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
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