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P
India Para2.jpg
Elite soldiers of Indian Army's 9 Para Commandos
Active 1966–Present
Country India India
Branch Flag of Indian Army.svg Indian Army
Type Special Forces
Role

Primary tasks:

Other Roles:

Size 8 Battalions
Regimental Centre Bangalore, Karnataka
Motto(s) Shatrujeet (The Conqueror)
Engagements Indo-Pakistani War of 1971,
Operation Blue Star,
Operation Cactus,
Operation Pawan,
Kashmiri hostage taking 1995,
Kargil War (1999),
Operation Rakshak,
Operation Khukri
CT ops in Samba
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lt Gen PC Katoch, PVSM, AVSM, SC
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Maroon Beret, shoulder titles and the "Balidaan" (Sacrifice) badge.
Identification
symbol
Sleeve Patch

Para Commandos are a special forces unit of the Indian Army mandated with special operating missions such as Direct action, Hostage rescue, Counter-terrorist, Unconventional warfare, Special reconnaissance, Foreign Internal Defense, Personnel recovery, Asymmetric warfare, Counterproliferation are its primary tasks during hostility. Formed in 1966, the Para Commandos are the largest and most important part of the Special Forces of India. They are a part of the highly trained Parachute Regiment of the Indian Army and, generally, all the Para-Commando personnel are selected from it. They are the crack force and help the main army to get in the enemy lines without much damage. The main aim of having a Parachute Regiment is for quick deployment of Soldiers behind the enemy lines to attack the enemy from behind and destroy their first line of defence. The Parachute Regiment, consisting of PARA (SF) and PARA (SF) Airborne battalions, is the elite volunteer force of the Indian Army.Because of its specified role, the regiment needs to be kept at optimum level of operational efficiency and physical fitness. Towards this end, this specially selected manpower should be comparatively young, physically fit and mentally robust, intelligent, innovative and highly motivated so as to successfully accomplish the assigned operational tasks.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

The parachute units of the Indian Army are among the oldest airborne units in the world. The first such unit to be authorized was on 15 May 1941, and the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade was formed on 27 October 1941, comprising the 151st British Parachute Battalion, 152nd Indian Parachute Battalion & 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion.[2] During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, an ad hoc commando unit, named Meghdoot Force, consisting of volunteers from various infantry units was organized by then Major Megh Singh of the Brigade of the Guards. The unit performed well in combat and the Government authorized the formal raising of a commando unit. Lt Col Megh Singh was selected to raise the unit which was originally intended to be a part of the Brigade of the Guards. However, recognizing parachute qualification as an integral element of 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 was 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.[2]

In 1978, the 1 Para, as an experiment, was converted to become the first special forces unit of the Indian army and was 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 was originally 1 Punjab which was later re designated as 1 PARA (PUNJAB) and in 1978 was converted to 1 PARA (SF). The unit is well over 200 years old.

1995 saw the formation of the fourth commando battalion when 21 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 than a year, on 1 February 1996, the unit under Col VB Shinde, was formally inducted 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 began the conversion process from parachute to special forces role, followed closely by the 3 Para and the 4 Para in the year 2004 and 2005 respectively. Recently 11 Para (SF) became the newest battalion to join the folds of The Parachute Regiment raising the strength of the special forces to eight battalions. The Parachute Regiment presently has eight special forces, three parachute, two Territorial Army and one Counter-Insurgency (Rashtriya Rifles) battalions in its fold.

Combat History[edit | edit source]

1971 Indo-Pakistan War[edit | edit source]

Para Commandos were first deployed in combat in the 1971 Indo-Pak War where they performed gallantly. The 9 Para Cdo saw action through a daring raid on a Pakistani gun position 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 which enabled the 25th Infantry Division to progress their operations on Daruchian (a Pakistani occupied post), won the 9 Para Cdo the Battle Honour of Mandhol. In Bangla Desh 2 PARA BATTALION Group, which was a part of 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade carried out India's first airborne assault operation to capture Poongli Bridge in Mymensingh District near Dacca. Subsequently they were the first unit to enter Dacca. For this action 2 PARA were given the Battle Honour of Poongli Bridge and Theater Honour Dacca.[3]

Operation Bluestar 1984[edit | edit source]

In 1984 the Para Commandos were involved in Operation Blue Star. 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[edit | edit source]

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, Maldives[edit | edit source]

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 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade to carry out an airborne/air transported operation to liberate the country and return power to the legal government. This operation had 7 PARA spearheading the mission with 6 Para following up in reserve. 7 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 7 Para & part of 17 Para Fd Regt were 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, 7 Para & 17 Para Fd Regt conducted the first ever international intervention by the Indian army without any loss of life.

Kashmiri hostage-taking, July 4, 1995[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

During Kargil War Approximately 4-5 Para/Commando battalions were employed.

Operation Khukri 2000, Sierra Leone[edit | edit source]

Operation Khukri was a rescue mission conducted by the 18th Grenadiers in Sierra Leone, June 2000. The operation was launched by a combination of Indian Army's 5/8GR, 18 Grenadiers, Team 2 PARA(SF), Indian Composite Artillery Regiment (LFG & 120mm Mortars) and two engineer companies belonging to 116 Bengal Sappers and 7 Engineer, Madras Sappers regiments. The IAF's contributions were 3 Mi35 Hinds, 4 Mi-8s and 2 Chetaks (aloutttes). The mission was a success, which resulted in safe rescue of all 223 hostages, where Indian troops were part of a multinational UN peacekeeping force. About 120 operators commanded by Major (now Lt. Col.) 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.

Operation Summer Storm 2009[edit | edit source]

On April 11, 2009, the 57 Mountain Division of the Indian Army based in Manipur, along with the para-military Assam Rifles and State Police, launched a counter insurgency operation, codenamed ‘Operation Summer Storm’ in the Loktak Lake area and adjoining Keibul Lamjao National Park of Bishnupur District, located south of State capital Imphal. This first major mobilisation of troops this year ended on April 21. As the troops began pulling out, the Army spokesperson described the operation as a success, disclosing that 12 militants, all belonging to the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) were killed. The Forces also claimed to have located and destroyed five militant camps during the Operation and seized 10 weapons, including six AK-series rifles, a rocket launcher, and an unspecified quantity of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). No militant was arrested. No fatality among the Security Force (SF) personnel or civilians was reported.

Ongoing COIN Operations in J&K and Eastern States[edit | edit source]

Para and Para commandos have conducted thousands of COIN operations in J&K, Assam and the eastern states in India. Sometime these units work with Rashtriya Rifles (COIN force) in complicated operations. Since the mid-1990s the role of Para and Para commandos as a counter terrorist force has increased substantially. They are now actively involved in counter terrorist (CT) 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. Personnel include Para Commandos, Special Forces (Airborne), 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.

Counter terrorist operation in Samba[edit | edit source]

On September 26, Dressed in Army fatigues, terrorists stormed a police station and then an Army camp in Jammu region killing 10 people, including an Army officer, in twin 'fidayeen' attacks after they sneaked in from across the border early on Thursday, barely three days ahead of a meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. The attack was on a police station and the 16 Cavalry unit of the Army in Samba district falls under the jurisdiction of 9 corps, headquartered at Yol Cantonment in Himachal Pradesh. The three heavily armed terrorists, believed to be from banned Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and who were holed up in the camp of the cavalry armoured unit at Samba for several hours after they barged into the Officers mess, have been killed during a fierce gunfight with 9 para(SF) of army. The bodies of the three terrorists aged between 16 and 19 are in the custody of the Army[4]

Authorities moved commandos of 9 Para regiment in helicopters to the shootout site. The Para commandos first carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the camp before landing there to neutralize the three terrorists. The Para commandos had identified the exact spot during the aerial recce from where the terrorists were returning the army fire. After landing, the commandos started engaging the terrorists in a direct gunfight, but in order to give them an impression that their exact spot of hiding had still not been identified, an abandoned building inside the camp was blasted. This made the terrorists complacent that their hiding spot had not been yet been pin-pointed. They kept on intermittently returning the army fire till all three of them were eliminated. The entire operation from the moment the terrorists entered the camp and till they were gunned down took nearly nine hours to complete. The main worry of the soldiers tasked to eliminate the terrorists was the Army Public School situated some distance from the place where the terrorists had been engaged in a sustained firefight. Army men were worried about the possibility the terrorists moving into the school and taking children and staff as hostage. That is why the exercise to eliminate the terrorists was carried out with extreme caution and patience[5]

Organization[edit | edit source]

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

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.

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 (SF), with deep sea divers in its ranks, specialized in anti-hijacking and hostage crises; 9 Para (SF), with experienced mountaineers, was dedicated to mountainous and high-altitude warfare, 10 Para (SF) for desert warfare and the 21 Para (SF) for jungle warfare. However, these specializations have been dispensed with, and all special forces units are equally capable of operating in all conditions.

Functions[edit | edit source]

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

Personnel[edit | edit source]

Selection[edit | edit source]

All Indian paratroopers are volunteers. Some enter the Para regiments fresh from recruitment, while others transfer in from regular army units.[6] They are put through a probationary period of six months for PARA (SF) Battalions (1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 & 21 PARA) and three months for PARA Airborne battalions (5, 6 & 7 PARA), where they undergo various physical, mental and psychological tests, with the rejection rate averaging from 70–80 percent.

Training[edit | edit source]

Those selected are 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 an altitude of 22500 ft 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 well as the Maroon Beret. Only when the probationer has served for six months in hostile areas or one year as a whole he is awarded the Special Forces Tab as well as the Balidan badge.

As training is an ongoing process, specially in the special forces, the members are further trained in specialised mode of infiltration and exfiltration, either by air (combat freefall) or sea (combat diving). Some trainees return to PTS to undergo the free-fall course, which requires at least 50 jumps from altitudes up to 22,500 feet to pass. 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)/AMX-310 to conduct stealth insertions over distances up to 50 km is also perfected.[6]

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

Daily routine begins with a 5 km morning run. Infiltration, assault, room and building intervention and ambush tactics are refined and perfected. Special attention is given to CQB, urban warfare, counter-terror warfare and unarmed combat.[6]

Night and weapons training and field craft involving 20 km treks with 60 kg (132 lb) loads and live ammunition are conducted. Monthly forced marches with 65 kg combat loads with distances over 30 to 50 miles 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.[6]

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 Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram, Indian special forces training school in nahan in Himachal Pradesh . These schools are among the finest of their kind anywhere and routinely host students from other countries.[6]

The USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) personnel have attend courses held by CIJWS and may grant access to HAWS as part for further military cooperation between the two countries. Vajra Prahar is an ongoing series of joint exercises between the para commandos and U.S. Army Special Forces.[7] U.S. Army Special Forces have also 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 or HAL (Dhruv) helicopters for this purpose.

Joint exercises with other nations[edit | edit source]

The Para Commandos conduct a series of joint exercises, named VJRA PRAHAR, with the United States Army special forces every year, in which about 100 personal from the US and Indian special forces participate.[8] INDRA series of joint exerise with Russian special forces,[9] operation sampriti with Bangladesh special forces.[10] paracommandos also conducts exercises and training with Special forces of Israel,[11] Ajeya Warrior series of exercise with special forces of UK,[12] Indian special forces conduct exercises with special forces of the following 16 friendly countries: the United States, France, the UK, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives, Seychelles, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.[13] In 2006, the special forces of India, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted joint exercises on counter-terrorism in Russia.[14]

Equipment[edit | edit source]

Para Commandos have access to various types of infantry weapons required for particular missions.

Small Arms[edit | edit source]

All the equipment for the para commandos are manufactured indigenously by the Indian Ordnance Factories controlled by the Ordnance Factories Board, Ministry of Defence, Government of India.

Transport[edit | edit source]

Insignia[edit | edit source]

Para Commando personnel, like other parachute troops in the Indian military, wear a maroon beret. In addition, they wear a 'Special Forces' tab on each shoulder. Personnel who have served for at least one year in the special forces, or six months while deployed in the field, are authorized to wear the 'Balidaan' (Sacrifice) badge.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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