Special forces of India

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Indian Navy MARCOS during urban combat training at Exercise RIMPAC 2022

India has several Special Forces (SF) units. The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have separate special forces units, viz. the Para SF of the Indian Army, the MARCOS of the Indian Navy and the Garud Commando Force of the Indian Air Force. There are other special forces which are not controlled by the military but operate under civilian organisations such as the Home Ministry’s National Security Guard and Research and Analysis Wing's Special Group (India).[1] Small groups from the military SF units are deputed in the Armed Forces Special Operations Division, a unified command and control structure.[2]

The Research and Analysis Wing, the external Intelligence agency of India, has separate special forces under its control, namely the Special Group and the Special Frontier Force.

Indian Army[edit]

Indian Para SF (in Ranger Green uniform) and US Army SF during exercise Vajra Prahar, 2022

Para (Special Forces)[edit]

The Paratrooper (Special Forces), or Para (SF), are the special forces of the Indian Army.[3][4] This unit was created in June 1966 in the aftermath of the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war. An impromptu commando unit called Meghdoot Force, which took part in the 1965 war, formed the first nucleus of the permanent Para commando battalion which was to be raised under the Parachute Regiment. By 1969, the unit had grown into 2 battalions, viz. the 9 Para and the 10 Para. The unit's first combat missions were conducted during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war in which they undertook raids against Pakistan's military.

In 1988, 6 Para spearheaded the only foreign intervention operation conducted by Indian Armed Forces to restore democracy in Maldives. The operation was code-named Operation Cactus. Operation Cactus was launched to thwart a coup against the government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.[5] In the late 1980s, the Para (SF) were deployed in Sri Lanka where they conducted helicopter-borne assaults and security operations.

Since the 1990s, the Para (SF) have been deployed on counter-terrorism operations in the Kashmir region against insurgents. These operations include raids and ambushes. In 1999, Para (SF) undertook operations against Pakistan’s military during the Kargil war which included raids against Pakistani infantry and special forces. In 2002, the 2 Para (SF) participated in Operation Khukri in Sierra Leone to rescue 223 soldiers of the Indian Army's 5/8 Gorkha Rifles who were deployed as UN peacekeepers but were surrounded by militants from the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone.[6] Some of the later reported missions carried out by Para (SF) include the counter-insurgency operation purportedly undertaken inside Myanmar in 2015, and the 2016 Surgical Strikes.[7][8][9]

The list of PARA (SF) Battalions is as follows:[10]

  • 1 PARA (SF) "Red Devils"
  • 2 PARA (SF) "Predators"
  • 3 PARA (SF) "Russell's Vipers"
  • 4 PARA (SF) "Mighty Daggers"
  • 5 PARA (SF) "Maroon 5th"
  • 6 PARA (SF) "Sakht Para"
  • 7 PARA (SF) "SE7EN"
  • 9 PARA (SF) "Mountain Rats/Ghost Operators/Pirates"
  • 10 PARA (SF) "Desert Scorpions"
  • 11 PARA (SF) "Helleven"
  • 12 PARA (SF) "Dirty Dozens"
  • 13 PARA (SF) "Thunderbolts"
  • 21 PARA (SF) "Waghnakhs"
  • 23 PARA (SF) "Devil's Own"
  • 29 PARA (SF) "Airborne Rajputs"

Indian Navy[edit]

MARCOS and US Navy SEALs, Urban Combat Training, MALABAR 2021


First conceived in 1985, the Marine Commando Force, also called MARCOS, was raised in February 1987. It is the special forces unit of the Indian Navy.[11][12] Initially, the U.S. Navy SEALs and British special forces trained a few officers of the Indian navy who formed the first core of MARCOS.[13][14] Months after their creation, MARCOS were deployed in Sri Lanka against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in July 1987. In the 1990s, MARCOS undertook numerous operations such as Operation Tasha (1991) against the LTTE, and Operation Zabardust (1992) against a ship that was smuggling arms and in support of the United Nations in Somalia (1993). They also participated in the 1999 Kargil War.[12] Since 1995, MARCOS are permanently deployed for counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir against militants.[12][15] MARCOS had participated in efforts against the 2008 Mumbai attacks alongside the National Security Guards but their effectiveness was diluted due to bureaucratic indecision.[16] MARCOS have also been deployed in anti-piracy operations.[17]

After a 10-week-long basic training, MARCOS are sent to train alongside Indian Army’s Para (SF) for 3 weeks. Advanced training follows, during which MARCOS learn skills such as sky-diving, weapons training, counter-insurgency, languages, and warfare in different terrains, among other things. Each MARCOS squad, called Prahar, is composed of 8 soldiers.[12]

Some of the responsibilities of MARCOS are-[18]

  • Providing support to Amphibious operations.
  • Special surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
  • Clandestine operations inside hostile territory, including diving operations and raids.
  • Counter-terrorism operations.

Indian Air Force[edit]

IAF Garud commando

Garud Commando Force[edit]

The Garud commandos are the special forces of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Their tasks include counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, providing security to IAF’s assets, and various air force-specific special operations. First conceived in 2002, this unit was officially established on February 6, 2004.[19]

All Garuds are volunteers who have imparted a 52-week basic training, which includes a three-month probation followed by special operations training, basic airborne training, and other warfare and survival skills. The last phase of basic training sees Garuds being deployed to get combat experience. Advanced training follows, which includes specialised weapons training.[19][20]

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.[21] The Garuds also undertake suppression of enemy air defences 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.[22]

The security of IAF installations and assets is usually performed by the Air Force Police and the Defence Security Corps even though some critical assets are protected by the Garuds.[19]

Research and Analysis Wing[edit]

Special Group[edit]

The Special Group is a special forces unit of the Research and Analysis Wing. It was formed in 1981.[23] The responsibilities of the Special Group includes clandestine intelligence operations and covert operations, with which the Government of India may not wish to be overtly associated.[24][23]

Special Frontier Force[edit]

The Special Frontier Force is a special forces unit of the Research and Analysis Wing which was created on 14 November 1962 to undertake operations against the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand, SFF is also known as the Establishment 22.[25][26] The force was put under the direct supervision of the Intelligence Bureau, and later, the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency.[27][28] It consists primarily of Tibetan people who are tasked to undertake operations in the tough terrain of the Himalayas and Tibet, whose main goal was to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in case of another war between China and Republic of India.[29]

National Security Guard[edit]

The National Security Guard (NSG) is a specialized counter-terrorism Federal Contingency Force. It was formally created in 1986. It is based on the British Army's Special Air Service and the German GSG 9.[30] The NSG is popularly referred to as the 'Black Cats' due to its distinct black uniforms.[31] It consists of the following two elements[30]-

Indian NSG and US(SOF) operator during Tarkash 2023 exercise

In Popular Culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Employment of India's Special Operations Forces" (PDF). Observer Research Foundation. June 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  2. ^ Peri, Dinakar (16 May 2019). "Centre names officers for tri-service divisions". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  3. ^ Shiv Aroor; Rahul Singh (20 September 2017). INDIA'S MOST FEARLESS: True Stories of Modern Military Heroes. Penguin Random House India Private Limited. ISBN 9789386815422. Retrieved 26 September 2020. As second-in-command, or 2IC, of an elite Parachute Regiment (Special Forces), or the Para-SF as it is called, Maj. Tango had...
  4. ^ Katoch, P.C. "The Bane of Pseudo Specialisation" (PDF). Centre for Land Warfare Studies journal. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  5. ^ Manu Pubby. "India bringing Maldives into its security net". The Indian Express. Retrieved 26 September 2020. In 1988, India helped foil a coup attempt being assisted by Tamil rebels after it launched Operation Cactus on receiving a distress message from the then President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
  6. ^ Dutta, Sujan (1 October 2016). "The special tip of the spear". Telegraph India. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  7. ^ "The Inside Story of India's 2016 'Surgical Strikes'". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Operation Hot Pursuit: Watch History TV18 unravel the inside story of Indian Army's daring counter-insurgency strike - India News , Firstpost". Firstpost. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Myanmar denies India killed rebels on its soil, says won't let foreign attackers use its territory". Hindustan Times. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Welcome to The Parachute Regiment". www.indianparachuteregiment.kar.nic.in. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Marcos get a new exclusive base at Bheemunipatanam in AP". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. 12 July 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d Vice Admiral GM Hiranandani (15 January 2010). Transition to Guardianship: The Indian Navy 1991–2000 (PDF). Lancer. pp. 81–82. ISBN 9781935501268.
  13. ^ "Who Dares Wins". Outlook. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  14. ^ Ryan, Mike; Mann, Chris; Stilwell, Alexander (2003). The Encyclopedia of the World's Special Forces: Tactics, History, Strategy, Weapons. Spellmount. ISBN 9781862272316. Volunteers from the diving unit were sent to train with the US Navy SEALs at Coronado, and a series of exchanges followed with the SBS. The result of this education in maritime special forces practice was the formation of the Indian Marine Special Forces in February 1987.
  15. ^ "Now, MARCOS helping Army flush out terrorists in Kashmir". India Today. 18 July 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Deadly delay in calling the marine commandos". The Economic Times. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  17. ^ "Indian Navy's Special Commandos Save Ship From Pirates In Gulf Of Aden". NDTV.com. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  18. ^ "INS Abhimanyu | Indian Navy". Indian Navy. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  19. ^ a b c V.K. Bhatia, Air Marshal (Retd) (October 2009). "Special Forces - Garuds for All Reasons". SP’s Aviation. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Garud: IAF's commando force takes off". Rediff. Press Trust of India. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  21. ^ "Indian Commandos Heads To Israel For 'Major' Military Drill". Outlook. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ a b "Special Group: Warriors of stealth". Hindustan Times. 9 February 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  24. ^ Unnithan, Sandeep (30 November 1999). "Operation Bluestar: The league of shadows". India Today. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  25. ^ "Army Establishment". Archived from the original on 17 January 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  26. ^ The SFF became more famous within the administration as the "Establishment 22" because its first Inspector General (IG) Major Gen. Sajjan Singh, a Military Cross holder and a legendary figure in the British India Army. Singh commanded the 22nd Mountain Regiment during World War II in Europe and a Long Range Desert Squadron (LRDS) in north Africa.
  27. ^ "Bollywood Sargam - Special: Tibetan faujis in Bluestar". Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  28. ^ Guruswamy, Mohan (19 April 2019). "The looking glass war in the Himalayas". The Asian Age. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  29. ^ "The curious case of establishment 22". Hindustan Times. 14 November 2009. Archived from the original on 17 November 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  30. ^ a b "History of NSG | National Security Guard". www.nsg.gov.in. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  31. ^ "NSG's Black Cat commandoes get an upgrade". The Economic Times. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  32. ^ Arora, Akhil. "Chris Hemsworth's Extraction Is Heavy on Action, but Little Else". NDTV Gadgets 360. Retrieved 26 April 2020. Anyway, it falls to the Mahajan family's right-hand man, army special forces vet Saju Rav...
  33. ^ "Uri The Surgical Strike Movie Review: Vicky Kaushal takes Pakistan head on in this military drama". India Today. 9 January 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2019.