Com­man­dos from In­dia drill with Shaldag unit

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

A con­tin­gent of In­dian Garud com­man­dos are in Is­rael tak­ing part in ex­er­cises with elite Is­raeli spe­cial forces as part of the Blue Flag aerial drill.

“The roles of the com­man­dos of the two na­tions are sim­i­lar. We carry out what oth­ers can­not do,” wing com­man­der K. Ba­harat told The Jerusalem Post on Wed­nes­day. “Our aim is to learn and in­ter­act with the world’s best spe­cial forces and share how we op­er­ate as well.”

While crews from the US, Greece, Poland, France, Ger­many, In­dia and Italy are hon­ing their aerial skills at Uvda Air Base, the 16 In­dian com­man­dos are sta­tioned at Ne­va­tim and Palmahim air bases.

The com­man­dos, who are part of a 45-man del­e­ga­tion and a C-130J Su­per Her­cules trans­port plane, will be train­ing the Is­raeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit and Air­borne Com­bat, Search and Res­cue Unit 669.

Formed in 2004 by the In­dian Air Force, Garud’s mis­sion is to de­ploy be­hind enemy lines, pro­tect vi­tal in­stal­la­tions, carry out coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions and con­duct hostage res­cues op­er­a­tions.

Among the weapons used by the com­man­dos are Is­raeli-made Ta­vor TAR-21 as­sault ri­fles, Galil sniper files and Negev ma­chine guns.

Ac­cord­ing to In­dia’s Hin­dus­tan Times, Delhi is plan­ning to ex­pand the com­mando wing with at least 10 more units of 70-80 mem­bers to se­cure mil­i­tary bases.

Unit 669 was formed in 1974 fol­low­ing the Yom Kip­pur War and was ini­tially charged with res­cu­ing Is­raeli pi­lots shot down in enemy ter­ri­tory. Troops from 669 later be­gan un­der­tak­ing res­cue mis­sions of spe­cial forces sol­diers and later in­jured or stranded Is­raelis, res­cu­ing over 10,000 peo­ple across the coun­try and the world.

Also formed after the Yom Kip­pur War, Shaldag con­ducts spe­cial re­con­nais­sance mis­sions in com­bat and hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments to al­low the IAF to col­lect in­tel­li­gence and carry out com­mando op­er­a­tions.

De­fense ties be­tween Is­rael and In­dia have grown in the past few years, with Delhi be­com­ing a ma­jor pur­chaser of Is­raeli mil­i­tary hard­ware such as weapons sys­tems, mis­siles and un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi made his­tory in July when he be­came the first In­dian head of gov­ern­ment to visit Jerusalem, high­light­ing the grow­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. Other high rank­ing In­dian of­fi­cials have also vis­ited in the past year, in­clud­ing air force chief Arup Raha and navy head Sunil Lanba. In May, three In­dian Navy war­ships docked in Haifa’s port for a three-day visit aimed at strength­en­ing the coun­tries’ friend­ship.

“We are a peace-lov­ing coun­try, but we need to be pre­pared for any­thing,” Ba­harat said, adding that “our aim is to keep im­prov­ing our­selves in or­der to deal with threats.” ad­di­tional

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