Mod­erni­sa­tion of Spe­cial Forces

Glob­ally, Spe­cial Forces are be­ing used to fur­ther na­tional in­ter­ests of re­spec­tive coun­tries. Their em­ploy­ment is an ex­ten­sion of for­eign pol­icy of the con­cerned coun­try.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL P.C. KATOCH (RETD)

THE SUR­GI­CAL STRIKES CON­DUCTED by the In­dian Spe­cial Forces in the Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK) on Septem­ber 28 in re­sponse to the Pak­istan-spon­sored ter­ror at­tack on an Army base in Uri has been much talked about, de­bated, dis­sected and politi­cised for vote-bank pol­i­tick­ing by po­lit­i­cal par­ties of all hues. They sure gave a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage to Pak­istan but con­sid­er­ing the man­ner and dis­tances, these were well within ca­pa­bil­ity of reg­u­lar in­fantry troops. De­spite be­ing sub­jected to decades of proxy war by Pak­istan, In­dia has failed to op­ti­mise its con­sid­er­able Spe­cial Forces po­ten­tial. In­ci­dents like these sur­gi­cal strikes raise the fer­vour about Spe­cial Forces in In­dia mo­men­tar­ily, after which ev­ery­thing re­turns to rou­tine.

Em­ploy­ment of Spe­cial Forces

Glob­ally, Spe­cial Forces are be­ing used to fur­ther na­tional in­ter­ests of re­spec­tive coun­tries. Their em­ploy­ment is an ex­ten­sion of for­eign pol­icy of the con­cerned coun­try. Lead­ing na­tions em­ploy­ing Spe­cial Forces proac­tively trans-fron­tiers in­clude the United States, Rus­sia, UK and Is­rael. US Spe­cial Forces (USSF) are op­er­at­ing in some 120 coun­tries in­clud­ing USSF pres­ence in diplo­matic mis­sions in for­eign coun­tries. Since China has al­ready po­si­tioned PLA troops in de­vel­op­ment projects abroad in­clud­ing in Pak­istan, PoK, Nepal, Myan­mar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sey­chelles and other coun­tries in garb of work­ers and tech­ni­cians, we can safely posit a size­able sec­tion be­ing Spe­cial Forces. Pak­istan has em­ployed the Spe­cial Ser­vices Group (SSG) ac­tively in Afghanistan, J&K, Nepal and Bangladesh, and is forg­ing links with ex­trem­ist/ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions in In­dia.

De­spite In­dia be­ing sub­jected to decades of proxy war, our hi­er­ar­chi­cal un­der­stand­ing of trans-bor­der em­ploy­ment of Spe­cial Forces iron­i­cally is limited to short dis­tanced

phys­i­cal or di­rect type of ac­tions ex­e­cuted at unit or sub­unit level. Spe­cial Forces po­ten­tial in asym­met­ric wars in fur­ther­ing na­tional se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives and em­ploy­ment as ex­ten­sion of for­eign pol­icy is lit­tle un­der­stood. Spe­cial Forces should ac­tu­ally be cen­tral to our asym­met­ric re­sponse, which does not nec­es­sar­ily im­ply op­er­at­ing in units or sub­units. In most cases, such Spe­cial Forces re­sponse does not even au­to­mat­i­cally re­late to phys­i­cal at­tack, phys­i­cal at­tack be­ing only the ex­treme and po­ten­tially most dan­ger­ous ex­pres­sion of asym­met­ric war­fare. The key lies in achiev­ing strate­gic ob­jec­tives through ap­pli­ca­tion of mod­est re­sources with the es­sen­tial psy­cho­log­i­cal com­po­nent. Stephen Co­hen aptly summed up the con­cept when he wrote in his book The Idea of Pak­istan, “The task of Spe­cial Forces is the proxy ap­pli­ca­tion of force at low and pre­cisely cal­cu­lated lev­els, the ob­jec­tive be­ing to achieve some po­lit­i­cal ef­fect, not a bat­tle­field vic­tory.” In In­dia, we have been look­ing at bat­tle­field vic­tory at tac­ti­cal level.

In­dian Spe­cial Forces

We have a va­ri­ety of Spe­cial Forces in­clud­ing Army’s Para­chute (Spe­cial Forces) Bat­tal­ions, MAR­COS (Marine Com­man­dos) of Navy, Garuds of Air Force, Spe­cial Ac­tion Groups (SAGs) of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Guard (NSG) un­der the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA), and Spe­cial Groups (SGs) of the Spe­cial Fron­tier Force (SFF) un­der the Cabi­net Sec­re­tariat; all of which com­prise the Spe­cial Forces of In­dia. How­ever, no in­te­gra­tion has been af­fected yet de­spite the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tion to es­tab­lish a Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand (SOCOM). There is no con­cept of ‘sup­port el­e­ments’ in­clud­ing ded­i­cated in­tel­li­gence, fire sup­port, air sup­port, etc.

In­dia has con­sis­tently ig­nored four global Spe­cial Forces truths: hu­mans are more im­por­tant than hard­ware; qual­ity is bet­ter than quan­tity; Spe­cial Forces can­not be mass pro­duced; com­pe­tent Spe­cial Forces can­not be cre­ated after emer­gen­cies arise

In­dia has con­sis­tently ig­nored four global Spe­cial Forces truths: hu­mans are more im­por­tant than hard­ware; qual­ity is bet­ter than quan­tity; Spe­cial Forces can­not be mass pro­duced; com­pe­tent Spe­cial Forces can­not be cre­ated after emer­gen­cies arise. Au­tho­rised an­nual ex­pan­sion rate of US SOCOM is gen­er­ally1.8 to a max­i­mum of 2.5 per cent, which in­cludes ‘sup­port el­e­ments’. In our case, the Army alone went in for 120 per cent in­crease. Ex­pan­sion at this scale is proven recipe for di­lut­ing the man­power of Spe­cial Forces, their equip­ping and most im­por­tantly their over­all com­bat ca­pac­ity in­clud­ing with­out ad­e­quate means for ad­vanced spe­cial­ist train­ing.

Equip­ping Spe­cial Forces

Spe­cial Forces equip­ping must be ‘pack­aged’, not piece­meal since it is di­rectly re­lated to the quan­tum of suc­cess of any op­er­a­tion. Hand-held laser tar­get des­ig­na­tors have been au­tho­rised to Army’s Spe­cial Forces since year 2001 but have not been pro­vi­sioned yet. The Army also has the prob­lem of re-sup­ply / re­place­ment of im­ported spe­cial equip­ment since con­cur­rent ac­tion of ‘in­tro­duc­ing’ the equip­ment into service has not been tak­ing place. There is lack of stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of equip­ment in our Spe­cial Forces – no cen­tralised spe­cial equip­ment pro­cure­ment for the mil­i­tary and non-mil­i­tary Spe­cial Forces. The ab­sence of cor­ner shots with the NSG em­ployed dur­ing the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tack was con­spic­u­ous although this equip­ment was held with the Spe­cial Group of the SFF past few years. Sur­veil­lance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and night vi­sion equip­ment though au­tho­rised can be im­proved both in qual­ity and quan­tity. Presently, equip­ping voids ex­ist from the very ba­sic to big­ger op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. The ba­sic ruck­sack pro­vided of­fi­cially is so in­fe­rior that Spe­cial Forces units are us­ing own funds to buy good qual­ity ruck­sacks. Sim­i­larly, no worth­while rap­pelling gloves and rap­pelling ropes are of­fi­cially sup­plied, both in qual­ity and quan­tity. A ma­jor void ex­ists in the pro­vi­sion of a bat­tle­field in­for­ma­tion system that would en­able mul­ti­ple Spe­cial Forces de­tach­ments op­er­at­ing wide­spread over long dis­tance and deep in­side enemy ter­ri­tory com­mu­ni­cat­ing with a spe­cial op­er­a­tions com­mand post at the par­ent bat­tal­ion head­quar­ters, Corps level FMCP (Force Mul­ti­plier Com­mand Post) and di­rectly to the air force for call­ing air strikes. Equip­ment must have all-weather, all-ter­rain op­er­abil­ity and sur­vival ca­pac­ity for strate­gic tasks in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance and tar­get des­ig­na­tion in ar­eas of strate­gic in­ter­est.

Rapid ex­pan­sion has left Army’s Spe­cial Forces units holding mix of Ta­vor as­sault ri­fles and AK-47s. There is se­vere short­ages in sup­ply of train­ing am­mu­ni­tion for Ta­vors which is en­tirely depen­dent on im­port. There is also to­tal void against au­tho­rised quan­ti­ties of hard­ware, ma­jor ones be­ing: heavy ma­chine guns; un­der­wa­ter ri­fles; 60mm mor­tars, dis­pos­able anti-tank rocket launch­ers; dis­pos­able flame throw­ers; satel­lite phones; air­borne SAR sys­tems; VHF re­peaters; so­lar pan­els for charg­ing; light strike ve­hi­cles; GP de­liv­ery system (GPADS) 2-tonne cat­e­gory; GPADS 4-tonne cat­e­gory; un­der­wa­ter cam­eras; un­der­wa­ter driver propul­sion ve­hi­cles; dig­i­tal com­passes; GPSs; laser tar­get des­ig­na­tors; video cam­eras for HX trans­mis­sion; still cam­eras for HX trans­mis­sion; night scope with adapter; re­mote det­o­na­tor trans­mit­ters; re­mote det­o­na­tor re­ceivers, and ra­dio con­trolled det­o­na­tors. In

Spe­cial Forces of mod­ern ar­mies act as van­guard for in­duc­tion of fu­tur­is­tic weapons, equip­ment and tech­nolo­gies into the rest of the armed forces. In­dian Spe­cial Forces have no such con­cept.

ad­di­tion, ma­jor de­fi­cien­cies ex­ist in as­sault ri­fles with night sights; GPMG with night sights; AGL with night sights; 40mm UBGL; pis­tols; ATGM with TI; SAM with night sight: car­bines with night sight; tac­ti­cal com­put­ers; ground-to-air LUP; ra­dio trans­mit­ter bea­cons; com­bat mil­i­tary free-fall para­chutes and com­pat­i­ble oxy­gen equip­ment; high res­o­lu­tion binoc­u­lars; pas­sive night vi­sion binoc­u­lars; night vi­sion binoc­u­lars with com­mu­ni­ca­tion and range finder; HHTIs, and pas­sive night vi­sion gog­gles.

Spe­cial Forces of mod­ern ar­mies act as van­guard for in­duc­tion of fu­tur­is­tic weapons, equip­ment and tech­nolo­gies into the rest of the armed forces. They have in­built R&D fa­cil­i­ties that not only un­der­take re­search but are ca­pa­ble of cus­tomis­ing avail­able com­mer­cially avail­able off the shelf (COTS) weapons and equip­ment to Spe­cial Forces needs. In­dian Spe­cial Forces have no such con­cept. Spe­cial Forces of mod­ern ar­mies wear body ar­mour made of rev­o­lu­tion­ary ma­te­ri­als, carry ar­mour­punc­tur­ing knives, and don vi­sions sys­tems that can com­bine vis­ual data with in­frared and feeds from UAVs over­head. Their hel­met mounted night vi­sion gog­gles fuse imag­ing sys­tems that com­bine a ther­mal cam­era with night-vi­sion light in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, al­low­ing the shooter to seam­lessly track a tar­get from day­light to a dark tun­nel. The system also al­lows the shooter to trans­mit and re­ceive real-time colour video and other bat­tle­field in­for­ma­tion. Their com­bat uni­form and jack­ets are breath­able (pro­vid­ing var­i­ous lev­els of wick­ing, tem­per­a­ture con­trol) and have space for wear­able bat­ter­ies. Bul­let proof vests have been re­placed by Tac­ti­cal PICO As­saulters Plate Car­rier given the in­creas­ing weight of sen­sors, bat­ter­ies and other tools. How­ever, the op­er­a­tor can add ar­mour for his sides, groin, etc, the new PICO can be con­fig­ured as a dy­namic load car­ry­ing system that trans­fers some of the weight to a belt that rests on the hips. PICO is made of new ma­te­rial called PV; com­bi­na­tion of mil­i­tary spec ny­lon and Dupont Kevlar that de­creases ma­te­rial weight by 20-50 per cent but is about 10 times stronger than stan­dard tac­ti­cal ny­lon ma­te­rial. The Emer­son CQC-15 is fold­ing blade that is ‘ar­mour pierc­ing’ ca­pa­ble of tremen­dous cut­ting, slic­ing, pierc­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, which can be opened by one hand. There are spe-

Re­quire­ment

We need in­te­gra­tion of our con­sid­er­able Spe­cial Forces po­ten­tial for bet­ter re­sponse to mod­ern-day chal­lenges. The high­est cen­tral agency must over­see their strate­gic task­ing, man­ning, equip­ping, train­ing, con­sol­i­da­tion, op­er­a­tional and in­tel­li­gence in­puts, in­ter-agency syn­ergy and the like. An ur­gent re­quire­ment is to es­tab­lish a Spe­cial Forces Com­mand with both pub­li­cised overt ca­pa­bil­i­ties (to serve as de­ter­rence) and de­ni­able covert ca­pa­bil­i­ties in or­der to cre­ate the nec­es­sary de­ter­rence against ir­reg­u­lar/asym­met­ric, fourth-gen­er­a­tion war­fare launched by our ad­ver­saries. There­fore, the com­mand and con­trol of Spe­cial Forces with ac­cess real time na­tional in­tel­li­gence will need to be well thought out. A na­tional pol­icy for em­ploy­ment of Spe­cial Forces needs to be evolved and put in mo­tion. We must go for incog­nito de­ploy­ment of Spe­cial Forces in ar­eas of In­dia’s strate­gic in­ter­ests for strate­gic sur­veil­lance, con­trol­ling the fault lines of our ad­ver­saries, tar­get­ing the sources of cross-bor­der ter­ror­ism and con­tin­u­ous shap­ing of the bat­tle­field in fur­ther­ance of na­tional in­ter­ests and ob­jec­tives. cial gloves and boots as well. But the rev­o­lu­tion is in light­weight electronics, fool­proof com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion sys­tems.

Con­clu­sion

In­creas­ing asym­met­ric threats and na­tional se­cu­rity chal­lenges in­di­cate use of SF more for strate­gic roles rather than tac­ti­cal roles within own lead­ers. We must op­ti­mise this po­ten­tial, en­sur­ing we give them the best (equip­ping in­cluded) and take the best out of them.

Spe­cial Forces in ac­tion

A soldier cam­ou­flaged

Heli­borne op­er­a­tions

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