Special Forces of India

The Special Forces of India refer to those Special forces units which are serving the Republic of India and are specifically organised, trained, and are equipped to conduct and support special operations. The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have separate special forces units, namely the Para SF of Indian Army, MARCOS of Indian Navy and the Garud Commando Force of Indian Air Force.

However, small groups from these units are deputed in the Armed Forces Special Operations Division, which has a unified command and control structure.[1] The Research and Analysis Wing, the external Intelligence agency of India, has it's separate special forces unit called Special Group.

Indian Army

Para (Special Forces)

The unit was created in 1966 by the Indian Army.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, a small ad-hoc force comprising volunteers from most infantry units from North India under Maj Megh Singh of the Brigade of the Guards, operated along and behind enemy lines. The performance of this force made the powers that be sit up and take notice of the contribution and necessitated the raising of unconventional forces. Forming the nucleus of the new force from the volunteers of the then-disbanded Meghdoot Force, a battalion was raised to be part of the Brigade of Guards, but paratrooping being an integral part of commando tactics, the unit was transferred to the Parachute Regiment. Raised in July 1966, 9th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Commando) was the first special operations unit.

Exactly to the date, 1 July 1967, 10 Para Commando was raised by splitting 9 Para Commando at Gwalior. The Para Commandos were first deployed in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, with 9 Para Cdo capturing the heavy gun battery at Mandhol in Poonch, J&K. They took part in the 1984 Operation Blue Star. They were deployed in Sri Lanka in 1980s during India's involvement in the civil war, codenamed Operation Pawan. They also saw action in the Operation Cactus in 1988 in Maldives and in the 1999 Kargil War.[2]

The list of PARA (SF) Battalions are:[3]

  • 1 PARA (SF) (raised 1961, converted to para role in 1945, became part of para regt in 1952, converted to commando in 1978)
  • 2 PARA (SF) (ex-3 Maratha LI, converted to special forces in 1999.)
  • 3 PARA (SF) (ex-1st Kumaon, converted to special forces in 2000)
  • 4 PARA (SF) (raised 1961, converted to special forces in 2001)
  • 9 PARA (SF) (raised in 1966, the first dedicated special forces unit of the Indian Army)
  • 10 PARA (SF) (raised 1967)
  • 11 PARA (SF) (raised 2011)
  • 12 PARA (SF) (raised 2013)
  • 21 PARA (SF) (raised 1996)[3]

Indian Navy


This unit was created in 1987 by the Indian Navy. They saw action during Operation Pawan in 1988. They were a part of Operation Cactus in 1988. They have also been deployed in Wular Lake which was a major infiltration point for terrorists.[2]

During the 2008 Mumbai Attacks, MARCOS had participated in the operations along with the National Security Guards. The MARCOS, which had a base in Alibag, could have been called in much earlier, but were delayed due to bureaucratic indecision.[4][5][6] 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.[6]

Some of the responsibilities of MARCOS are-[7]

  • 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

Garud Commando Force

It is an Indian Air Force unit which was unveiled in February 2004. It primarily protects Indian Air Force installations from terrorist attacks.[8]

Garud trainees undergo a 72-week probation training course, which is the longest among all the Indian special forces. The total duration of training before a trainee can qualify as a fully operational Garud is around three years.

Garuds have diverse responsibilities. Besides base protection force to protect airfields and key assets in hostile environments, some advanced Garud units are trained like Army Para Commandos and the Naval MARCOS to undertake missions deep behind enemy lines.[8]

During hostilities, Garuds undertake combat search and rescue, rescue of downed airmen and other forces from behind enemy lines, suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD), radar busting, combat control, missile and munitions guidance ("lasing" of targets) and other missions in support of air operations. It has been suggested that they undertake an offensive role including raids on enemy air bases etc. during times of war. Apart from protecting air bases from sabotage and attacks by commando raids, they are also tasked to seal off weapons systems, fighter hangars and other major systems during intrusions and conflicts.

Note: The security of IAF installations such as radars, airfields and other establishments near border areas are generally performed by Air Force Police and Defence Security Corps (DSC).

Research and Analysis Wing

Special Group

The Special Group is a confidential special forces unit of the Research and Analysis Wing. It was formed in 1981.[9] 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.[10][9]

Special Frontier Force

The Special Frontier Force, also known as Establishment 22, is a confidential 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. It consists primarily of Tibetan people who are tasked to undertake operations in the tough terrain of the Himalayas and Tibet.[11]

Police and internal security commando groups

National Security Guard

The National Security Guard, which is a specialized counter-terrorism Federal Contingency Force. The NSG was formally created in 1986. It is modelled on the basis of the British Special Air Service and the German GSG 9.[12] The NSG are popularly referred to as the 'Black Cats' due to their distinct black uniforms.[13] It consists of the following two elements-[12]

Special Protection Group

The Special Protection Group is a specialised unit which provides protection to current Prime Minister of India and former Prime Ministers of India their family members for a minimum duration of 5 years. It was set up in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.[14]


COBRA, which stands for Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, is a specialized jungle warfare unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to counter the internal insurgency in India. It is considered the best paramilitary law enforcement unit in India.[15]

It has been actively deployed to counter the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in India across various states since its inception in 2008.[15]


  1. Peri, Dinakar (16 May 2019). "Centre names officers for tri-service divisions". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  2. India: Foreign Policy & Government Guide. International Business Publications. 1 May 2001. pp. 123–124, 130–131. ISBN 978-0-7397-8298-9. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  3. "Welcome to The Parachute Regiment". www.indianparachuteregiment.kar.nic.in. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015.
  4. "Mumbai attacks: the bureaucracy of India's marine commandos". The Guardian. 6 December 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  5. "Deadly delay in calling the marine commandos". The Economic Times. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  6. "15 Reasons The Indian Navy MARCOS Are The Best In The World". India times. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  7. "INS Abhimanyu | Indian Navy". Indian Navy. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  8. "Garud: IAF's commando force takes off". Rediff. Press Trust of India. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  9. "Special Group: Warriors of stealth". Hindustan Times. 9 February 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  10. Unnithan, Sandeep (30 November 1999). "Operation Bluestar: The league of shadows". India Today. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  11. "The curious case of establishment 22". Hindustan Times. 14 November 2009. Archived from the original on 17 November 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  12. "History of NSG | National Security Guard". www.nsg.gov.in. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  13. "NSG's Black Cat commandoes get an upgrade". The Economic Times. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  14. Haidar, Suhasini (26 August 2019). "Manmohan Singh set to lose SPG cover". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  15. "About Sector | CoBRA Sector | Central Reserve Police Force, Government of India". crpf.gov.in. Archived from the original on 8 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  16. "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.

Further reading

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