Para Commandos (India): Wikis

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Para Commandos
Active 1966–Present
Country India
Branch Army
Type Special Forces
Size 7 Battalions
Regimental Centre Bangalore, Karnataka
Motto Shatrujeet
Engagements Operation Cactus, Operation Pawan, Operation Rakshak, Operation Khukri
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lt Gen PC Katoch,PVSM, AVSM, SC
Insignia
Maroon Beret, shoulder titles and Balidaan The "Balidaan" (Sacrifice) badge.
Sleeve Patch CommandoPatch.jpg

The Para Commandos are a special forces unit of the Indian Army. Formed in 1966, the Para Commandos are the largest and most important part of the Special Forces of India. They form the highly-trained Corps of the Indian Army and, generally, all the Indian Special Forces (SF) personnel are selected from it.

Contents

History

Indian Army Elite Para Commandos

The parachute units of the Indian Army are among the oldest airborne units in the world. The first unit was authorized on 15 May 1941 and on 27 October 1941, the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade had been formed, comprising the 151st British Parachute Battalion , 152nd Indian Parachute Battalion & 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion.[1]

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, an ad hoc unit, named Meghdoot Force, consisting of volunteers from various infantry units was organized by Maj Megh Singh of the Brigade of the Guards. The unit performed well in combat and the Government authorized the raising of a commando unit. Lt Col Megh Singh was selected to raise the unit which was to be part of the Brigade of the Guards, but parachute qualification being an integral part of all special operations, the unit was transferred to the Parachute Regiment and raised as its 9th Battalion (Commando) on 1 July 1966. The erstwhile members of the Meghdoot Force formed the nucleus and the new unit based in Gwalior. In June 1967 the unit was split equally into two to form a second commando unit, designated as 10th Battalion, both with three Companies each. 10th Battalion was mandated to operate in the Western Desert and 9th Battalion in the northern mountains. In 1969, these battalions were redesignated as 9 and 10 Para (Commando) battalions.[1]

In 1978, the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, as an experiment, was converted to become the third commando battalion and kept as the tactical reserve. Already a recipient of the Chief of Army Staff Unit Citation twice and GOC-in-C Eastern Command Unit Citation once, the unit is all set to celebrate its 250th Raising Day in 2011.

1995 saw the formation of the fourth commando battalion when the 21st Battalion, the Maratha Light Infantry was selected to convert to special forces and slated for the Eastern Command. After stringent selection and training process that spanned more that a year, on 1 February 1996, the unit under Col VB Shinde, was formally inducted into the Parachute Regiment as the 21st Battalion (Special Forces), The Parachute Regiment. The unit has done well in its short lifespan and is the proud recipient of the Chief of Army Staff Unit Citation twice (1992 and 2006) and GOC-in-C Eastern Command Unit Citation once (2008) among a host of individual gallantry awards.

With the changing scenario in military operations and the need for more special forces units, 2 Para Battalion began the conversion process from parachute to para-commando role, followed closely by the 3rd and the 4th battalions, raising the strength of the special forces to seven battalions. The Parachute Regiment presently has seven special forces, three parachute, two Territorial Army and one Counter-Insurgency (Rashtriya Rifles) battalions in its fold.

Functions

  • Intelligence collection.
  • Subversion and sabotage of vital enemy infrastructure and communications through deep penetration and surgical strikes behind enemy lines.
  • Covert and overt special operations as part of the Indian Army's counter-terrorist operations.
  • Hostage rescue operations within and beyond Indian territory.
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Organization

The Parachute Regiment presently has seven special forces, three parachute, two Territorial Army and one Counter-Insurgency (Rashtriya Rifles) battalions in its fold.

Para (SF) operate in assault teams which work individually or in coordination with other teams or units. Previously, each Para (SF) battalion had a geographical specialization and remained assigned to that sector. 1 Para Commandos, with deep sea divers in its ranks, specialized in anti-hijacking and hostage crises; 9 Para, with experienced mountaineers, was dedicated to mountainous and high-altitude warfare, 10 Para for desert warfare and the 21 Para for jungle warfare. However, these specializations have been dispensed with, and all special forces units are equally capable of operating in all conditions.

NOTE: In the mid-1980s, there were plans of taking away the three para commando battalions from the Parachute Regiment and bringing them together under an individual specialized organisation, the Special Forces Regiment. However, after several logistic and administrative obstacles, these plans were abandoned and they continue to be trained and recruited by the Parachute Regiment.

Personnel

Selection

All Indian paratroopers are volunteers. Some enter the Para regiments directly from civilian life, while others transfer in from regular army units.[2]

Selection and Training

All members of the special forces are volunteers, either fresh from recruitment or after having served in other units. They are put through a probationary period of six months for special forces regiments(1,2,3,4,9,10 &21 PARA SF) and three months for normal parachute regiments(5,6 & 7 PARA)where they undergo various physical, mental and psychological tests, the majority being rejected with the rejection rate averaging 70–80 percent.

Those selected are awarded the maroon beret, the qualification badge (balidaan), and the shoulder titles of Special Forces. They are further sent to the Paratroopers' Training School (PTS) at Agra, Uttar Pradesh for their Basic Course in Paratrooping, which includes ground and air training. Those who are successful are made to do five static line jumps from varying altitudes which include one night jump and one with full battle equipment. On completion of the five jumps, the individual is awarded the coveted parachute wings which is worn on the right chest

As training is an ongoing process in the army, more so in the special forces, the members are further trained in specialised mode of infiltration and exfiltration, either by air (Combat Freefall) or sea (scuba diving). Some return to PTS to undergo the free-fall course, which in order to successfully pass requires at least 50 jumps from altitudes up to 22,500 feet. Both HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) and HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) techniques are learned. The ability to use the HAHO method and specially designed maneuverable parachutes called HAPPS (High Altitude Parachute Penetration System) to conduct stealth insertions over distances up to 50 km is also perfected.[2].

For combat diving training, the commandos are sent to the Naval Diving School.

Daily routine begins with a 5 km morning run. Infiltration, assault and ambush tactics are refined and perfected. Special attention is given to CQB, urban warfare, counter-terror warfare and unarmed combat.[2]

Off and on, night and weapons training and field craft involving 20 km treks with 60 kg (132 lb.) loads and live ammunition. Monthly forced marches with 65 kg combat loads over 30 km and quarterly night drops with full combat loads are also conducted. In addition to this in-house training, the commandos also attend a number of schools run by the Army that specialize in unconventional warfare.[2]

These include the Junior Leaders' Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka, the Parvat Ghatak School (for high altitude mountain warfare) in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir and the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram. These schools are among the finest of their kind anywhere and routinely host students from other countries.[2]

Recently the Indian government has allowed USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) personnel to attend courses held by CIJWS and may grant access to HAWS as part for further military cooperation between the two countries.[citation needed] In reciprocation, many operators are sent to the US to train with the Army Rangers and other units.

U.S. Army Special Forces have conducted joint HAHO training with the Para Commandos in 1992, underwater training in 1995 and anti-terrorism training in 1997. It is thought that the French Foreign Legion also has approached CIJWS regarding the courses taught by them.[citation needed] Para Commandos can also undergo a complete Combat Divers course, in which they earn a combat diver badge.

They are also experienced in conducting SHBO (special heli-borne operations) and typically employ Cheetahs, MI-8/MI-17, ALH (Dhruv)helicopters for this purpose.

Combat History

1971 Indo-Pakistan War

Para Commandos were first deployed in combat in the 1971 Indo-Pak War where they performed gallantly. The 9 Para saw action through a daring raid on a Pakistani Artillery positions at Mandhol. This raid resulted in the destruction of six 122mm guns belonging to the Pakistan Army's 172 Independent Battery.

Apart from the destruction of guns, ammunition and other vital equipment, the Pakistanis suffered 37 killed, 41 wounded and a great loss of face. This raid, launched at a crucial time to enable India's 25th Infantry Division to continue their operations on Daruchian (a Pakistani occupied post), won the 9 Para the Battle Honour for action in Mandhol.

10 Para was baptized in combat with successful raids on enemy posts at Chachro and Virawah, under Sawai Bhawani Singh Bahadur who won a Maha Vir Chakra for these daring raids.

By the late 1970s, Indian paratroopers were using High-Altitude, Low-Opening (HALO jump) techniques.

Operation Bluestar 1984

In 1984 the Para Commandos were involved in Operation Bluestar. They were charged with the eviction of Sikh militants from the Golden Temple in Punjab. 80 members of 1 Para Cdo were given the task of assaulting two areas of the temple, of which one area required divers. However there were a number of setbacks as a result of poor intelligence on the strength of the militants who were trained by Gen. Shabeg Singh himself, operating low light, the conventional manner of the raid and the lack of high precision CQB (close quarter battle) skills; all of which resulted in a mission failure. The diver mission was aborted after the first team got bogged down. The commandos never achieved their aims as a result of which tanks were brought in to finish the job.This action directly resulted in the establishment of the Anti-Terror National Security Guards, with specialized skills in close-quarter, urban combat.

Sri Lanka 1987

The late 1980s saw the Para Commandos in action in Sri Lanka, as part of Operation Pawan. However, lack of proper planning by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and insufficient intelligence on the LTTE's whereabouts, led the initial heli-borne assault on Jaffna University on 11 October 1987 to be a tragic failure.

Six soldiers lost their lives in that ill-fated mission, but unlike the Sikh Light Infantry who lost their lives gallantly fighting to the last, the Para commandos due to their superior training, took refuge under a house, after they got misguided by a youth who offered his service to help the commandos track Prabhakaran by taking them for a wild goose chase. They engaged the enemy for a full 24 hours and picked up all their dead with their weapons after reinforcements arrived next morning.

After the failed assault on Jaffna City, the 10 Para Cdo participated in November 1987 for a heli-borne assault in the town of Moolai, 14 miles to the north-west. 25 LTTE guerrillas were killed and an arms depot seized. In order to give the commandos battle experience, 1 Para Cdo was rotated home in early 1988 and replaced by 9 Para Cdo.

This battalion was scheduled to return home in June 1988, but the tour of duty was extended due to a planned air assault into the coastal swamps around Mullaittivu. The mission was a great success, in that it located several arms caches. The 9 Para Cdo also provided 12 men for the security of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

Operation Cactus 1988

With the capture of Maldives, an island nation off the south western coast of India on 3 November 1988 by PLOTE mercenaries, the army turned to the elite 6 Para. 6 Para flew in on 4 November 1988 in a fleet of Il-76, An-32 and An-12 transport aircraft. One team rescued the president, another took over the airfield and a third rescued Maldivian security personnel besieged in their NSS HQ. Later 3 Para was also deployed to the Maldives. When mercenaries tried to escape by sea along with hostages, they were intercepted by the Indian navy. Thus, 6 Para conducted the first ever international intervention by the Indian army without any loss of life.

Kashmiri Hostage-taking, July 4, 1995

Para Commandos took part in hostage rescue mission in 1995. The 1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir was an act of kidnapping of six foreign tourists by Al-Faran, a terrorist organisation, now known as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen from the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam in Anantnag district in south Jammu and Kashmir on July 4, 1995.One hostage was later found beheaded.Later Indian Security forces decided to storm the building to rescue hostages. It was a totally successful operation all hostages were rescued & resulted in the death of the terrorist Abdul Hamid Turki, whom the army identified as an Afghan citizen and as the leader of Al-Faran, and four other Al-Faran members.

1999 Kargil War

During Kargil War Approximately 4-5 Para/Commando battalions were employed. Para Commandos were tasked to locate the Pakistani gun positions & para commandos had moved through the enemy lines and lined up on enemy artillery. Their job was to direct counter battery fire in case any Pakistani guns got in the play. They completed the task successfully allowing Indian Counter battery to fire at Pakistani gun Positions accurately.Due to this the Pakistani guns were forced to remain out of action throughout the war. They also Captured Tiger Hill. Now Tiger Hill is mentioned in an Army recruitment picture saying "You are the Tiger who captured Tiger Hill".The 9 Para (SF) saw action in the 1999 Kargil War, where they conducted a number of raids to remove a combined force of Pakistani special forces (SSG), light infantry and militants who had infiltrated across the border and had dug in on the mountaintops. They typically operated in 6 man teams (5 men and 1 officer) for Reconnaissance on mountaintop bunkers primarily involving high-altitude scaling at night, with night vision as help. They also took part in the follow up raids. 9 PARA was actively involved in the forgotten sector Batalik, where it exhibited great courage and tenacity, and was awarded the Bravest of Brave Citation.

Operation Khukri in Sierra Leone,2000

The Op Khukri was a daring rescue mission conducted by the 9 PAR(SF) & 2 PARA (SF).It was a totally successful mission resulted in safe rescue of all 21 hostages. The PARA Commandos were recently involved in Operation Khukri, in Sierra Leone in June 2000 where Indian troops were part of a multinational UN peacekeeping force. About 120 operators commanded by Major Harinder Sood were airlifted from New Delhi to spearhead the mission to rescue 223 men of the 5/8 Gorkha Rifles who were surrounded and held captive by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels for over 75 days.

The operation, involving Mi-25/35 helicopter gun ships of the Indian Air Force and other infantry battalions, was a complete success with no Indian casualties other than a few shrapnel wounds. The Special Air Service who were present as part of the British force, loaned the Para Commandos their Chinook transport helicopters for the initial assault.

Operation Khukri-

Immediately after the release of the 21 Indian soldiers from their camp at Kuiva, the UN set in motion a plan to rescue the two companies of the 5/8 Indian Gurkha Rifles (Mechanized Company-1 and Motorised Rifle Company-1), surrounded at Kailahun. The company commanders were able to talk regularly with their commanders back at base, and before the assault were given the broad outline of the plan along with their duties.

The forces involved would include the Indian QRC (troops of 5/8GR, 14 Mechanised Infantry, 23 Mechanised , and 9 PARA (SF)), a company from 2 PARA (SF). Support was to be provided by Indian Mi-8s, Chetaks, and Mi-35s, two companies of African troops (one each from Ghana and Nigeria), and RAF Chinook C.1 helicopters. Against this force was a battle-hardened but utterly undisciplined RUF rag-tag force armed with AK-47s, RPG-7s, and MANPADs.

Phase I of the operation Khukri began on the 13 July with the deployment of the combat elements from their bases in Freetown and Hastings to Kenema and Daru. The movement phase was conducted using Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-8s and Mi-26s, as well as RAF Chinooks and a Hercules C.1 transports. By the evening of the 14 the first phase was complete and all forces in their designated positions.

At dawn on the 15 June, two helicopters landing site outside of Kailahun was sanitized by forces in place there. At 0615hrs two RAF Chinook helicopters, guided by SAS troops who had been monitoring rebel forces since some time, landed two kilometres south of Kailahun and dropped off soldiers from 2 PARA (SF) to take care of any RUF fighters that decided to contest the breakout. The Chinooks carried on to Kailahun and at 0620hrs landed and extracted 33 personnel suffering from illness, as well as eleven Military Observers, plus different stores and flew them back to Freetown.

Once the Chinooks had departed, the two Kailahun companies began their assault on the town, supported by rocket launchers and 51mm mortar fire that lasted ten minutes. Mech-1 captured the town square, to be used as the Forming Up Place (FUP), and Mot-1 an RUF checkpoint on the road from Kailahun to Daru. Mot-1 took heavy fire from the checkpoint but they quickly assaulted the position and secured it. At this time the column departed the town with Ghatak (Commando) Platoon in the lead.

At 0730hrs the Daru, column (5/8GR) moved out, having been relieved in place by two companies of the Nigerian Battalion (NIBATT). At the same time the QRC was airlifted by two waves of three Mi-8s each to Area 3 Bridges. At 0738hrs the Kailahun companies linked up with 2 PARA (SF) and began moving towards Giehun with 2 PARA pulling rearguard duty and taking care of snipers along the way. Around 0930hrs Indian Mi-35s had arrived to provide security for the column.

At 0945hrs, 18 Grenadiers of INDBATT-2 were airlifted to a position northeast of Giehun and awaited the arrival of the Kailahun column, linking up with them by 1030hrs. The column then entered the town. One hour later a company from the Kailahun column was airlifted to Daru.

By 1230hrs the Daru column of 5/8GR linked up with the QRC at Area 3 Bridges, having fought through the towns of Bewabu and Kuiva, and prepared to attack the town of Pendembu. The town was the headquarters of the RUF number 1 Brigade and a tough battle was expected. An Mi-35 initiated the attack with a precise attack against known RUF positions inside the city. Mech-2 then moved through the town and occupied the northern section of Pendembu while Mot-2 systematically began searching houses. Several fire fights broke out, with the RUF forces taking all the casualties. With the town secure, a column was sent through the jungle and linked up with the remaining forces of the Kailahun column, which was then escorted into Pendembu, arriving at 1900hrs.

Beginning at 0815hrs on the 16 June, IAF Mi-8s began airlifting 2 PARA (SF) and INBATT-2 (minus D Company) to Daru. While the airlift was still ongoing, an Mi-35 engaged RUF forces north of Pendembu which were advancing on the town. By 1030hrs the last of 12 sorties by the Mi-8s were complete. 5/8GR along with the QRC (minus two platoons) departed Pendembu with Mot-2 in the lead. Mech-2 remained to the north to provide security, with one Mi-35 providing cover. On the return trip to Daru the column encountered ambushes along the way, with two taking place at 1430hrs. Mot-2 at the head of the column was ambushed outside of Bewabu while INDBATT-2 was hit outside of Kuiva. A vehicle carrying ammunition at the second ambush site was hit by an RPG, destroying it, and a Chetak helicopter was brought in to pick up the casualty.

At 1730hrs the column reached Daru, concluding this successful operation, that provided a boost for both, the Indian Army and UNAMSIL forces. The practice of take-the-fight-to-them involves extensive aerial reconnaissance followed by para-dropping operators into the target area. These missions continue for weeks at a stretch and include raids on terrorist camps and ambushes along infiltration routes.

On Going COIN Operations in J&K & Eastern States

Para Commandos conducted thousands of COIN operations in J&K ,Assam & Eastern states.Specially 9 PARA (SF) is very active in J&K operation.They regularly conduct Operation day-today basis.Sometime PARA SF work with Rashtriya Rifles (COIN force) in complicated operation. Since the mid-90s the role of Para Commandos as a counter terrorist force has increased substantially. They are now actively involved in counter terrorist operations in Kashmir as an essential part of the Home Ministry's decision to conduct pro-active raids against militants in the countryside and mountains.The practice of take-the-fight-to-them involves extensive aerial reconnaissance followed by para-dropping operators into the target area.These missions continue for weeks at a stretch and include raids on terrorist camps and ambushes along infiltration routes.Personnel include Para Commandos, NSG and special units of the Rashtriya Rifles - a paramilitary unit created to deal with the Kashmir insurgency. They may also include MARCOS personnel, many of whom are seconded to the Army for CT operations.

Indian Army Elite Para Commandos

Equipment

Para Commandos have access to all types of infantry weapons required for a particular mission.

Small Arms

  • [Browning hi-power pistol]]9MM
  • Glock pistol9MM
  • Beretta 92
  • INSAS assualt rifle9MM
  • ak-477.62 MM
  • [[]ak-103]]7.62 MM
  • VZ.587.62MM
  • M-4carbine5.56MM
  • Tavor5.56MM
  • FN- 20005.56MM
  • FN-FAL(1A SLR)7.62MM
  • SVD DRUGANOV7.62MM
  • Heckler and Koch MSG-907.62 MM
  • Heckler and Koch mp5 9MM
  • Sterling SMG ( Indian Made 1A 9MM

Insignia

On selection personnel wear the maroon beret,to distinguish between normal parachute regiment personnel and special forces personnel the normal parachute regiment bataalio personnel wear only the maroon beret whereas in addition to the maroon beret special forces operatives wear an insigania on both sleeves quoting " SPECIAL FORCES " and the red balidaan badge on the right chest pocket of their uniforms. The red balidaan badge is similar to the black flying dagger batch of the british SAS.

References

  1. ^ a b Parachute Regiment, India on Global-Security.org
  2. ^ a b c d e Para Commandos at Bharat Rakshak.com

External links


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