Military & Aerospace

Equating Airborne Forces with Special Forces
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Feb , 2016

Stie from the Sky

It was amusing to watch a recent program on Lok Sabha TV on Army’s Special Forces with not one of the veteran military panelists having served even for a single day in a Special Forces unit. Reminded one of the now infamous Track II recommending withdrawal from Siachen with not one of the nine military members served, visited or taken a briefing on Siachen. While the Track II had their agenda about Siachen, the above TV panelists indulged in perception building that there is no difference between airborne forces and Special Forces.

If there was indeed no difference between the two, why would the US maintain 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions separate from the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM)?

Though this is a game going on for long to somehow get hold of the Special Forces Allowance and the special qualification badge for all airborne forces, the perception building campaign has been accelerated of late perceiving establishment of the Special Operations Command in the near future. So you find views being expressed that the role, tasks and organizations of airborne and Special Forces are by and large the same, and need to be reviewed.

Interestingly, one of the panelists of the above TV discussion has been recommending since December 2013 that the entire Parachute Regiment should be part of the Special Operations Command, as if the Special Operations Command would be some superlative Noah’s Ark that must house everyone.

Special operations are “special” or unconventional and carried out by dedicated Special Forces units using unconventional methods and resources at the operational and strategic levels, performed independently of or in conjunction with conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does not exist or might adversely affect the overall strategic outcome. Such operations are usually conducted in a low-profile manner that aims to achieve the advantages of speed, surprise, and violence of action against an unsuspecting target.

But first let us discuss Airborne and Special Forces. If there was indeed no difference between the two, why would the US maintain 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions separate from the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM)? Why would Chinese have their Special Forces from their Airborne Corps? Why would the British maintain the SAS separate from the British Parachute Regiment? Why would Germany maintain their Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkrafte) separate from the German Parachute Regiment and German Parachute Divisions? Why would Pakistan maintain the SSG as a separate force?

…the two cannot be equated. Sure the airborne units are to be airdropped behind enemy lines but once dropped their role is akin to any air-landed infantry battalion – holding ground till link up is established.

The reason is pretty simple – the two cannot be equated. Sure the airborne units are to be airdropped behind enemy lines but once dropped their role is akin to any air-landed infantry battalion – holding ground till link up is established.

During the course of a presentation on 22 April 2002, Lt Gen RK Nanavatty, Northen Army Commander who himself had headed the Commando Cell in Military operations as a Brigadier, had remarked, “I find the vision blurring in certain quarters on the Issue of Para and Para (SF). I am very clear that a Parachute Battalion is simply an Infantry Battalion in airborne role and has nothing in common with a Special Forces Battalion. The Special Forces are not a game of numbers and I for one am against their expansion of any sorts. We must consolidate and modernize our existing Special Forces resources.

As regards the Parachute Brigade, I view them as a RRF to be used within and outside the country.” Interestingly, the presentation was made by the Para Brigade Commander (recommending converting the entire Parachute Regiment to Special Forces role) on behest of the then Colonel of the Parachute Regiment. Again with respect to Army’s Special Forces, a two star General from Army’s Perspective Planning Directorate too had noted way back in 1999, “By their very nomenclature, the Parachute (Special Forces) battalions are unique. Therefore, there is a need to de-link and distinguish them from other similar organizations.

While some of the tasks that they may perform may be similar to those of regular infantry / parachute battalions, the similarity ends here. Unless this uniqueness is accepted and enforced in all aspects of organization, equipment, training and administration of these units, they may not achieve their potential”.

Many would be unaware that General BC Joshi was the first Army Chief who took note of the focus required to alleviate the Special Forces concept and the need for employing Special Forces at operational and strategic levels. Under him the, Army Special Forces Regiment was raised with the then three Parachute Commando Battalions renamed as Special Forces Battalions. The Headquarters Special Forces and a Special Forces Training School (SFTS) too was raised.

The appointment of Chief of Army Staff was designated Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment and Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi (who eventually retired as Vice Chief of Army Staff) took over as Colonel of the Special Forces Regiment. Unfortunately, Gen Joshi died in harness. His successor, Gen Shankar Roychowdhury was presented the banner of the Army Special Forces Regiment since he became the Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment in his capacity of COAS – inset picture shows Lieutenant General A Sandhu, then Director General Military Operation and Ex-Officio Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment presenting the Army Special Forces Regiment banner to General Shankar Roychowdhury.

The result was that weapons and equipment meant for Special Forces started getting shared with normal parachute battalions.

But then General Shankar Roychowdhury succumbed to pressures from veteran paratrooper General Officers and disbanded the Army Special Forces Regiment which was fully raised and functional, merging the Parachute Commando Battalions into the Parachute Regiment. He later told Brig (later Major General) Keshav Padha, then Commander Army Special Forces (also in inset photograph) that he could not withstand the pressure from the Burhas (read old Generals). It sure was an act that has no parallel in history – Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment disbanding his own Regiment but it set back the Army Special Forces by decades.

But more followed: Headquarters Special Forces was gradually broken up and finally disbanded; bulk of being officers posted in Additional Directorate General (Special Forces) in Military Operations Directorate became non-Special Forces officers – which continues to date; all out efforts continue to be made on ‘equating’ the Parachute Battalions with Special Forces battalions – focused on getting for the Parachute Battalions same tasks as Special Forces, similar organization, similar weapons and equipment, similar manpower policies, more or same level of training with foreign Special Forces, same Special Forces insignia and Special Forces allowance by renaming Parachute Battalions as Special Forces (Airborne); US employment of Airborne Divisions in invading Afghanistan were portrayed as 20,000 USSF used in order to expand Army Special Forces and convert as many airborne battalions into Special Forces role; the SFTS who the DGMO in 2002 had ruled should remain exclusive to Special Forces was made applicable to parachute battalion too.

Call it by design or default, Para officers were posted to appointments in various directorates that controlled the training, equipping, manning and postings of Special Forces units. The result was that weapons and equipment meant for Special Forces started getting shared with normal parachute battalions. Foreign Special Forces coming for joint training to India with Special Forces too were largely directed to the Parachute Brigade on pretext of secrecy. In one case troops from parachute units, not Special Forces, went to train with Spetsnaz in Russia – all this to build a case there is no difference between airborne and Special Forces !

Our airborne forces should focus on streamlining their operations rather than concentrating on equating themselves with Special Forces.

The US Special Forces too underwent similar resistance from the airborne forces but were lucky to eventually break away. The equation of airborne forces with Special Forces has not been agreed to any of the Army Chiefs in the past but the Army certainly needs to put a stop to such nonsensical efforts that not only stymie the growth of Special Forces but distract the growth of airborne forces from their own task. Airborne Forces have never been equated with Special Forces, can never be and should never be. They are separate entities with separate well defined tasks. Some Army Chief will have to muster courage to undo the adverse fallout of the action taken by Gen Shankar Roychowdhury on Special Forces.

The British Airborne Forces did a splendid job in Falklands. They are not claiming to be equated with Special Forces.

Our airborne forces should focus on streamlining their operations rather than concentrating on equating themselves with Special Forces. Lt Gen US Lidder as CISC and Colonel of the Parachute Regiment had recommended to General Deepak Kapoor, then COAS, that the Deputy Directorate General of Special Forces in Military Operations be upgraded to Additional Directorate General and brought directly under the VCOAS, with all issues of manning, equipping, training and postings controlled by the ADG (SF). While the upgrade did take place, everything else remained same because the DGMO felt that his turf was being encroached upon, which is highly stupid because in all armies, the Special Forces are directly under the highest military authority?

The Army, in particular the Vice Chief must look at this aspect seriously since we have gone ahead and expanded to nine Special Forces battalions, with the tenth one on the anvil.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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27 thoughts on “Equating Airborne Forces with Special Forces

  1. I would like to share that all the para units must be equipped equally with proper training and mobility of success in their future than to rather show their differences. Some of the airborne paratroopers get totally mood off and dis motivated due to their low prestige against their units(airborne) . All of them are trained hard in the centre with the same time. Their batches while gets honored with badges of balidan and they remains the same. Not only this they feel heart broken proclaiming to leave the regiment due to their mis units which is not sf.they too r not weak in physique but their misplacement of units in Centre devastigats their choice… Turn all the units into sf. All r equally hardworking trooper and their mother is the same. If you all goes on differentiating the sf and airborne the airborne might flee away to completely crash of the unit resulting to end up their units. None of us who are in airborne is happy Coz we deserve respects as our next brother who are in sf…….. Thank you.

  2. Reccomendation :
    Convert all Parachute regiment battalions to SF and give them uniformity .

    This will end the crub for allowance plus normal troop serving in AB battalion would feel equal which they are . Every troop is equally competent
    All of them are volunteers and luck only should not decide their fate .

    What the existing SF battalion role is needs some attention and same is to be sought for a regular battalion .

    When all the 9+5 battalions are on the same page then add new dimension to each battalion .

    For already an SF battalion require them to transform to 1/2 sf role and 2/3 airborne role company vice versa for an AB .

    Rotate most of the battalions in the brigade and giving some battalions a static location for a longer duriation but not forever .

    This would increase the administrative efficiency of a battalion with all officers not ingrossed in training and the CO with the lone person whose abilities matter in management .
    You maybe a superinfantry but still you are an infantry don’t be mistaken that you are some James Bond force .

    Then one will naturally see the caliber of all the units in optimum and morale of the troops would be ever high and competitive within the unit . Every solider wants to see action and prove his blood .

    Gone are the days when a mass airborne operation would take place or such high number of sf troops would be effectively and efficently used at a period of time.
    And if you think ab operations only involve holding on to ground then why not consider all infantry units to be able to perform ab role .

    This is India everyone is the same breed , when we get certain type of laurels we want to hold on to them and monopolise it and this is what traditional sf has been doing . Troops and officers serving in ab/sf battalions are there on the luck LtGen Katoch could quite easily have been an Airborne officer if luck had its way and same is for the others .

    Get over it , make the regiment dynamic and efficient.
    Jai Hind !

  3. I fully understand what the general wants to convey :
    How the regiment was raised , how it was raised and its historic use is all behind us . Warefare is changing day by day and adding new dimensions to it everyday .
    Backdrop:
    Earlier there was no concept of a commando battalion when the regiment was raised . Every unit was a regular para unit .
    Then a certain Guards officer had an idea to raise commando battalions .
    He very well went with his idea and gave results . The whole mindset was to induct these commando battalions in the regiment of Guards and give them the SAS dagger . Yes again no originality , but a certain mindset to do something special .
    With these battalions the”Meghdoot ki Fauj” having parachute qualification they were inducted into the Parachute Regiment .

    ***If a clear ideology and plan was their in place about raising of commando battalion such a step would not have been taken but there and then a new “special force regiment” could have been created . ***

    But that was not the case so be it .
    Later a need errupted hence 1 was converted .Strength:3commando,7regular .
    After Kargil strength:8sf,3regular
    Why were these 3 regular Para battalion discriminated ..no idea maybe just to maintain para brigade .
    No real purpose or planning is easily tracible .
    Today :
    When a recruit is fresh out of PRTC he doesn’t know what fate has in it form him even though all are same capabilities and same is for an officer volunteering for para .
    It has been highly unfair on part of the remaining regular battalions as to why they have been labelled as airborne and other enjoy an elite specification .
    Convert all units to special force , they have shared the same history it’s just that which unit was posted I which location which turned out to be real fruitful for them.
    For eg: 5 para had 2 where as 6 had 1 commendation by 2000 but 2,3,4 had 1,1and zero respectively. Why were they given a preference over other battalions .

  4. Contd…. I do agree that we need a Special Forces command, but why do you want to keep the Airborne forces out of the ambit of the Special Forces Command. They just want a command to themselves to what purpose, I can’t put a purpose to it. Aren’t the operations of the Airborne Forces special in nature? It has to be understood that in intervention across our borders it will be the Airborne Forces that will be deployed having elements of Special Forces embedded in the operations. Its the way the operations will shape up in the Indian context. We do need to create a Special Forces Command and there is an urgent requirement to establish it. All forces that will be operating out of the ambit of standard infantry and armoured operations be put under this command.

  5. The biggest lament Gen Katoch has is of the ‘Banner’ that was presented and then everything got demolished due to the interference of retired officers of the Parachute Regiment. In principle I a Paratrooper tend to agree with him that Special Forces are a different ball game than the Airborne Forces. Where I disagree is that he discounts the Airborne forces as a normal Infantry Unit. He also got commissioned to an Airborne Battalion whose metamorphosis to a Special Forces Battalion was a process full of all kinds of tribulations which we ‘Old ‘ paratroopers are well aware off. It took them years to settle down, and a lot of water that flowed under the bridge was due to the fact that they thought they were special. My own Battalion when converted to Special Forces was on the ball from the start. I just want to put a point across that the Parachute Battalions are specially trained troops who adapt to changing tactical environments without any issues and problems. I can assure you that a Parachute Battalion can transit to a Special Forces role without much fuss but an SF Battalion can’t do that in reverse. It’s an issue of mind set. Our Special Forces guys are confused about what they want to be. Seal Team 6 , Delta Force, SAS, GSG -9 and so on . The real issue is that you can’t be all that because your government doesn’t have a comprehensive policy on the use and projection of the Armed Forces of the country. contd …..

  6. This article is extremely thought provoking… More so because it is very factual and cogent.

    The author is indeed an authority on this subject and is well within his right to say what he has said. There is no way that he is putting his own Mother Regt down at all as to become a Special Forces man one has to be from the Parachute Regt itself. There is also no argument at all that the role of the SF and its training are indeed SPECIALIZED and even more arduous as History has proved throughout not just from the days of Otto Skorenzy and his daring rescue of Mussolini as well as Stirling and the birth of the SAS… In fact in the British Army, the Paras hold the SAS in near awe with the adage “ He is a SAS MAN!!!” in fact if I am not mistaken the SAS pulls in volunteers from any regiment or arm…

    What I find intriguing is that at a time when the Army has to carry Boards to differentiate themselves from the Police or BSF why was there a panel discussion on this subject which is exclusively a FAMILY ( the Regt ) issue if at all.

    The Armed Forces are the only organization in our country where everybody is respected for the role he or she has to play irrespective of rank or specialization.
    It is sad that this debate has to be brought out at all as in my humble opinion a Specialist is indeed a Specialist as seen very clearly in every walk of life.

    I have the deepest admiration for the Parachute Regt and I am proud to have in my collection my Father’s Kangol Airborne Beret which he wore in action in Naushera and Jangadh as BSO ( Brigade Signal’s Officer )in the 1948 Kashmir Campaign. However, the awe that I have for our Special Forces runs deep with silent respect and I wish that they will continue to grow from strength to strength.

    Happy Landings!!!

  7. I believe the article by General officer is correct and hard hitting. The most difficult issue we all face is ‘change’, the sooner we get around to understanding and accepting that we need to change our fixated thinking, the better it will be for all of us..

  8. Well with due respect to the veteran . The ideas n policies should have been implemented when he was the cor. In any case the damage has already been done . What surprising is the amount of vengeance infused by the veteran who everyone in the envt should look at with respect. With every passing day the divide only increases. It is actually such ironic to read such articles. I firmly believe one should work hard towards achieving of the goals of the org when in uniform . Post retirement it is his well wishes n prayers for the org which matter. It is actually sad to read all these I am sure atleast the readers are mature enough and not pay heed to such discussions.

  9. I am a 79 year old Paratrooper and a diehard one for that but I agree with what Gen Katoch has written. I have watched this tamasha of the paratroopers doing down the SF. Many paratrooper Colonel of the Parachute Regiment have worked against the interests of the SF including unwarranted expansion using logic and means that may modestly describes as devious. Many would be unaware that when the Special Forces Regiment was functional and wanted to add the fourth SF battalion, the first call was given to the Parachute Regiment but they refused though having six para battalions. However, moment the SF Regiment was disbanded the game commenced to somehow convert every Para battalion to SF. Deepak Sinha’s logic that since police Cobra battalions are getting the SF Allowance, para battalions should also get it, shows the hollowness of mind. There is no reason why SF should not have a separate distinct entity.

    • Sir, The narratives we believe depend on the facts we are aware of and our inherent biases. What you consider deviousness could also be perceived as attempts by Colonel of the Regiments to keep the Regiment unified for greater good. Who are we to judge without knowledge of full facts. One issue I can speak on is that the SF Regt foundered and was done away with primarily because of lack of volunteers and the large shortages that units ended up with. After the experiment was called off PARA battalions had to provide manpower to SF units till their strength was made up. These facts are documented in an analysis done by Infantry Directorate for the COAS, Gen Padmanabhan, when another attempt was made to revive the SF Regt. Based on that analysis the subsequent attempt was negated. This is the reason that while emotive statement continue to be made about the SF Regt, little is mentioned about the conclusions arrived at from the analysis. Truth tends to be a bitter pill.
      As regards allowances there is a need for a transparent quantitative criteria to be evolved to decide the matter. When such criteria is based on perceptions and influence we certainly get statements, as made by someone, that COBRA conduct Special Operations and results as the 7th CPC has recommended! Reality of their functioning, as all are aware, is completely different. While we can be happy doing each other down, the truth is military compensations have become a joke as the case of the Siachen Allowance, doing the rounds, clearly proves. Compensation must always be equitable to the task expected of the individual or unit and certainly the Airborne units too meet a critical requirement and must get proper compensation.

      • Very well written sir. If i may add my two cents.
        The author has done all that he could to show his beloved Special Forces as the best uniformed men, but missed out on mentioning why he thinks so to the point of saying that the PARA battalions even want to wear their insignia and “steal”their allowance..but is happy to share the same witj COBRA of Crpf. Reminds me of ” duniya apne dard se zyada apno ki khushi se dukhi hai.”
        I all for special weapons, equipment, allowances and even ration for the special forces but please don’t do that by showing the othet in poor light as a distant second cousin. Sir which of these nations you quoted has more SF units than PARA units as is the case now with our army.
        And if you find the loss of your turf including the insignia and allowance so threatening then why not as “unfortunately ” happened in the case of Special Forces under Gen Chaudhary. .why not disband the PARA units and train infantry units in parachuting because thats hat as per the author they are “just infantry in air landed role” and designate them as Airborne Infantry thereby na rahega baans na bajegi baansuri

  10. As one of the panellists on the TV Programme mentioned I would say in my defence that despite not having served in a “SF” unit in my 34 plus years in the Parachute Regiment, I have certainly been lucky and honoured to have been intimately involved with these units in various capacities, apart off course having had the benefit of taking time off to study and write a book on the subject.
    In fact the authors comment begs the question; is having served in an SF unit be the only criteria to be considered an expert on special operations? Ironically, by the authors own definition the only special operations we have been undertaken by the army are the Airborne Drop in 1971, the Maldives intervention, both by Airborne units and the Sierra Leone hostage rescue by 2 PARA, then under conversion to SF. If that be the case then may be the author would like to elucidate as who exactly from our “SF Community” has the experience of Special Operations to speak on the subject.
    The authors contention that the main aim of the Airborne to equate themselves with SF is because they want the same allowances is actually missing the woods for the trees. The 7th CPC recommends that the CRPF’s COBRA units be paid on par with PARA (SF) and if the author does not object to that equation then why shouldn’t Airborne personnel be considered on par in the Risk Matrix?
    I think it is time we stopped cut- pasting doctrine from other countries and came up with our own based on our strategic requirements, political philosophy and cultural traditions. To suggest Airborne Operations are not Special Operations defies logic and to believe that every AB operation only involves holding ground and link up is to live in the past. My ideas and suggestions on this aspect have been clearly elucidated in my article in the IDR ( AIRBORNE & SPECIAL FORCES: REASSESSING ROLE, TASKS & ORGANIZATIONS), hence not being repeated. My conclusions clearly suggest a fresh approach is required to be taken on this.

    • The forcible coupling of the Special Forces with the Parachute Regiment has seriously harmed India’s strategic capabilities. Parachute battalions are airborne troops, which needs mass to hold ground after air insertion. Special Forces are small team operations that offer a strategic capability far beyond India’s territorial boundaries. No country makes the mistake of coupling airborne with Special Forces. It’s time India did the same.

      As for COBRA battalions, they are doing special operations, unlike Parachute battalions. If the Paras want more money, they are welcome. But they are not special forces. If they were, then why was 2 Para converted? Conversion means they now do a different role.

      • As written in an earlier reply the SF Regt concept did not work because they could not get needed volunteers. That apart while SF ops may be small team there are innumerable examples of large teams at work. At Entebbe the Israelis had 100 cdos. During the USA’s abortive attempt in Iran, Delta Force had over 140 troops. Otto Skorzeny’s rescue of Mussolini involved 82 paratroopers. THe Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, involved hundreds of Spetznaz supported by two AB Divs as was the case in Afghanistan when President Amin was assassinated. Even the Osama Raid involved approx 79 men in the assault group and another 30 odd backing up as reserve. Thus small team ops while possible is not writ in stone.
        As regards Airborne Forces, capture of a ground is just one task they may be given among several others and capture does not necessarily mean they have to hold ground till relieved. Concepts have undergone some changes as well. What other countries do is unimportant, we should do what suits us and develop our forces to meet our requirements. For all their strategic employment, the Americans have still been forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, so lets not look at strategic employment of SF as a panacea for all our problems.

      • Well India has SFF (special Frontier Force) India’s first special force compendium of units why have they been never used ? They were active and in full propulsion well before “Meghdoot ki Fauj” was raised . As by the interest of the Regiment of Guards who have a nack to become something special but never give results , this was their second attempt to become “special” first being their “fitoor” of becoming a lone and solo regiment to become Guards to the President of India , clearly wanting to be a Delhi bound regiment .

        Moving on , even the SFF was raised by the Para Battalions .
        And in regard of the today’s Airborne battalions which are 3 in number they just want to convert to SF if given them the opportunity .Why is that mostly all the units share the same 55 yr old history and suddenly being discriminated when conversion for SF was called for .
        Just because they were serving field then they were skipped over and the other battalions was chooseṅ to convert to SF given that the battalions I.e the today’s airborne had better operational history and laurels to its name .

        2 was always a decorated unit but why were 3 and 4 chooseṅ for conversion ? 5 and 6 had more laurels , commendation and operational history than 3,4 !
        This is what today’s Airborne is furious about .

  11. 1. I broadly agree with Gen Katoch who has been through THICK and THIN of transformations in Airborne and SF Forces. The journey has not been smooth since the days when we had only two Commando Bns, three out of remaining 8 were on verge of being converted into normal Bns by a chief with vision only in one eye (He could only manage to take away 8 Para saving 6 & 7 from his eye by miracle!) and 10 Para Cdo was under tremendous upheaval while 1 Para was going through another crisis and simultaneously under conversion to SF
    2. The General has been economical in his critical narration due to space constraint and modesty. He doesn’t mention exploits of MEGH RAJ KI FAUJ (later 9 Para) and havoc it created behind enemy lines deep inside enemy country and role of 10 and 1 as indep groups in various Northern and Eastern sectors. Yes public by large and press can not digest many UN pleasant truths.
    3. The story about the Chief who disbanded his own regiment is painful. I had seen his nothings once where he proudly announced that his one of the KRA was TRAINING OF COOKS !! The ASC ran with this KRA and got them a few Senior and Middle ranking appointments in addition to a whole training module added to them.
    4. I said broadly agree since it pains me even to read what the General had to say. There are many things in SECURITY APP and ARMED FORCES of a country which are not seen, heard or discussed but DONE all the same. Suffice is to say that Gen Prakash knows what he is talking and any body who even dreams that Special Forces are NOT SPECIAL is living in fools paradise. Let there be a proportionate force level of AIRBORNE Troops. But SFs are for ops in smaller groups/dets, trained in multiple SKILLS with degree of efficiency ( Inf/ Airborne, Cdo, Jungle warfare, Survival, Driving, Diving, Signalling, Medical etc etc. They have high degree of attrition rate and mortality / Trg and Ops wastage. CAN NOT HAVE WHOLE AIRBORN REGT AS SF SIRS. Not required and not feasible.

  12. I agree with the General that we need a bifurcation between the Special Forces and the Airborne Forces. But what I want to tell him that the Indian Army is not clear on what is it going to do with so many Special Forces Battalions. Each Special Forces Battalion is 700- 800 men and no one and even the Special Forces guy can tell as to what the 700 – 800 guys are going to do in war. With 9 to 10 Special Forces Battalions it comes to a strength of nearly 8000 Special Forces Troops. What are you going to do with them in combat. We have to be clear on these aspects. We are on a mathematical matrix to divide SF Battalions to various commands of the Army, its like distributing goodies. To be honest they don’t know what to do with them and how to employ them. There is a lot do be done on this issue in our Army. Some sane minds have to sit down without prejudices and resolve the issue. Today in our country our SF guys want to be SAS, Seal team Six, Delta Force etc etc. Its a buggers muddle that has to be solved. You can be all that if your country has a Strategic Policy and it factors the Armed Forces into is Foreign policy.

    • The SF has been against the expansion ALL ALONG. In fact, if you read the article, Gen Nanavatty said so in specific terms. The unprecedented expansion has affected the manning and equipping of the SF adversely. You can read the rest in the book India’s Special Forces. The least that should have happened was to give the SF their own COR.

  13. Few facts for the above veteran who has been the principle driver of the divide in the regiment while in uniform and outside. When expansion of sf battalions was planned about 2 decades back they converted a infantry battalion to sf role. The battalion took several years to get into some shape inspite of officers pooled in from sf battalions. Thereafter existing airborne battalions were converted to sf role. And recent sf battalions were raised drawing manpower from all sf battalions and airborne battalions except officers. Pakistan does not have any airborne force. The Chinese have their best troops in terms of training and equipping in the airborne corps. The pla airborne corps is directly under the cmc unlike the sf brigades which are under the command and control of group armies. The author is advised to correlate his facts before firing blindly.

  14. What can you expect from India’s erudition, arithmetic, competence and integrity challenged Neta-Babu-Cop-Milard-Journo-Crony Kleptocracy? I recollect that, when the present Government had just come to power, there was a Press Release that a special force of “commandos” were being raised to guard Gujarat’s borders and coast against Pakistan. I had commented on this at that time. In a Nation that has eradicated standards of competence, aptitude and integrity for Seventy straight years, words are all we have. We use mysterious words that most Indians do not understand such as “secular”, “democracy”, :”commando” “special forces” and so on as corrupt (unfit for purpose) statements of intention and expect that just as this methodology seems to have yielded a desired result of the Reservations-Corruption Raj suited to the Kleptocracy, that it will also yield National Development and Security as collateral damage.

  15. Very glad you have brought this out, General. While the misconception among civilians and the militarily ignorant is understandable (although I don’t think it should be), it is unforgivable that it should pervade the thinking of military staff at the highest levels. There is no excuse for it. Special Forces are SPECIAL, whose tactical and strategic objectives (and methods) set them apart from conventional infantry. A para dropped infantryman DOES NOT automatically become a SF operative because of the parachute. I’m surprised (actually astonished) that there are people atop the military pyramid who believe this nonsense.

    K V K Murthy
    Bangalore

  16. I agree with your point of view absolutely but have following to add , few inconvinient facts which you have inadvertently not addressed:
    1. PRTC
    This is a common feeder to both Para and SF battalions with recruits undergoing same intensity of training curriculum and their fate in terms of selection of battalion hinges not on merit but lottery. Unfortunately we remain the only army where high proportions of recruits become SF operatives first and gain acumen and experience later. A situation rather unfortunate but true nevertheless and a hard fact fact to digest even for a die hard SF veteran as you.

    2. Till the day both Para and SF units are fed bulk of their strength via this route, the competency of Para SF shall always be questioned and fissures in the regiment, well can only widen and cause lot of heartburn amongst rank and file of Airborne, who are not actually wrong in articulating the premises of equality based more or less on this hard facet.

    3. Globally no SF should allows raw officers to don their colors based solely on mediocre probation in an environment wherein SF units are reeling under deficiency of officers. Rather in professional SF outfits , Àirborne and infantry are major feeder of SF units but unfortunately our SF are bereft of this notion and raw, unproven operatives with little acumen attain the coveted balidan badge.

    4. So till the time SF units restructure their selection policies and merit is rated higher than every other facet, there shall always be reason and doubts in minds of others specially airborne that they are getting raw deal, now that the allowances of SF have skyrocketed.

    5. Raising new SF units based on cannibslisation of all Para units including Airborne further undermines the credibility of your argument. No unit is likely to send their best operatives and even the mediocre to dull sent from Airborne, who are not even fitting in their parent units, clear probation with consummate ease is a matter to pon

  17. I waiting when the author will write something new.something which is unbiased and suits his resume..till now it has been disappointing..
    The entire paragraph defining special operations/forces.. the only point that stands ground is. Deniability..There is no denying it..wether the present day”Sf” has this attribute is another issue all together…I am sure there are many who can speak Cantonese and pass on as a businessman in China..
    The paragraph where he has given a wikipedia list of how forces are named in various countries is astonishing..someone of his stature () can actually put it on paper like this..its same as any babu would justify his higher status just by going back to his induction..the point in case being all those countries have a very very wide deployment scope where the infantry would take a lot of time to react and deploy same is not the case with India..
    If one reads the official document giving out tasks of SF and Airborne units in India..which appears to have been written by the author or someone groomed by the author..its only a beautifully arranged articulated argument nothing else..
    Even if we agree with the author to compare and name and pay and give whatever badges as whatever countries SOF.. can India afford and require such a large number of SF ..do we have the luxury of segregating and under tasking manpower drawn from same pool, same training, which remains mostly at par with each other in whatever unit they serve..
    Had the focus been on correct tasking and a comparison of how internationally such forces are tasked, who all comprise of SOF outside and who all should in India..it would have been beneficial to all..
    Unfortunately presently the article is more concerned about the peripherals

  18. LET 25 TO 30 REGIMENTS OF SPECIAL FORCES BE RAISED . THE PARA BRIGADE EXPANDED TEN FOLD AND THE BEST 7TO 9 BATTALLIONS OUT OF 25 BE THE SUPER SUPER TEAM 6 LIKE THE US SEAL TEAMS 6. ALLOWANCES PERKS BE SAME FOR ALL OFFICERS AND RANKS WITH THE SUPER TEAM 6 TRAINED WITH MORE SPECIALIZATIONS , WORLD WIDE DEPLOYMENTS AND EXTRA ALLOWANCES .5 % OF THE INDIAN 500 COMBAT BATTALLIONS BE SUPER AND10 TO 15%BATTALLIONS AIRBORNE

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