Garud Commando Force

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Garud Commando Force
Founded6 February 2004 (2004-02-06) - present
Country India
Branch Indian Air Force
TypeSpecial Forces
Classified, India
Motto(s)॥प्रहार से सुरक्षा॥(Translation: Defence by Offence)
EngagementsMONUC (Congo)
Security during Aero India 2005/2007/2011/2013
Kashmir conflict
2016 Pathankot attack
Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
Decorations1 Ashok Chakra, 8 Shaurya Chakra
Special Forces shoulder tab
Sleeve patch

The Garud Commando Force is the special forces unit of the Indian Air Force. It was formed in February 2004 and has a current strength of over 1500 personnel.[1][2][3] The unit derives its name from Garuda, a Hindu deity.

Garud forces are tasked with the protection of critical Air Force bases and installations, search and rescue, and disaster relief during calamities.[4] In 2004, Garuds were deployed in Congo[5] as part of the UN peace keeping operations.


IAF Garud commando

After attempts by terrorists to attack two major air bases in Jammu and Kashmir in 2001, Indian Air Force commanders felt the need for a specialized force to protect these critical elements and to have a dedicated Commando Force trained in Special Forces techniques, Combat Search and Rescue, Reconnaissance, Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations and Emergency in response to terror-threats to airfields.

While the Army might have provided some Special forces units to the Air Force, its units were always subject to being posted out on rotation to other areas as per the Army's requirements. It was felt that the specialized training the air force would have provided such units would have to be repeated again and again for the replacement units.

The initial plans mooted in October 2001 called for a specialized force with 2000 commandos. The group was originally called "Tiger Force", but was later renamed as "Garud Force".[6]

In order to address the need for a dedicated force, in September 2003, the Government of India authorized a 1080 strong force to be raised and trained on the lines of the Para SF of the Army and MARCOS of the Indian Navy,[4] with the mandate of performing niche, Air Force specific operational tasks.

Soon after, the first batch of 100 volunteers from the IAF No.1 Airmen Training Center at Belgaum, Karnataka were earmarked to undergo Garud Training at Gurgaon. The Garuds were first unveiled on 6 February 2004, when the first batch of 62 "Air Commandos" passed out of training in New Delhi.[7][8][9] The Garuds were first seen publicly during the Air Force Day celebrations at New Delhi on 8 October 2004.[10]

In the aftermath of the Pathankot Terror Attack, Indian Air Force decided to raise ten additional squadrons of Garud commandos, comprising about 700 personnel, bringing the total strength of the force to 1780.[2][3][11]


The mandated tasks of the Garuds include direct action, special reconnaissance, rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory, establishing airbases in hostile territory and providing air-traffic control to these airbases.[12] The Garuds also undertake suppression of enemy air defenses and the destruction of other enemy assets such as radars, evaluation of the outcomes of Indian airstrikes and use laser designators to guide Indian airstrikes.[13] The security of IAF installations and assets are usually performed by the Air Force Police and the Defence Security Corps even though some critical assets are protected by the Garuds.[14]

Garud Commandos at Exercise Vayu Shakti 2019.

Their airbase protection task also includes, when necessary, rendering inaccessible weapons systems and other assets by sealing them off.[6][15] The tasks they perform also includes counter-terrorism, airborne assault, anti-hijacking, hostage rescue and assist civilian relief operations during calamities.[16][15]


Garud Commandos.

Garud personnel are enlisted as airmen in the Indian Air Force. The Garud commandos are organised into fifteen 'flights'. These flights are deployed at air force stations. Each flight is led by an officer who holds the rank of a Squadron Leader or a Flight Lieutenant and is composed of around 60 to 70 men who usually operate in squads of 14 soldiers. The Garud Commando Force has a reported strength of over 1500 personnel as of 2017.[17][14] A Wing Commander rank officer commands the force.[18] Additional personnel are planned to be added to the force.[19]


Airmen Selection Process[edit]

A Garud Commando of IAF during a training exercise in USA, 2008.

Unlike its counterparts in the Army and Navy, candidates for Garud Commandos are not selected from volunteers of other branches. Recruitment to the Garuds is done directly through airmen selection centres via advertisements.

Candidates found eligible for the force is put through a process of rigorous physical training. Candidates have only one chance to become a Garud trainee. Once a recruit completes training and meets required standards, he is absorbed into the Commando force and is retained in this stream throughout his career.

Wherever he is posted in the IAF, he will be part of a Garud Unit. This approach ensures that the Commando Force retains its highly trained men all through their career with the IAF.

The first batch of Officers for the Garuds were volunteers from the Cadets of the Ground Duty Officers course being trained at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal, Telangana. These officers on successful completion have been absorbed into Garud Force and will be permanently assigned to the force until the point they reach senior ranks and go for higher postings.

Training is also conducted at Commando Wing, Belgaum along with the Indian Army at their Infantry School (Junior Leaders Wing).


Garud Commandos para-dropping at Exercise Iron Fist at Pokhran in 2013.

Garud trainees undergo a 72-week training. The Basic Training course, which is the longest among all the Indian special forces but it also includes basic training. The total duration of training before a trainee can qualify as a fully operational Garud is around 3 years.

The initial phase is a three-month probationary training which filters in the promising candidates for the next phases of training. This phase, which usually has a high attrition (Drop-out) rate is conducted at the Garud Regimental Training Centre located at Hindon, Ghaziabad near New Delhi.

The subsequent phase of special operations training is imparted by the Special Frontier Force, the Army's Para SF and NSG. Those who qualify, proceed to the Parachute Training School (PTS) at Agra to complete the basic airborne phase. Trainees are trained along with paratroopers of the Indian Army.

The remainder of the phases concentrates on niche fields like jungle and snow survival, demolition, etc. Garuds also train at the diving school of the Indian Navy and the Army's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS). The final phase of training is active operations on being attached to the Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army, which helps the Garuds in gaining operational experience.

After induction, the commandos also undergo advanced training including anti-hijack counter-insurgency training, jungle and snow survival techniques, specialized weapon handling and advanced diving skills.[20]

Uniforms and insignia[edit]

Garud airmen wear the "Airman Beret Badge" on the cap. They are also parachute trained, and wear the para wings above the right pocket. The "Garud Force Patch" can be seen worn on the sleeve. The Garud Commando Badge, which was worn on the right pocket and resembles the NSG badge, is no longer in use. Instead they now have a Garud Winged Badge which is gold in colour and worn on the left chest, similar to where pilot/aircrew wings are worn.

The Garuds used to wear a black beret, instead of the traditional maroon beret of the other Indian Special Forces units, but now wear the maroon beret. They sport the operational paratroopers brevet on the right chest. The formation insignia is worn on the left shoulder. The Garuds are also entitled to wear "IAF GARUD" titles on the sleeves.

Operational deployments[edit]

A helicopter extracting Garud Commandos at Vayu Shakti 2019

Very little is known about Garud commando operations and assignments, due to their classified nature. Garuds have been deployed to Congo as a part of the UN peacekeeping contingent. They also operate alongside special forces of the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir to gain operational exposure. Towards this purpose, teams from the flights are attached to Army SF units. The Garuds are now active in the region of Jammu and Kashmir carrying out counter insurgency operations and neutralising terrorists in the region. Garud commandos were tasked to provide security at the Yelahanka AFS during Aero India-2005, 2007, 2011[21] and 2013.[22]

2013 Chhattisgarh helicopter shootdown[edit]

On January 18, 2013, an IAF helicopter, with two Garud commandos as part of the security crew, while on a casualty evacuation sortie, was hit by 15 bullets fired by Naxalites and crashed in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh. A police radio operator, Yamlal Sahu, was wounded with bullets piercing his intestines.

2016 Pathankot attack[edit]

On 2 January 2016, during the 2016 Pathankot attack, a Garud team engaged the intruding terrorists in a firefight, during which Garud Commando Gursewak Singh was killed.[23] The IAF assets were declared safe.[24]

Jammu and Kashmir[edit]

Garud commandos are actively deployed in the Lolab Valley and the Hajin area of Jammu and Kashmir to conduct counter-insurgency operations.[25] They have undertaken operations against armed militants from groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. These operations have included tasks such as direct encounters and intelligence gathering.[26] The following are some of the known operations conducted by Garud commandos:

  • Operation Rakh Hajin: This was an operation conducted by Garud commandos in which six militants were killed in the Kashmir Valley. The Ashok Chakra was posthumously awarded to Corporal J.P. Nirala for the same.[25]
  • In July 2018, two Garud commandos were martyred and two militants killed during an intense encounter at Hajin, Bandipora. According to military authorities, the Garud commandos were operating alongside the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K Police, and the Indian Army.[27]

AFSOD deployments[edit]

In November 2019, Garuds started operating as a part of the first deployment of the Armed Forces Special Operations Division in Jammu and Kashmir.[25]


Soon after the beginning of the 2020 China–India tensions, Garud commandos were deployed near mountain peaks considered by India to have strategic value. Their role was to defend the Indian airspace against Chinese aircraft for which they employed 9K38 Igla air defence systems.[28]

Gallantry awards[edit]

Ashok Chakra[edit]

Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, AC (Posthumous) of Unit 617 was awarded in 2018, for displaying outstanding courage and killing 2 category ‘A’ terrorists and injuring 2 others, in an operation where 6 terrorists were killed, including nephew of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in Bandipora, Jammu and Kashmir in 2017.[29] [30][31]

Vayu Sena Medal[edit]

Squadron Leader Rajeev Chauhan, Squadron Leader Dilip Gurnani and Sergeant Shyam Veer Singh were simultaneously conferred the Vayu Sena Medal (2022) for serving in the Garud Commando Force, having been deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. [32] [33] [34]


The following firearms are reportedly used by the Garud Commando Force:

Small arms[edit]

Name Weapon Type Caliber Origin Country Notes
Glock 17 Glock 19 Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum  Austria Status: In service, as Standard pistol
Beretta 92FS Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum  Italy Status: In service, in small numbers.
Beretta M9 Semi-automatic pistol 9×19mm Parabellum  Italy Status: In service, in small numbers.
IWI Tavor TAR-21 IMI Tavor Assault rifle 5.56×45mm NATO  Israel Status: In service Standard issued rifle
AK-103 AK-103 Assault Rifle Assault Rifle 7.62×39mm  Russia Status: In service Standard issued rifle

70,000 bought[35]

IMI Galil 7.62 Sniper Galil Sniper Sniper rifle 7.62×51mm NATO  Israel Status: In service Standard issued Sniper rifle
IWI Negev Light machine gun 5.56×45mm NATO  Israel Status: In service, Standard Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) of special forces
FAB Defense AK-47 Assault Rifle 7.62×39mm  Soviet Union
Status: In service, in

Large numbers. Standard issue 7.62×39mm Assault Rifle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Garud commandoes take first casualties after operating for 12 yrs in J&K". 12 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b "IAF to induct 700 more Garud commandos". 2 February 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "IAF plans to raise 10 more Garud squadrons - The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Constitution of Commando Force" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 18 December 2003. Retrieved 25 July 2008. Archived from the original in Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "IAF's Garuda Force to be sent to Congo". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b "IAF to form commando force to protect airbases". The Times of India. 1 October 2002. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  7. ^ Picture of Garud demonstrations during the Passing out ceremony
  8. ^ IAF Garud commandoes pass out[dead link], Second passing out batch of Garuds, Indian Express, December 18, 2003
  9. ^ 'Garud' the special Commando Force joins IAF Archived 4 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine,, 5 February 2004.
  10. ^ Dhruv to star in flypast, The Tribune, 5 October 2004.
  11. ^ "After Pathankot attack, IAF to induct 700 more Garud commandos | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Indian Commandos Heads To Israel For 'Major' Military Drill". Outlook. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  13. ^ Shukla, Ajai (11 October 2017). "Garud commandoes take first casualties after operating for 12 yrs in J&K". Business Standard India. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  14. ^ a b V.K. Bhatia, Air Marshal (Retd) (October 2009). "Special Forces - Garuds for All Reasons". SP’s Aviation. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Brief: Garuds (IAF Special Forces)". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 15 January 2016. Archived from the original on 14 December 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  16. ^ "City-based airmen were part of anti-terror operations". The Tribune. 12 October 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  17. ^ Shukla, Ajai (11 October 2017). "Garud commandoes take first casualties after operating for 12 yrs in J&K". Business Standard India. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  18. ^ Pillarisetti, Jagan (19 October 2009). "Garud Commando Force". Bharat Rakshak. Archived from the original on 14 September 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  19. ^ "IAF plans to raise 10 more Garud squadrons". The Economic Times. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  20. ^ Garud: IAF's commando force takes off Archived 25 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine,, 6 February 2004.
  21. ^ Garud to be deployed, The Hindu, 6 February 2007.
  22. ^ Bengaluru Gears up to Host Aero-India 2013 (Press release) Press Information Bureau, Government of India, 4 February 2013.
  23. ^ "Funeral at house of Gursewak Singh that hosted his wedding in Nov". 4 January 2016.
  24. ^ "After Day-Long Gun-Battle in Pathankot, 4 Terrorists Dead: 10 Developments".
  25. ^ a b c "Army, Navy, Air Force Special Forces deployed jointly to hunt terrorists in Kashmir valley". Asian News International. 24 November 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2019 – via The Times of India.
  26. ^ "'Garud' eyes new targets in Jammu and Kashmir". India Today. 6 January 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  27. ^ Irfan, Hakeem (13 July 2018). "Two IAF Garud commandos, two militants killed in ongoing encounter in Hajin of Kashmir". The Economic Times. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  28. ^ "India-China faceoff: Indian Navy's MARCOS deployed near Ladakh's Pangong lake". Hindustan Times. 28 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Shaurya Chakra Awardee List, Indian Air Force - Database". Bharat Rakshak. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Ashok Chakra to Garud commando who laid down life in J-K".
  31. ^ "Martyred Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala joins elite IAF club tomorrow | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. 25 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Sq Ldr. Rajeev Chauhan awarded the Vayu Sena Medal".
  33. ^ "Sq Ldr. Dilip Gurnani awarded the Vayu Sena Medal".
  34. ^ "Sgt. Shyam Veer Singh awarded the Vayu Sena Medal".
  35. ^ "Indian Air Force to replace INSAS rifles with new AK-103 weapons, details here". Hindustan Times. 29 August 2021. Retrieved 20 May 2024.

External links[edit]

Media related to Garud Commando at Wikimedia Commons