defence, India - Press release". http://pib.nic.in. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  4. ^ "Ministry of Defence - Report". http://pib.nic.in. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 

External links[edit]