|Active||1987 – present|
|Allegiance||Republic of India|
|Type||Special Operations Forces|
|Regimental Centre||Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Kochi and Port Blair.|
|Motto(s)||"The few the fearless"|
Operation Black Tornado,
Counter-terrorist operation in Kashmir
The MCF is specially organised, trained and equipped for the conduct of special operations in a maritime environment. The force has gradually acquired experience and a reputation for professionalism over the three decades it has been in existence. The MARCOS are capable of undertaking operations in all types of terrain, but are specialised in maritime operations in Jammu and Kashmir through the Jhelum River and Wular Lake, a 65 square kilometre freshwater lake. Some MARCOS personnel are also attached with the Army special forces units conducting counter-terrorism operations in the area.
The Indian Armed Forces wanted to establish an amphibious warfare and maritime special operations force. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Indian Navy supported the landing operations against the Pakistani base of Cox's Bazar, Operation Jackpot, landing an army brigade using Polnochny class landing ships without significant resistance. Before this operation, Indian navy divers provided basic training in underwater demolition to Bengali insurgents. However, this did not yield expected results. Later, different Indian army units were assigned amphibious roles in exercises. In 1983, the 340th Army Independent Brigade based at Trivandrum, was converted to an amphibious assault unit. Since then, the navy has conducted various exercises to demonstrate its amphibious abilities, notably the Andaman Islands in 1984, and Goa in 1986. These assault operations included both airborne and amphibious forces. In April 1986, the Indian Navy started planning for a maritime special force which could conduct amphibious reconnaissance, raids and counter-terrorist operations.
The force was initially trained by the other special forces of the country, including those under the Home Ministry and the Army. Three officers were then sent to undergo a hard training schedule with US Navy SEALs and further training was then acquired through exchanges with the British Special Air Service. The officers formed the first nucleus of the Indian Marine Special Force (IMSF) which was officially established in February 1987. The first batch of marine commandos qualified in February 1987. It was later renamed as the Marine Commando Force (MCF) in 1991.
Known activities and operations
The MARCOS are capable of undertaking operations in all types of terrain, but are specialised in maritime operations. The force has undertaken numerous joint exercises with special forces from around the world. The MARCOS presently has approximately two thousand personnel, though its actual strength remains classified. Operations undertaken by MARCOS usually remains classified though some of the known operations are:
|Operation Pawan||1987||where the IMSF (Indian marine special force, as the MARCOS was then known) helped in capturing the harbours of Jaffna and Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force.|
|Operation Cactus||1988||where the MARCOS defended the democratic government of president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives from a coup as part of the Indian Navy contingent. The force played a supporting role in India's successful military aid in helping foil the attempted coup by Sri Lankan militants from the PLOTE and ENDLF. A group of 47 mercenaries attempted to escape by sea with 23 hostages, on a hijacked vessel, MV Progress Light. The MCF was pressed into service along with INS Godavari, a multi role frigate carrying Seaking helicopters, Alize aircraft operating from the Navy's base at Kochi. Godavari trailed the hijacked vessel for a couple of days, firing intermittently with her guns on the vessel's superstructure. An Alize anti-submarine aircraft dropped two depth charges near the vessel, causing the motley collection of militants to come up on the upper decks and surrender. A contingent of the Marcos operating from Ratmalana Airfield on the outskirts of Colombo, with some help from the Sri Lankan Army in terms of specialised equipment, thereafter boarded the ship and accepted the surrender of the militants and took them into custody.|
|Operation Tasha||1991||which was instituted after Operation Pawan wound up, and was more a coastal security operation on the Tamil Nadu coast to thwart operations of the LTTE there, than something belonging to the realm of special operations.|
|Operation Zabardust||1992||where an LTTE vessel smuggling arms and ammunition was intercepted by MARCOS personnel.|
|UNOSOM II||1993||MARCOS were deployed off Mogadishu in support of the Indian contingent in Somalia. The team provided Maritime Special Ops support to the Naval Task Force.|
|Operation Rakshak||Ongoing Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Jammu and Kashmir, in the Jhelum River, and Wular Lake. Two to four teams of MARCOS are deployed round the year in Jammu & Kashmir, at Wular Lake. This 250 square km lake, surrounded by mountains, was being used freely by militants to reach Srinagar, saving them from having to travel 100 km through the mountains. In 1995, a team of MARCOS was positioned at the lake and within weeks, militant activity on the lake ceased. Some MARCOS personnel are also attached with the Army special forces units conducting counter-terrorism operations in the area. MARCOS use tactics similar to the Israeli undercover special warfare units called Mista'arvim, sporting beards and wearing the 'pheren' (Kashmiri suit), thus making them indistinguishable from the locals.|
|Operation Leech||which resulted in the slaying of a number of Burmese rebels at Narcondum Island in the North Andaman group of Islands. A small contingent of MARCOS was reputed to have been involved in the murky operation, which has found intermittent mention in various media.|
|Operation Swan||Exercise on the Gujarat and Maharashtra coasts, after the December 92 blasts in Mumbai, wherein the MARCOS were used for patrolling.|
|Kargil War||1999||MARCOS assisted army operations during the Kargil war.|
|Protecting offshore oil rigs and platforms||MARCOS maintain a quick reaction team at Mumbai, to deal with threats to the offshore oil assets at Bombay High.|
|Operation Black Tornado||2008||MARCOS stormed the Trident and Taj Hotels at Mumbai during the recent terrorist attacks on 26 November 2008 during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, terrorist were killed in action at the Taj.|
|Anti-Piracy||2008||In its first ever action in the Gulf of Aden, MARCOS thwarted an attempt by pirates to capture the Indian merchant vessel MV Jag Arnav on 11 November 2008.|
|Exercise Balance Iroquois 03-1/Vajra Prahar'||2003||MARCOS participated in joint training exercises called Exercise Balance Iroquois 03-1/Vajra Prahar with US Special Operations Forces in Mizoram.|
|Malabar 05||2005||September 2005 again witnessed joint Indo-US naval exercises called Malabar 05, which had significant special operations content.|
|Anti-Piracy||2008||On 13 December 2008 MARCOS units operating from the Indian Naval warship INS Mysore (D60) foiled a pirate hijack attempt of Ethiopian vessel MV Gibe off the Somali coast. In the process twenty three pirates were arrested.|
|Anti-Piracy||2011||On 16 July 2011, INS Godavari and Marine Commandos has successfully foiled a piracy attempt on a Greek ship MV Elinakos in the Gulf of Adenthe.|
|Anti-Piracy||2013||On 12 August 2013, the Indian Navy spotted an Iranian Cargo Ship Nafis-1 off course in the Arabian Sea. Surveillance continued on the ship until 14 August, when a MARCOS unit of 9 servicemen was deployed to intercept the ship via helicopter along with support from the INS Mysore. The commandos dropped onto the ship and detained the hijackers, which had reportedly sailed from Chah Bahar in Iran to an undisclosed location. Navy Intelligence reports revealed that the ship was being used to smuggle weapons and contraband. A store of automatic assault weapons was confiscated on board as well.|
MARCOS are known to be very secretive, not revealing their actual identity as specialised, elite soldiers. In their operations, they are sometimes assisted by Westland WS-61 Sea King transport helicopters, Chetak helicopters and two-man submarines. MARCOS can be launched from ships, aircraft and submarines in full battle gear.
Functions / Role
The exclusivity of the unit lies in its competence to operate in all three mediums namely Sea, Air and Land. The MCF is specially organized, trained and equipped for the conduct of special operations in a maritime environment. Personnel from unit are deployed round the clock from Kashmir for CI/CT ops to GoA, Somalia for anti-piracy operations. The unit has always been at forefront in providing diving / civil assistance during times of natural disaster. The core tasking of MARCOS include:-
- Conduct clandestine attack against enemy ships, offshore installations and other vital assets behind enemy lines.
- To support amphibious operations including pre-assault ops.
- To conduct unconventional warfare.
- Conduct of surveillance and recce missions in support of military operations.
- Conduct of clandestine diving operations.
- To conduct hostage rescue operations in maritime environment.
- Combating terrorism in a maritime environment.
Selection and Training
All MARCOS personnel are males selected from the Indian Navy. They are selected when they are in their early 20s and have to go through a stringent selection process and training. The selection standards are extremely high. The training is a continuous process. American and British special forces assisted in the initial training, which now consists of a two-year course for new recruits. The training regimen includes: airborne operations, combat diving courses, counter-terrorism, anti-hijacking, anti-piracy operations, direct action, infiltration and exfiltration tactics, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare training etc. Majority of the training is conducted at INS Abhimanyu which is also the home base of MARCOS.
All MARCOS personnel are freefall qualified (HALO/HAHO). A few also qualify to operate the Cosmos CE-2F/X100 two-man subs. MARCOS train along with the Special Forces officers of the Indian Army like the Para Commandos at the Indian Special Forces Training School, Nahan and Army's other schools for Unconventional warfare These include the Junior Leaders' Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka, the Parvat Ghatak School (for high altitude mountain warfare) in Tawang Arunachal Pradesh, Desert warfare school in Rajasthan, the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir and the Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram. These schools routinely host students from other countries. MARCOS are then trained at various training agencies within the navy. They are skilled combat divers and parachutists and most of the training deals with counter-terrorist, anti-hijacking and anti-piracy operations.
Generally, the pre-training selection process is made up of two parts. Any Indian Navy personnel who want to join this outfit must first undergo a three-day long, physical fitness test and aptitude test. Within this process, 80% of the applicants are screened out. A Further screening process is known as 'hell's week' which is similar to the United States Navy SEALs' "Hell Week.". This involves a high degree of physical exercises and sleep deprivation. It is only after this process that actual training begins. 
The total duration of training of MARCOS is between two and half to three years. The basic training lasts six months. The first two months is the weeding out phase. The first phase of which lasts one month, in which they undergo many rigorous physical tests of which only 50% pass. Then for the next nine months, they are taught how to use different types of weapons, conduct special warfare techniques and how to gather intelligence from the enemy. The cadets start with basic diving and commando tactics and skills. Those that go on are trained in every aspect of modern warfare and in every situation. This includes firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds. This is followed by a year of training of specialised skills. They are trained in various types of close combat including Krav Maga. Different forms of warfare training is imparted through field operations in counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations within the country and are trained to operate in any kind of environment like beaches, deep sea, on the surface of the ocean, in jungles, ravines and for situations like hostage rescue, urban combat and piracy. A notably rigorous training program is the "death crawl" – an 800-metre struggle through thigh-high mud, loaded with 25 kg of gear and after a 2.5 km obstacle course that most soldiers would fail. After that, when the trainee is exhausted and sleep-deprived, he has to undergo the final test – shooting a target 25 metres away, with a partner standing next to it.
The MARCOS are trained in every kind of weapon and instruments, from knives and crossbows to sniper rifles, handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns and bare hands. Being divers, they can reach hostile shores swimming underwater.
The further training includes:
- Open and closed circuit diving
- Basic commando skills including advanced weapon skills, demolitions, endurance training and martial arts
- Airborne training
- Intelligence training
- Operation of submersible craft
- Offshore operations
- Anti-terrorism operations
- Operations from submarines
- Various special skills such as language training, insertion methods, etc.
- Explosive ordnance disposal techniques
They are also trained to parachute into open water with full combat load. In 2013, the MARCOS have introduced a larger duck-drop system which will be fitted on Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft. Each system (two boats) can accommodate 32 commandos, their weapons and fuel for the boats. Duck-drop system that marcos operate in the past is smaller in size which is fitted on An-32 aircraft. This force-multiplier was developed by the Agra-based Aerial Delivery Research & Development Establishment. Once para-dropped from the aircraft, it allows for the commandos to assemble inflatable motorised boats within ten minutes, and quickly reach ships in distress. On reaching the target, they can dismantle the boats and travel underwater to mount a surprise attack. Such rescue missions can be mounted by the commandos deployed within an hour unlike in the past, when commandos took up to 48 hours to reach the targets as it involved travelling on-board ships and then being deployed on motorised boats.
The Marcos are also preparing for urban warfare and have begun practicing on 3D virtual models of offshore installations to ensure a swift response during a terrorist attack. The marine commandos are undergoing regular training sessions in this computer-generated programme to be well-prepared for a strike similar to the 26/11 attack. Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has provided a virtual model of its facility in Krishna-Godavari basin in the east, for the marine commandos at INS Kalinga, the training base for Marcos in Visakhapatnam.
MARCOS will carry out amphibious operations at Frasersgunj in the Sunderbans as part of their routine training. Frasersgunj, with its beach and proximity to the estuarine delta, is an ideal location for such exercises, the source added. The Coast Guard is in the process of setting up a base at Frasersgunj and station hovercraft there. More importantly, the elite force will get a feel of the Sunderbans, which is considered at risk from infiltrators and terrorists. There are so many waterways running through the Sunderbans delta that it is not possible to maintain physical vigil on all movement there. Security experts believe that the threat from terrorists moving in from the sea still remains. With so many vessels passing through the Sunderbans, it may be a route for terror outfits to send in armed men to carry out an attack like that on Mumbai. In case of any eventuality, the MARCOS are most likely to be called in as it is a marine environment. A major part of their training is kept under wraps. Frasersgunj will be an ideal location where secrecy can be maintained.
The Indian Navy initiated the process of procuring five midget submarines for Marine Commandos (MARCOS). These vessels would have the capacity of carrying four to six personnel on board. The submarines would have a diving depth of around 400 meters, and will strengthen the MARCOS ability to carry out special underwater operations in high seas. The midgets will have the capability of carrying out both manned and unmanned operations and will be equipped with a number of weapons including torpedoes. In 2009, the navy initiated the process of procuring these vessels and issued a Request for Proposal to Indian shipyards including Hindustan Shipyards Limited, ABG and Pipavav shipyards. Due to their faster speed and smaller size, midgets are able to escape the enemy Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) probes making them useful in carrying out covert operations, and help troops to penetrate into hostile territory without getting noticed by enemies. In 2013 other noteworthy development, Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyards Ltd won the contract for building four 500-tonne mini-submarines, which were designed back in the previous decade by Larsen & Toubro. The mini-submarines, to be delivered in the latter half of this decade, will be used exclusively by the Indian Navy’s MARCOS. The combat management systems have been designed and built by TATA Power SED, while Riva Calzoni will be supplying the periscopes and other masts that will host a SATCOM communications systems and LPI navigation radar. The sonar suite is likely to be supplied by ATLAS Elektronik.
The average MARCOS training drop-out rate is more than 90%. The force has its own training facility, first as an adjunct of the operational company at INS Abhimanyu, in Mumbai, later as the Naval Special Warfare Tactical Training Centre. For combat diving training, the commandos are sent to the Naval Diving School, Kochi. There are plans to move the Naval Special Warfare Tactical Training Centre to the erstwhile Naval Academy facility in Kerala where it will be set up with focus on jungle warfare as well as counter insurgency operations. The new facility will be modelled on the lines of CIJWS of the Indian Army in Mizoram.
To strengthen its capabilities to carry out special operations, the Navy is planning to procure advanced Integrated Combat System (ICS) for the MARCOS. The Navy wants the ICS for effective command, control and information sharing to maximise capabilities of individuals and groups of the MARCOS while engaging enemies.
The ICS will provide enhanced capabilities such as tactical awareness, ability to fight in hostile environment and can enable Group Commanders to remotely monitor and control operations. It would help in integrating an individual sailor's capability of day and night surveillance, ballistic protection, communication and firepower through an integrated network at individual and group level. Initiating the procurement process through a Request for Information (RFI), Navy's Directorate of Special Operations and Diving has sought details from global vendors about the ICS, which should have gear for both individual and group uses.
The individual equipment required by the Navy in the ICS includes light weight helmets, head-mounted displays, tactical and soft ballistic vests along with communication equipment. The group-level gear requirements include command and control and surveillance systems along with high speed communication equipment. The devices would have sight for the sniper, laser range finder and long range thermal imager (medium and long range) and near IR laser pointer for a combat group to undertake surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting. The ICS would be compatible with the assault rifles and close-quarter combat weapons. The Navy has recently started inducting the Israeli IMI Tavor TAR-21 for the MARCOS.
The MCF currently operates out of the naval bases at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Kochi and Port Blair. There are plans to shift the current training facility at the Naval Special Warfare Training and Tactical Centre to a new facility to be set up at the erstwhile Naval Academy in Goa.
- Pistol Auto 9mm 1A 9mm Semi-automatic pistol
- Beretta 92FS Semi-automatic pistol
- Glock 17,19 and 26 9mm Semi-automatic pistols
- H&K MP5A3/A5/SD/K-NAVY 9mm Sub-machine gun
- AK-103 7.62×39mm Assault Rifle
- AKMS 7.62×39mm Assault Rifle
- M4A1 5.56mm NATO Assault Rifle
- IMI Tavor 5.56mm NATO Assault Rifle Series
- APS amphibious rifle 5.66×39mm Underwater assault Rifle
- IMI Galil 7.62 Sniper/Galatz 7.62mm NATO Semi-automatic Sniper Rifle
- H&K MSG90 7.62mm NATO Semi-automatic Sniper Rifle
- VSK-94 9×39mm suppressed sniper rifle
- IMI Negev SF 5.56mm NATO Light machine gun
- MG 2A1 7.62 mm General purpose machine gun
- GP-25 40mm Under-barrel grenade launcher
- Arsenal UBGL 40×46mm Under-barrel grenade launcher
- AGS-17 30×29mm Automatic grenade launcher
- RCL Mk III 84mm Recoilless rifle
- Shipon Anti-tank weapon
- 9K38 Igla MANPADS
- HAL Dhruv Utility Helicopter
- Westland WS-61 Sea King Transport Helicopter
- Chetak helicopters
- Cosmos CE-2F X100 two-man Swimmer Delivery Vehicle
- All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
- Indian Navy Swimmer Delivery Vehicle
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