Con­sol­i­dat­ing & Equip­ping the Spe­cial Forces

In mod­ern Spe­cial Forces like the USSF, any in­duc­tion of new weaponry or equip­ment into the US Army first goes through the USSF, which also has re­search and de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties to mod­ify com­mer­cially avail­able off the shelf (COTS) prod­ucts to suit sp

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

WIKIPEDIA THAT EAR­LIER LISTED out some 50 odd Spe­cial Forces in In­dia (pre­dom­i­nantly po­lice forces) now men­tions Para Com­man­dos, Spe­cial Fron­tier Force (SFF), Ghatak Force, Force One, Marine Com­man­dos (MAR­COS), Garud Com­mando Force, 51 Spe­cial Ac­tion Group (SAG), Na­tional Se­cu­rity Guard (NSG), Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Group and Co­BRA. But the am­bi­gu­ity and misunderstanding per­sists. The Army Spe­cial Forces, MAR­COS, Garud, Spe­cial Groups (SGs) of SFF and 51 and 52 SAG of NSG ac­tu­ally fall within the purview of Spe­cial Forces. Iron­i­cally, while these Spe­cial Forces nu­mer­i­cally to­tal up to as many as US Spe­cial Forces (USSF), In­dia has failed to op­ti­mally em­ploy this po­ten­tial gain­fully as strate­gic forces, in­clud­ing for cre­at­ing a de­ter­rent against the sus­tained proxy war launched by our en­e­mies from across our borders. Un­prece­dented rapid ex­pan­sion in sharp con­trast to global norms gov­ern­ing such forces, have di­luted our Spe­cial Forces ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing in man­power qual­ity, train­ing and equip­ping. Be­ing un­der dif­fer­ent chains of com­mand, there is lit­tle com­mon­al­ity in equip­ment even within the Mil­i­tary’s Spe­cial Forces. Then is the es­sen­tial re­quire­ment of pro­vi­sion­ing ‘pack­aged equip­ping’ that is gen­er­ally ig­nored. ‘Pack­aged equip­ping’ im­plies that if a sub­unit of Spe­cial Forces is au­tho­rised par­tic­u­lar weapons and equip­ment, these must be made avail­able as a pack­age in the re­quired quan­ti­ties. Pack­aged equip­ment is es­sen­tial be­cause if a sub­unit does not have the com­plete au­tho­rised equip­ment, its com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity will ob­vi­ously be less.

The equip­ping of Spe­cial Forces needs to be viewed to in­clude per­sonal cloth­ing, per­sonal equip­ment in­clud­ing pro­tec­tion, weapons and fire power, ex­plo­sives and counter ex­plo­sives, mo­bil­ity, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance, in­duc­tion and ex­trac­tion re­lated equip­ment, hand-held elec­tronic war­fare equip­ment, etc. In mod­ern Spe­cial Forces like the USSF, any in­duc­tion of new weaponry or equip­ment into the US Army first goes through the USSF, which also has re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D) ca­pa­bil­i­ties to mod­ify com­mer­cially avail­able off the shelf (COTS) prod­ucts to suit spe­cific Spe­cial Forces re­quire­ment—a ca­pac­ity yet to be es­tab­lished in In­dian Spe­cial Forces. In terms of per­sonal cloth­ing and equip­ment, no spe­cial pref­er­ence is be­ing given to Spe­cial Forces in terms of qual­ity. Com­pare this to the ‘Quan­tum Stealth’ cam­ou­flage fab­ric de­vel­oped by the Hyper­stealth Biotech­nol­ogy Cor­po­ra­tion aimed at mak­ing the soldier in­vis­i­ble, which is be­ing planned to be in­tro­duced in se­lected groups in the US and Cana­dian armies—ob­vi­ously Spe­cial Forces. The fab­ric is re­port­edly light­weight, is suc­cess­ful without cam­eras, bat­ter­ies, lights or mir­rors, and more sig­nif­i­cantly can work against mil­i­tary in­frared (IR) scopes and ther­mal op­tics. Un­for­tu­nately, indige­nous de­vel­op­ment by De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) and Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB) have not been able to pro­vide even the very ba­sic re­quire­ments of say ruck­sacks and rap­pelling gloves, leave aside weapons, im­ports be­ing re­lied upon in case of the lat­ter even by in­fantry—as­sault ri­fles, car­bines, light ma­chine guns, etc. Iron­i­cally, even the night vi­sion and sur­veil­lance de­vices pro­duced in­dige­nously con­tinue to be in­fe­rior to im­ported coun­ter­part in terms of weight, bulk­i­ness, etc, de­spite the fact that we still are im­port­ing 100 per cent IR tubes, and our own R&D are yet to de­velop these.

Then is the glar­ing void of light weight hand-held laser des­ig­na­tors for which an em­pow­ered com­mit­tee had vis­ited Is­rael in 2002 but un­for­tu­nately Is­rael had won the bid as L1 while the equip­ment in ques­tion was still in unassem­bled form un­der lab­o­ra­tory testing. The French equip­ment was avail­able but L2 and hence bu­reau­cratic red tape did not per­mit its pro­cure­ment. More than a decade has gone by and still the Army’s Spe­cial Forces are without these laser tar­get des­ig­na­tors. Light weight, heli-trans­portable all­ter­rain ve­hi­cles though au­tho­rised, are yet to be pro­cured. Though a Sin­ga­pore firm was to pro­vide these a decade back, the firm re­port­edly came un­der a ban, as has been hap­pen­ing in scores of cases. Since these oc­cur­rences are without hav­ing iden­ti­fied an­other source of pro­cure­ment, the armed forces and in this spe­cific case Spe­cial Forces are at a great dis­ad­van­tage with re­spect to ca­pac­ity build­ing.

An­other glar­ing void is the in­for­ma­tion sys­tem pack­age for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with all the re­quired en­ti­ties in­clud­ing call­ing in re­quired shoot­ers. A Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand Post (SOCP) that was to be de­vel­oped has again been de­layed by more than a decade de­spite the fact that sin­gle ven­dor indige­nous ca­pa­bil­ity ex­isted and the ven­dor had ac­tu­ally sold the soft­ware to the Spe­cial Group of the Spe­cial Fron­tier Force (SFF). Iron­i­cally, mired with red tape, de­vel­op­ment of the SOCP un­der pow­ers of Army Train­ing Com­mand (ARTRAC) was even­tu­ally shelved and the re­quire­ment has been dove­tailed into the bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) which it­self has been hic­cup­ping in de­lays and has re­cently taken the next step, the ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est (EoI) has re­cently been is­sued on Novem­ber 11, 2013. If all goes well then pro­to­type de­vel­op­ment and field­ing for user eval­u­a­tion is likely to hap­pen by De­cem­ber 2016 and equip­ping from 2017 if the tri­als are suc­cess­ful. This sched­ule is pos­si­ble only if there are no more hur­dles. In gen­eral terms, the equip­ment lack­ing cur­rently with the Spe­cial Forces are light-weight hand-held laser tar­get des­ig­na­tors, in­for­ma­tion sys­tem pack­age to com­mu­ni­cate with re­quired en­ti­ties to in­clude voice, data, video stream­ing, light weight long-range global com­mu­ni­ca­tions to call mul­ti­ple weapon strikes, state-of-the-art lis­ten­ing and sur­veil­lance de­vices—from minia­ture de­vices hand-held to mi­cro-aerial ve­hi­cles (MAVs), he­li­copter trans­portable all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles, cor­ner shots, gog­gles/de­vices to see through walls, hand-held elec­tronic war­fare (EW) weapons, state-of-the-art ex­plo­sive de­vices with long-term timers, all-ter­rain light-weight cloth­ing and load car­riage, lat­est sur­vival equip­ment, etc.

What has also hit equip­ping of Spe­cial Forces is the un­prece­dented ex­pan­sion of Spe­cial Forces in com­pleted con­trast to global norms ig­nor­ing the over­all di­lu­tion in­clud­ing in terms of man­power, train­ing, equip­ping—all cul­mi­nated into low­ered com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity. The Army al­ready has eight Spe­cial Forces bat­tal­ions and the ninth such unit is un­der rais­ing. The tenth one is to be raised af­ter this rais­ing is com­pleted. This is in stark con­trast to ex­pan­sion of Spe­cial Forces in for­eign armies. The av­er­age au­tho­rised rate of an­nual ex­pan­sion of the USSF re­mained con­stant at 1.8 per cent for many years but was raised to 2.5 per cent in 2011 be­cause of global com­mit­ments. In our case, we went in for a 120 per cent in­crease in pe­riod 2001-04 alone in­clud­ing con­vert­ing 3 x Para bat­tal­ions to Spe­cial Forces and adding the fourth as­sault team in all Spe­cial Forces units. The un­prece­dented ex­pan­sion was re­sorted to by de­lib­er­ately feed­ing the hi­er­ar­chy that 20,000 USSF were op­er­at­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was un­true since this in­cluded 82 and 101 Air­borne Di­vi­sions of the US. Ac­tu­ally even in the peak pe­riod of USSF de­ploy­ment only 90 x Op­er­a­tion De­tach­ments Al­pha (ODAs) were phys­i­cally used (each ODA is 10-12 strong). This hap­pened be­cause un­like any other coun­try in the world, the Army’s Spe­cial Forces bat­tal­ions and the Parachute Bat­tal­ions are grouped in the same reg­i­ment and when­ever the Parachute Reg­i­ment was headed by a Colonel of the reg­i­ment without any Spe­cial Forces ex­pe­ri­ence, the whole em­pha­sis was to some­how con­vert the en­tire Parachute Reg­i­ment into Spe­cial Forces, in com­plete dis­re­gard to the ad­verse con­se­quences to the over­all Spe­cial Forces ca­pa­bil­ity and the con­cept of the Spe­cial Forces. The two star ap­point­ment in Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions Direc­torate as Ad­di­tional Di­rec­tor Gen­eral (Spe­cial Forces) is headed by a para­trooper (not Spe­cial Forces) of­fi­cer since its rais­ing few years ago, which con­tin­ues till date. To top this, the one star ap­point­ment un­der him des­ig­nated as Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral (Spe­cial Forces) gets posted by an of­fi­cer from the unit/reg­i­ment of the pre­vail­ing Army Chief merely to get a stamp of serv­ing with the Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions Direc­torate. The effect of all this has been that weapons and equip­ment im­ported for Spe­cial Forces bat­tal­ions get dis­trib­uted among nor­mal parachute units. This plus the new rais­ings in rapid suc­ces­sion is se­ri­ously af­fect­ing the man­power and in equip­ping the ex­ist­ing Spe­cial Forces bat­tal­ions. Spe­cial Forces bat­tal­ions that should be hold­ing some nine lakh rounds of am­mu­ni­tion for im­ported Ta­vor as­sault ri­fles are down to about 40,000 rounds. How this af­fects even rou­tine fir­ing train­ing needs no ex­pla­na­tion. This is just one ex­am­ple. Yet, the hi­er­ar­chy re­mains obliv­i­ous. There is cer­tainly a need for re­flec­tion. What the Spe­cial Forces need is con­sol­i­da­tion not ex­pan­sion, and pack­aged state-ofthe-art equip­ping.

Para com­man­dos of the In­dian Army

with Ta­vor au­to­matic weapons

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