Employment of Special Forces in Conventional Operations
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1. The history of warfare is replete with instances of a band of elite troops taking on a numerically superior force and using surprise to achieve relative superiority to emerge victorious. In a world where the nature of threat is becoming increasingly complex & encompasses the entire spectrum of warfare, Special Forces hold their own importance. These highly trained & motivated troops with sophisticated weapons & equipment are capable of operating in all types of terrain & weather conditions to seek a favourable response to sensitive situations.
2. In an era of modern warfare where all dimensions of force, time, space & even virtual space or cyberspace are likely to be exploited to gain moral or physical ascendancy over the adversary, the role of the Special Forces becomes very important. It is therefore incumbent on any nation to have these forces fully geared up to confidently take up the challenges of the modern battlefield environment with a sound backing of tried & tested doctrines & employment concepts.
3. Given the changing face of warfare & the aspirations of our nation to be a global player, there is a requirement of carrying out organisational & doctrinal changes to our Special Forces for undertaking conventional operations in the future.
Statement of the Problem
4. It seems quite obvious that there indeed is a need for having a re-look at the way the Special Forces are employed in present context of operations. Therefore, the problem can be stated as "What are the organisational & doctrinal changes required for effective employment of the Special Forces in conventional operations in the future?"
Justification of the Study
5. Recent wars such as those in Kosovo or Iraq have amply proved that no single instrument of war wins a campaign or successfully executes a mission. As conflicts become more complex and diverse, those involved with planning and executing campaigns and missions have greater challenges at hand[i].
6. The Special Forces, by virtue of their superior combat training & specialised weapons & equipment, are a force multiplier unit available not only to a tactical commander to gain an upper hand vis-a-vis the adversary in a tactical battle, but also to a strategic force commander due to their ability to strike at the decisive points of the enemy. Special Forces are also a very effective force available to the commander in sub conventional operations where the very nature of the latter is based on small team concept.
7. On a larger canvas, as part of our growing influence in world matters & our expanding interests in the Asian region, it may be necessary in future to station own Special Forces in some of the nations for safeguarding of our foreign assets as well as to improve our capability to react to an Out of Area contingency.
8. It is therefore mandatory to study as to what are the fundamental changes, if any, which are required so that our Special Forces are able to effectively execute the multifarious tasks expected out them in the future battlefield.
9. The scope of the study encompasses a brief overview of the organization & structure of the special operations forces of a few major developing & developed countries followed by an assessment of the present organisation & concept of employing our special forces. The study will thereafter analyse the likely future world order & the spectrum of conflicts in the future & analyse the changes in present organisation & concept of employment to meet challenges of conventional operations in the future.
10. The study does not deliberate upon the specific operations of the Special Forces. However, an operation or part thereof may be included in a chapter to bring out certain lessons having a bearing on the topic.
11. The study will be carried out in the following manner:-
(a) Chapter I : Overview of the Special Forces of various nations.
(b) Chapter II : Present organisation & concept of employment of India's Special Forces.
(c) Chapter III : Future world order & spectrum of conflict.
(c) Chapter IV : Changes in present organisation & concept of employment to meet challenges of conventional operations in the future.
i Air Power & Special Operations: AIR POWER Journal Vol. 2 No. 2 SUMMER 2005 (Apr-Jun) 102 pp 91-93 .
CHAPTER 1: OVERVIEW OF THE SP ECIAL FORCES OF VARIOUS NATIONS
1. The evolution of the SF has been a continuous process the world over since the times of the Vikings & the Mongols. Every age has produced a special soldier, be it the Greek Hoplite, the English Archer, Chhatrapati Shivaji of India, the Green Beret of the USA & the Paratrooper Regiment of India.
2. The process of evolution of the SF gathered pace during & after the World War II. Today, almost all nations with a standing army have the Special Operations Forces on their strength. In order to derive lessons about the role & employment of the Indian Special Forces, it is therefore pertinent to study the organisational & employment models of some of the modern Special forces of various nations of the world.
SEC – 1: SPECIAL AIR SERVICE ( SAS) OF UK
3. In the post war western world, the UK has been the leading nation in evolving SF organisations, specialised equipment, training & employment doctrines.
4. Organisation .
The SAS was raised in the 1950s & has evolved into a balanced, well trained force headed by the Director, Special Forces Group. The Director reports directly to Whitehall & the Chief of Defence Staff. Under him, he has the following forces[ii]:-
(a) 21st, 22nd & 23rd SAS Regiments.
(b) Special Boat Section (SBS).
(c) 14th Intelligence Group.
. Of these, the 22nd SAS is the only active regiment while the other two are Territorial Army SAS units.
5. The Royal Air Force (RAF) has a dedicated squadron which includes fixed & rotary wing aircrafts for the operations in support of the SAS.
6. The primary mission of the SAS has been to undertake unconventional military operations in a conventional war. The SAS has
performed this mission in various conflicts like the Falklands War & the Gulf War with remarkable degree of success. Another task which the SAS was assigned in the near past was that of incident response operations dealing with intervention in hijack & hostage situations. The SAS earned a niche for themselves by providing quality training & advisory teams to a large number of Middle Eastern & African nations.
7. Over the years, the SAS has developed into a highly professional force with clearly defined missions & well equipped, highly trained & motivated personnel to execute them.
SEC - 2: SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES (SOF) OF THE USA
6. The USA has the most elaborate & well organised SF establishment in the world. It is also one of the largest with an overall strength of over 45,000 personnel & a budget of over $ 4 bn.
7. The US adopts a systems approach to respond to problems which shows their bureaucracy in a good light & demonstrates the clarity of thought & determination of their leadership.
8. The US SOF has a dual role in today's context. They are seen as the nation's penetration & strike force as well as warrior - diplomats capable of influencing, advising, training & conducting operations with foreign forces, officials & population.
9. The Posture Statement mandates the SOF to be able to undertake the following types of missions:-
(a) Counter Proliferation.
(b) Counter Terrorism.
(c) Foreign International Defence.
(d) Special Reconnaissance.
(e) Direct Action.
(f) Psychological Operations.
(g) Civil Affairs.
(h) Unconventional Warfare.
(j) Information Operations.
10. As can be seen, the SOF of the US has been created to undertake a plethora of operations. More importantly, they have also been tasked to carry out operations like Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations & Information Operations which have assumed tremendous importance in today's conflicts.
11. The SOF has an elaborate joint services organisational structure headed by a four star General who reports directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff & the National Command Authority. The detailed organisation of the SOF is as shown at Appendix A[iii].
12. Each of the unified theatre commands has a separate Special Operations Command (SOC) to meet their special requirements. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is a joint headquarters that deals with organisational & training aspects & is designed to study special operations requirements & techniques, ensure interoperability & equipment standardisation, plan & conduct joint special operations exercises & training.
SEC- 3 : SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES OF CHINA
11. The SOF of China is modelled upon the Russian SOF pattern. Chinese forces, although adept at guerrilla warfare & special missions, did not have a dedicated Special Forces component until the early 1990s when China underwent a doctrinal change from "people's war" towards "fighting a local war under high-tech conditions"[iv].
12. All the seven mil regions in China have a dedicated SOF component capable of deploying upto a regiment sized force. As its strategic reserve, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) also has the 51st Airborne Division equipped with the BMD3 Paratrooper vehicles. The division has the capability to conduct airborne operations in a radius of upto 900 kms & is likely to be employed for sabotage missions, disruption of command & control structures etc.
13. PLA Airborne Corps plays a critical role in special operations scenario. It forms part of the PLA's strategic reserve & rapid reaction forces. Airborne operations in the context of China include paratroops' operations, air transport operations, heliborne operations & special operations. The division inventory of the AB Corps is similar to that of an infantry division except for the heavy weaponry like tanks, heavy artillery & anti-aircraft weapons.
14. The PLA Navy (PLAN) also has several elite units specialised in underwater special operations & is known as the "Amphibious Reconnaissance Groups". These are similar to the SBS of UK or the SEALs of the USA.
15. The SOF's Taiwan-focused training over the years has made them highly proficient at locating and destroying transportation nodes, logistics depots, and conducting reconnaissance missions. With the growing threat of terrorism on its Western borders, the SOF has also been strengthened in the fields of counter-terrorism, unconventional combat, as well as direct attack missions.
16. Although a conflict with China over disputed territory is by no means imminent, it would be wise for Indian policy makers and defence analysts to take note of the SOF's relatively newly acquired strengths, especially its ability to locate and destroy transportation nodes and logistics depots. In the event of hostilities, a PLA first strike would likely involve air strikes followed by a ground incursion and in order for this to occur, the SOF would need to create ground conditions that would be conducive to such operations. India should remain vigilant along its disputed border with China and should maximise any opportunity that it has to observe Taiwan-focused PLA training[v].
17. Major indicators of the role & importance of the SOF suggest the following:-
(a) The evolution & development of the SOF in China display both traditional & modern principles of special operations.
(b) The Chinese have emphasised on specialised warfare techniques since the 1990s after a deep study & analysis of Gulf War & the ongoing 'War on Terror'.
(c) The role of the SF in anti-terror operations is the new element that has been added to the overall strategy in the recent time.
(d) Improvement in specific areas like sea-borne operations, EW & IW suggest that these could be extensively employed in future regional conflicts with India etc.
(e) Efforts to improve AB operational capabilities indicate its ambitions to gain strategic advantage in the Himalayan Region.
SEC- 4: SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES OF PAKISTAN
18. The SOF of Pakistan is known as the Special Services Group (SSG). The first unit was formed in the late fifties with an initial strength of 12 companies including a SCUBA company. Post the debacle of 1965 Indo-
Pak war, the SSG was reorganised & expanded. Two new battalions & a HQ were raised. In 1970, the SSG formed an independent combat diver unit by re-designating the old SCUBA Company. An additional company, the ZARAR Company was raised in 1980 as a CT force with the assistance of the British SAS[vi].
19. The current strength of the SSG is estimated to be upto four battalions of 700 personnel each. The Commander SSG, of the rank of a Brigadier oversees the operations of the SSG. The Group has dedicated air assets earmarked for its employment. Of the four battalions, one battalion is under training at any given time, two are under operational deployment & one is deployed for security of vital strategic assets.
20. The missions of the SSG include the following:-
(a) Unconventional Warfare.
(b) Long-range reconnaissance & intelligence gathering.
(c) Riverine operations.
(e) Tactical Assaults.
(f) Target designations for air force & artillery.
(g) Protection of vulnerable points.
21. The SSG is a battle- hardened force & has grown in strength & experience since the debacle of 1965. It has gained some really worthy experience during its recent employment in the operations against the Taliban & al-Qaeda in NWFP & Swat valley.
ii Brigadier Deepak Sinha: Beyond the Bayonet - Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century. Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi.
iii Ibid pp 60-67.
iv Ibid pp 115-116.
v Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM: Approach Paper for Seminar on Doctrine, Structure & Employment of Special Forces Across the Spectrum of Conflict in Indian Context (Centre of Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi, Sep 2005).
vi Ibid pp 97-101, pg 104.
PRESENT ORGANISATION & CONCEPT OF EMPLOYMENT OF INDIA'S SPECIAL FORCES.
1. The employment of specialised guerrilla forces in Indian context dates back to the ancient ages. However, in the recent history it can be traced to the rule of the Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji. Shivaji employed his small forces to infiltrate into enemies defences thereby turning them & causing panic & large scale casualties.
2. The modern SOF in India was raised consequent to the directions of Sir Winston Churchill which led to the raising of the 50 Independent Parachute Brigade in 1941. This brigade was employed in the Battle of Shangsak & in an airborne operation in the WW II in the Burma Theatre. The 50 Independent Parachute Brigade is the oldest formation in the world to have continuously remained in airborne role.
3. Today, the Indian SOF comprises of the Parachute & the Parachute Special Forces Battalions, the National Security Guards (NSG), the Marine Commandos (MARCOS) & the Special Frontier Force (SFF). The organisation & employment of these forces is discussed in the following chapters.
Concept of Emp loyment of Special Forces
4. In war, Special Forces are an invaluable adjunct to conventional forces. Selectively employed, they have a force multiplier effect. In situations short of declared war, they are capable of sophisticated, specialized and measured response in complex politico-military situations where the application of conventional military forces is inappropriate because it could trigger an escalating response.
5. In order to fulfill the role and execute missions – Special Forces should have the capacity to operate in all kinds of terrain in the areas of interest and exploit adverse weather to own advantage. They should be capable of using the medium of land, sea and air for carrying out deep penetration to accomplish the assigned mission, which implies that their organization needs to be an integrated unit to maximize effectiveness.
6. The organization of Special Forces is designed to be cellular with the smallest functional group being a buddy pair. Based on past experiences,
it was realized that there was a requirement of distributing danger, provide greater internal resources for psychological and physical backup and a need of varied combat skills namely – demolition, navigation, communication, medical, weapon proficiency and language within the group, have necessitated enlargement of the smallest functional group from
a buddy pair to a combat patrol of a four- five men assault squad. Four such squads would be ideal to make a troop for carrying out overt and limited covert military special operations in war and situations short of declared war, either independently or in conjunction on with other special forces of similar nature, in own areas of interest to achieve military and or political objectives in support of military and / or national aims.
SEC – 1: THE PARACHUTE BATTALIONS
Organisation & Employment
7. The Parachute Battalions are the oldest of the SOF in our country. These were formed either by converting the standard infantry battalions into Parachute Battalions or by the integration of the Indian Parachute Battalions post independence. Presently we have five Parachute Battalions of which, three battalions form part of the 50(Independent) Parachute Brigade. These are considered to be the only rapid reaction forces available with the country.
8. The 50(Independent) Parachute Brigade is a brigade group comprising of elements of all arms & services[vii]. The Parachute Battalions are organised on lines similar to the regular infantry units. However, they are different from them in terms of their equipment profile. Another significant aspect is their manpower which is purely on the basis of volunteers who are selected after a very tough & challenging probation for a period of three months.
9. The Parachute Battalions are organised & trained for offensive operations behind enemy lines & Out Of Area Contingencies. The Parachute Brigade over the years has been kept as an Army HQ Reserve or employed piecemeal in certain operations.
10. The Parachute Battalions have been employed with a fair degree of success in conventional operations in the past. The Para Brigade was successfully employed against the Portuguese in Goa, as a coy sized task force at Bara Hoti against the Chinese in early 1961 & in the Kutch operations in 1965. The most successful operation of the Paras still remains the para drop of a battalion sized force at Tangail. This operation is arguably the one which tilted the balance in India's favour. As regards
failed operations, the most glaring example is that of the failed paradrop at the Jaffna University during Op PAWAN. However, the failure of this operation may not be attributable as much to the Paras as it would be to faulty planning & coordination at higher levels.
11. Over the last decade & a half, the Parachute Battalions have been employed in Counter Insurgency (CI) operations. Their employment in these operations has been quite successful with almost all battalions having been awarded the Chief of Army Staff Citation.
12. The Parachute Battalions have been employed as a rapid reaction force & as a crack force to act upon hard intelligence to destroy terrorist hideouts. They have also been employed in covert role for surveillance & pseudo operations.
13. In the recent past, perceptions among certain sections of the defence establishment have led to the crystallisation of the belief that large scale airborne operations are not feasible in the modern context. This has seriously affected the tactical & strategic airlift capability.
14. In CI operations, the Parachute Battalions have been employed as regular infantry battalions- although as a tougher version of the latter. Couple this with the high expectations & quick results desired from them, & we see that the pressure to perform on these battalions is enormous. The fact that despite the above these units have performed exceedingly well is a tribute to their exemplary leadership & high standard of training.
SEC – 2: MARINE COMMANDOS (MARCOS)
History & Organisation
15. The evolution of the present day MARCOS dates back to 1986, when the National Security Guards (NSG) was being formed. In response to the requirement of an equivalent force for safeguarding our shore – based & off-shore assets, the Indian Marine Special Force was formed in Feb 1987. This force was modelled on the lines of the US Navy SEALS & the Royal Navy's Special Boat Section. The name was changed from Indian Marine Special Force to the present day Marine Commandos (MARCOS) in 1991[viii].
16. The present strength of the MARCOS is estimated to be about 2000 personnel[ix]. It is divided into three groups, one each at Mumbai, Kochi & Vishakhapatnam.
17. The MARCOS undergo a very rigorous training of two years which includes the Combat Divers Course, the Army's Ghatak Course & parachute jumps. Thereafter the personnel are sent to operational groups for 'on the job' training for a year. This includes counter terrorist (CT) operations, storming of oil rigs & hostage rescue operations.
18. The CT operations of the MARCOS are executed by the Quick Reaction Sections (QRS) which are upto a platoon size. MARCOS can also be tasked for beach reconnaissance, under water demolitions & other operations in support of the amphibious landings.
19. The MARCOS are presently also employed in teams in the J&K, where they are primarily deployed along the Dal, Wullar & Nageen lakes. Their deployment has led to an effective domination of these water bodies. In the very recent past, the MARCOS were employed during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, wherein the MARCOS teams were heli-landed atop the Hotel Oberoi to eliminate the terrorists.
20. The recent employment of the MARCOS in neutralising the terrorists in Mumbai brought to fore once again the need to have an institutionalised framework for employing the Army & Naval SOF in a coordinated manner. There is also a requirement of standardisation of equipment & weapons if there has to be any joint operations in any future conflict. There is also a need for enhanced joint training of the army SF & the MARCOS as they will surely be employed jointly in any future operation.
SEC- 3: NATIONAL SECURITY GUARDS ( NSG)
21. The National Security Guards (NSG) was formed in 1986 under the National Security Guards Act ( Act 47 of 1986) & has fast emerged as the elite anti-terror establishment not only in India but in the entire Asian region. The NSG is under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) & is mandated to carry out CT, anti-kidnapping, anti-sabotage, anti-hijacking & hostage rescue missions[x].
22. The NSG has approx 7500 which are further sub-divided as under:-
(a) The Assault Groups, i.e, 51st & 52nd Special Action Groups (SAG).
(b) The Support Group.
(c) Two Bomb Disposal Units.
(d) A Dog Unit.
(e) A Communications Group &
(f) A Transport Group.
23. The other element of the NSG is the Special Ranger Group (SRG) whose task is to isolate the target area where the SAG is to operate. However, these are now responsible for providing close security cover to VVIPs & politicians.
24. The Support Group is manned by a mix of army & para-military forces personnel & includes the NSG Training Centre at Manesar near Gurgaon & the Force Headquarters headed by a three star police officer of the IPS Cadre. The operational & training aspects are handled by the army while the para-military forces look after the logistics & budgeting.
25. The NSG has to its credit a string of successful operations & is rightly known as the premier specialist CT organisation in India. The NSG successfully executed Op BLACK THUNDER in the precincts of the Golden Temple in 1984 wherein it was able to neutralise the hardcore militants with minimal collateral damage. The other notable operations include the neutralisation of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi at the Bangalore Airport & the intervention at the Akshardham Temple in Gujarat. However, the most recent successful operation of the NSG remains the intervention & neutralisation of terrorists at the Hotel Oberoi during the terrorist strikes at Mumbai on 26 November 2008. The NSG on the other hand, received a lot of unwarranted flak for its delayed employment during the IC-814 hijack crisis. As the picture of the exact turn of events is now clearing up, one can confidently say that the NSG should have been the last to be blamed in the matter.
26. However, the NSG is plagued with a number of problems of late. The most serious one is that of the Command & Control structure. Although the most important aspects of operational role & training are handled by the army, the head of the NSG is still an IPS officer. It is important that the command of such a premier CT organisation be vested with someone with a practical & on the job experience of CT operations which naturally is with an army officer. The issue has been raised at the highest possible levels time & again, most recently after the Mumbai attacks, but to no avail. It is important for the powers that be to stop the lobbyist attitudes which may eventually jeopardise national security.
27. Another major problem that has been created is due to the diversion of the Special Ranger Group (SRG) for VVIP protection tasks. The original task for which the SRG was raised – to isolate the target area for subsequent operations by SAG – has thus suffered a void.
28. Until before the Mumbai attacks, the SAGs were based in New Delhi & operated from there. Post the incident, it was realised that there existed a need for the NSG to have operational bases in major metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata & Hyderabad for rapid response to a terror strike. Accordingly, additional NSG units have been proposed to be raised for these cities. As to where the manpower for these units is likely to come from, especially when the NSG in its present form itself is plagued with a shortage of manpower, is matter of serious concern.
SEC-4: SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
29. The Special Frontier Force (SFF) was established in 1962 after the debacle in the war with China. The force has six battalions each with six companies. It also has a training establishment known as the Establishment 22 & a Parachute Training School. The force comprises of personnel recruited from the border hill tribes & Tibetan refugees. The force is officered by Indian Army officers on deputation. The task of the force is to conduct reconnaissance, carry out raids on vital installations & direct air & artillery strikes in case of hostilities with China[xi].
30. In addition to the battalions, the force also has a unit known as the Special Group which is manned fully by personnel on deputation from the army[xii]. This group is organised & equipped to carry out CT operations. The exact nature of tasks to be performed & their likely employment is not very clearly spelt out. This group provided the core on which the first NSG unit was raised.
31. The SFF saw major combat in the 1971 War for the first time when it was employed in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for carrying out cross- border attacks which preceded the war. It also fought some spectacular actions against the 2nd Commando Battalion SSG of Pakistan during the war.
32. Despite the raison de' etre', the SFF today is faced with the serious problem of their relevance. The normalisation of Sino-Indian ties & the rapid modernisation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has diminished the possibility of a liberated Tibet. The fact has been accepted even by the Dalai Lama, who now talks of an Autonomous Tibet instead of Free Tibet. All this has led to a drastic reduction in the number of expatriate Tibetans with knowledge of local language, terrain & culture.
33. Over a period of time the force has lost its motivated & dedicated Khampa fighters & have been replaced with second generation Tibetans who have been born & brought up in India & are consequently unaware of the terrain, local customs & traditions of native Tibet – an aspect of prime importance for employment of the force. The army itself has been facing serious manpower problems especially in the officer cadre & sending its officers on deputation to these units means taxing the already critical officer- state in the regular regiments/ battalions
34. Another important drawback in the force structure of the SFF is the Special Group. This Group was initially raised as an anti-hijack & building intervention force. Subsequent to the raising of the NSG – for which the Group provided the core element – their employment & role has been in a limbo. If it was intended to be employed for covert operations, it has not been done for lack of political will despite opportunities for the same having existed for so many years, especially against terror groups operating out of Pakistan.
vii Brigadier Deepak Sinha: Beyond the Bayonet - Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century. Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi pp 138-139.
viiiIbid pp 164-165.
ix Ibid pp 167- 171.
x Ibid pp 177- 181.
xi Ibid pp 177- 181.
FUTURE WOR LD ORDER & SPECTRUM OF CONFLICT
1. In order to fully understand the changing dynamics of the world order & the creation of new alliances & partnerships, especially in the military realm, it is important for us to set for ourselves a realistic period we are looking at. What should such a period be? Five yrs from now? Or should we look at a timeline of 2020?
2. Given the continued progress of our nation in the Asian region as well as its emergence in the global affairs as a vital player in world's politico-strategic dynamics, it is saner to look at a period of 2020. This is so because it is not only important for a nation to continue on its path of progress, but it is equally important to keep consolidating the gains as the years go by. Therefore, we can safely assume that by 2020, India would definitely be a long way up on the road to being the second most dominant player in the regional matters after of course, China which aims to be the regional superpower in the corresponding period.
3. What then is the strategic & operational role of the army in 2020? What are the challenges it will have to face & what are we required to attain to complement & supplement the ambitions of our nation in this period? These & other such questions are briefly discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
SEC - 1: WORLD GEO – STRAT EGIC ENVIRONMENT IN 2020
4. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s & the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 Sep 2001 were two events which redefined the directions of world politics. While the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a creation of a unipolar world ( which is a reality as on date, despite the emergence of the European Union & the rapid economic growth of China), the 9/11 terror attacks brought the 'War on Terror' to the doorstep of the Indian sub-continent.
5. Extrapolation of the current geo-political & geo-strategic environment to 2020 will, in all probabilities, give us the following picture[xiii]:-
(a) While the US will continue to be the sole superpower, its hegemony in world affairs will be considerably reduced due to the increased influence of Russia in Europe & the growing independence of the European Union.
(b) In consistency with its stated policy, China would have attained the status of being a 'regional superpower' & a major player in world affairs.
(c) The European Union would have matured into an independent political & economic identity with better ties with Russia. Russia on the other hand, is likely to have recovered her past glory to a large extent thanks to her clout in the Eastern European Region & her vast oil reserves.
(d) Radical religion will pose problems for the entire world as such. As radicalism flourishes in less developed countries, by 2020, there would also be a large number of very poor countries with radicalism well entrenched.
(e) The future of Pakistan is difficult to fore-tell. It may remain as a key ally of the US in its 'War on Terror', fighting the al-Qaeda on its Western frontiers, or worse, may even fall into the hands of the radical Taliban (backed by al-Qaeda, of course), due to a total lack of national strategy & poor leadership.
(f) India will continue to grow at a healthy growth rate of 7-9% & would be the second most important player in Asia after China.
SEC 2: THREAT ASSESSMENT: INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
6. India faces multiple and complex threats and challenges to its security from the land, sea and air. This situation has led to new power equations throughout the world and in the country's immediate neighbourhood.
7. The rapid economic growth of China in the last few years coupled with its ambitious military modernisation program will enable it to attain near superpower status by 2020. Special note must be taken of China's wide-ranging defence modernisation with a special focus on force multipliers and high technology weapon systems.
8. Pakistan will continue to pose a threat to India's security in the future also. Its traditional hostility and single-minded aim of destabilising India is not focused just on Kashmir but on a search for parity. This arises out of the two nation theory coupled with a desire to exact revenge for the 1971 humiliation over the separation of Bangladesh. This has been accentuated by the Kargil war of 1999.
9. Pakistan has been waging a proxy war against India since the 1980s. Since the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in Western Pakistan over the past few years & the inability (or unwillingness) of the government of the state to neutralize them, it is probable that the cross- border terrorism will intensify in the future. The rapid growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan is also of serious concern to India.
10. Through its nexus with Taliban and Jihadist elements as well as its involvement in religious extremism, international terrorism and the narcotics trade, Pakistan poses a threat not only to India but to the stability of the region as well. Hence, attempts to make Pakistan conform to international value system and norms of behaviour are a problem. As a result of Pakistan's political and economic instability, its military regime may act irrationally, particularly in view of its propensity to function through terrorist outfits.
11. Pakistan's weapons acquisitions from the West and China and its close collaboration with China and North Korea on nuclear and missile matters, will continue to be of grave concern to India. Pakistan will continue to seek further enhancement in the quality of its weapons to attempt to offset its conventional quantitative military inferiority vis-a-vis India. China can continue to make both hardware and technology available to Pakistan to offset the latter's domestic weakness[xiv].
12. India is not likely to face a military threat from the USA or China because of its strength, both military and economic. Overall, India may be faced with the following military threats in the future:-
(a) A medium level military threat may arise from Pakistan if it fails to make adequate economic and political progress, or, its leadership passes to radical elements, or, the country as such, fails and lapses into a state of anarchy.
(b) Bangladesh may pose a very low level threat if it decides to encourage demographic 'aggression' by using its over-sized armed forces in support.
(c) Threats of non-state groups armed with WMD could become a reality. They could be acting on their own initiative or, at the behest of a sponsor nation. This dimension of WMD would warrant war-like response from us.
(d) Leftist extremism in the form of the Maoists Movement will remain a major threat if the root cause is not addressed in the immediate future. The need for the Army being deployed for anti- Naxal operations will therefore become a distinct possibility.
Out of Area Conti ngencies
13. One of the major roles which India might have to don in the future is to provide military assistance to its neighbouring states. This scenario is very possible given the fact that majority of nations in the vicinity are facing multifarious problems within their territory & may seek India's assistance. The thwarting of the Maldives coup in 1988 & request for military assistance by Srilanka against the LTTE are a case in point.
14. India's aspirations to become a key player in the regional & global arena coupled with its growing energy requirements & the competition therein may also require India to deploy a part of its Special Forces in these countries. A case in point is the deployment of Indian Air Force base in a Central Asian nation. Such deployments in regions such as Central Asia, island nations in the Indian Ocean, Malacca Straits etc may become a necessity rather than exception.
SEC – 3: SPECTRUM OF FUTURE CONFILCT
15. Even as conventional war may appear to be a receding option, it would not detract from the need to maintain operationally desirable and superior combat ratios against potential adversaries through an ongoing process of force restructuring and modernisation.
16. India's emerging technological, economic and military power coupled with the national security policy orientation is likely to witness greater out of area deployment of its military capability to deal with global security concerns.
Battlefield Scenario : 2020
17. The future battlefield scenario will be characterized by the following[xv]: -
(a) Lethal, wider and deeper combat zones.
(b) Non-linearity of operations.
(c) Higher tempo of operations/ activity.
(d) Greater transparency and situational awareness.
(e) Network centric warfare and digitized environment.
(f) Operations under media glare.
(g) Involvement of non-state actors.
(h) Greater complexity in conduct of low intensity conflict operations.
(j) Threat of weapons of mass destruction.
18. The above aspects are actually generic & apply to any conflict likely to take place in the future. However, from an Indian standpoint, as we have seen earlier, a conflict with any of the major nations like the US or China is unlikely in the immediate future that is been addressed here. A conflict with Pakistan however, cannot be ruled out if we extrapolate the situation that prevails today. Pakistan, for the very need of diverting attention of its populace from its own ailments will continue to foment terrorism in India. The patience of the Indian government & the public will run out in case of another incident of the likes of 26/11 in Mumbai.
19. The nature of this possible conflict with Pakistan is likely to be as follows:-
(a) The duration of the conflict will be short, not extending beyond maximum of a fortnight.
(b) Penetration in depth is unlikely to be attempted by either side.
(c) 'Proactive Operations' will be attempted whenever possible to achieve surprise and maximise gains.
(d) The entire border is likely to be activated with shallow thrusts, very heavy firepower and short span maneuvers.
(e) Integrated action by all three services will be crucial for the enhancement of our combat power vis-à-vis the adversary's.
(f) Special Forces and coup-de-main forces will play a major role.
(g) Levels of technology employed in the wars will be higher than at present.
(h) Nuclear weapons may not be used; their use may, however, be threatened.
(j) Wars will end in stalemate, with little or no gain, and heavy losses to military as well as civilian targets.
(k) An increase of terror strikes at the behest of Pakistan to destabilize the internal situation in India by activating the sleeper cells of terrorists.
SEC – 4: ROLE & IMAPCT OF MODERN BATTLEFIELD CONDITIONS ON THE SF
20. Some salient aspects of the future battlefield milieu impacting on the SF are as follows[xvi]: -
(a) Fire Power . Future battlefields will be dominated by accurate, long range and highly lethal firepower. Flexibility and versatility in the application of firepower will be essential.
(b) High Attrition . Greater battlefield transparency coupled with accurate, long range and highly lethal munitions will result in higher attrition. Measures for survivability of SF will assume greater importance.
(c) Maneuver . The combat effectiveness of ground forces will be determined by their maneuver capability, i.e., the speed with which they can move, concentrate and regroup over any type of terrain.
(d) Non-Linear Battlefield . The need for speedy conflict termination will necessitate simultaneous engagement in the immediate, depth and rear area battles. Maneuver and firepower will facilitate the same.
(e) Continuous and High Tempo Operations . A non-linear battlefield coupled with battlefield transparency will result in high tempo, continuous day and night, and all weather operations.
(f)Greater Situational Awareness . The fusion of reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence will generate higher battlefield transparency resulting in real time situational awareness at tactical, operational and strategic levels.
(g) Information Warfare . This will encompass electronic, command and control, psychological, deception, navigation and cyber warfare. Information warfare will be directed against enemy 'centres of gravity'.
(h) Non-State Actors . There will be greater likelihood of the adversary exploiting non-state actors to further his military aims by employing them to cause disruption and dislocation in the battle and rear areas.
(j) Media . Conduct of war in the glare of media is likely to influence decision making of military planners.
(k) High Technology, Network Centric Warfare . The increasing deployment of surveillance, battlefield management and information warfare systems, is likely to make the battlefield high-tech.
xii INDIA DEF REVIEW: Vol 20.4 Indian Army: 2020 by General S Padmanabhan (on www.indiadefencereview.in)
xiv Article on Role and Characteristics of Special Forces on www. cdm.ap.nic.in
xv Ibid pp 23-24.
CHANGES IN PRESENT ORGANISATION & CONCEPT OF EMPLOYMENT TO MEET CHALLENGES OF CONVEN TIONAL OPERATIONS IN THE FUTURE
1. In the previous chapters, we have seen the organisation & employment of the Special Forces of various nations & also analysed the organisation & concept of employment of own Special Forces units. Given the way the world geo-political & geo-strategic relationships may shape up by the year 2020, as has been discussed in the previous chapter, this chapter discusses the changes required in the organisation, equipment profile & concept of employment of our Special Forces in a conventional operations scenario of the future.
SEC- 1: SHORTCOMINGS OF THE PRESENT ORGANISATION & CONCEPT OF EMPL O YMENT OF SOF
2. Pre-independence, India was only the fifth nation to have two AB divisions on its Order of Battle (The others being USA, USSR, Britain & Turkey). In a major retrogressive step, both the divisions were disbanded. Such was the eventful beginning of our SF! Over the years, this force was continually neglected by successive governments & worse, even by our own top brass. Before we begin to discuss the force structure required for the future SF, let us analyse the problems which plague this force.
3. Lack of Foresight
. The growth of the SF in India has been stunted to a great extent by a serious lack of foresight, not by the political masters alone, but appallingly, by our own top brass of the yesteryears. The myopic vision of some senior officers of the Parachute Regiment & their firm conviction of the thought that a separate SF outside that of the Parachute Regiment itself is not required has been the single most important reason for the state of affairs that we are in[xvii]. It is a result of this short-sightedness that repeated attempts by other senior officers to form SF units on the lines of the US SOF & the SAS have been met with scepticism & serious opposition.
4. Flawed Concept of Employment .
The concept of employing the SF as 'super infantry' primarily focussed on high attrition tasks is another reason for the sorry state of our SF[xviii]. Since the time of its raising, the SF has been employed in operations piecemeal, without much innovativeness & novelty & purely on attrition-based concept of operation.
The SF have primarily been employed on tasks such as conducting raids, ambushes, direct & stand-off attacks. Other SOF like the NSG has been deprived of crucial components like the Special Ranger Group, which has been diverted off for VVIP protection duties.
5. Weapons & Equipment
. The most important aspect of the SF other than the 'Special Warrior' is the type of equipment & weapons carried by him. There is no denying the fact that the SF needs to be equipped with the best & top-of-the-line equipment & weaponry. These should be ideally suited to the kind of tasks the man has to perform & most importantly should not sacrifice his ability to operate with speed & stealth. However, while the need for modern weapons & equipment is understood, the other aspect is glossed over & we finally end up making a bee-line for procuring the type of equipment in demand the world over, without giving much thought to the terrain & mission specific requirements of our SF.
6. Command & Control Structure
. The various organisations executing 'Specialised Tasks' ,i.e, the SF, NSG,SFF & the MARCOS have one thing in common – they are all specially trained & equipped forces for specialised missions. Logically, these forces should be integrated under a common tri-service Headquarter which is capable & empowered to employ these forces to respond to any task-internal or external. However, in our context, the army SF units are 'allotted' to each operational command which thereafter decides its suitable employment. Although the command & control is vested with the highest commander in the theatre, it would be agreed that it is certainly not the best way of employing the SF – especially when carrying out a task of strategic importance wherein the force is required to have access to the minutest intelligence input, something which may not be available even at the theatre level given the compartmentalised system of our intelligence. Moreover, such an employment restricts the SF to carry out tasks which only impact the battle at an operational/ strategic level & not at a national level.
SEC- 2: CHANGES REQUIRED IN THE ORGANISATION & CONCEPT OF EMPLOYMENT OF SF
7. To be able to carry out the complete spectrum of missions that we have discussed, there is requirement for having the following types of forces[xix]:-
(a) Intervention and rapid deployment forces capable of holding ground and countering conventional enemy forces for a limited duration as also providing forces for deployment & humanitarian assistance in third countries for disaster and internal security stabilisation & management within the country.
(b) Forces for overt and clandestine direct action, reconnaissance, surveillance and target designation, offensive counter terrorism.
(c) Forces for covert actions abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives for tasks in which the role of the Indian Government is not or acknowledged publicly, including eco warfare.
(d) Commando forces for Defensive Pro-Active Counter Terrorist Operations.
(e) Incident response forces capable of dealing with WMD attacks and hostage rescue situations. Special units for WMD response should in conjunction with other SOF capable of direct action and intervention tasks, also be capable of conducting WMD recovery and strikes against such facilities.
(f) Forces for maritime intervention & protection of oil platforms and other maritime assets.
(g) Combat search and rescue (CSAR) & specialist air assets for covert/ clandestine intervention & rapid deployment tasks
8. The core issues which need to be addressed while restructuring the SOF of the country are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
9. An accurate analysis of the exact number of SF units for future requirements must be based on a holistic appraisal of India's national security objectives and the military strategy necessary to achieve those objectives. The current and emerging threats and challenges to national security are such that only those steeped in a deeply pacifist tradition would quibble with the need for substantial enhancement in the number of SF units so as to be able to employ them more pro-actively.
10. The requirement of SF units during conventional war that Indian SF units must gradually go up to about 10 to 12 in number. All SF units must be organized and equipped alike though within each unit the personnel may have different skill sets for different contingencies.[xx] The logic behind this proposition can be explained as follows:-
(a) At least three to four SF units are necessary for the Northern Command for specific employment in the Kashmir Valley & the Ladakh Region. This is necessitated due to the terrain & operational requirement. While the terrain in the Dras - Kargil – Ladakh region constitutes of 'super high-altitude' & glaciated terrain, the type of operations – mainly counter terrorist – in the rest of the Valley necessitate a separate type of SF for carrying out the operations. Thus, at least one army SF unit augmented by the SFF (maybe only when hostilities with China/ Pakistan are imminent) is required. Similarly, at least two SF units are required for deployment in Counter Terrorism role in the Valley, in the immediate depth of the Line of Control & one for operations in the hinterland.
(b) The demographic pattern, geography & the linguistic differences in the 16 Corps Zone being different from that of the Valley, it requires another one to two SF units, one out of which should be trained on similar lines as that of the one deployed in Ladakh Region for operations in the mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar etc.
(c) The operations of SF along our Western borders are likely to be more complex due to the diversity of the terrain & linguistic span – from highly developed, Punjabi speaking areas of Lahore to the desert tracts of Sindhi/ Urdu speaking Cholistan Desert. Therefore, there is a certain requirement of at least one SF unit with each of the Commands, i.e, Western, South Western & Southern.
(d) While we are traditionally pre-occupied with the adversary onto our Western border, there are more than whispers from think-tanks & analysts alike that the real threat lies to the East. A reading of the 'War Zone Campaign' of the Chinese gives an insight into the importance of the SOF in their plans. Therefore, there is a need to think alike (even at the cost of being called a 'plagiarist!') & have at least one SF unit for the Eastern Command. Also, it is important to have at least one of the SFF units stationed here permanently (especially in the Tawang Sect than in Sikkim) to augment the strength of the SF. In addition to these conventional threats, there is also a need to have a SF unit for conduct of 'Counter Insurgency Operations' in the North Eastern Region to specifically eliminate the top leadership of the various 'splinter groups' to force their hand for negotiations.
Command & Control
11. Given the complex nature of operations & the future battlefield scenario in which the SOF will definitely have to play a major role, it is imperative to have a command & control system which will be centralised at the highest level of decision making & at the same time be responsive enough to address the requirements of the operational commanders. Such a system will also ensure the availability of real-time & most accurate information required for the successful employment of SF. It will also
ensure lesser deployment time, centralised allocation of forces & resources & correct force packaging depending upon the mission.
12. The current concept of having the SF units operate under the Command Headquarters, the Parachute Brigade under the Army Headquarters, the MARCOS under the Naval Headquarters & the NSG under the Ministry of Home Affairs is a totally skewed & compartmentalised concept of command & control wherein each controlling agency becomes too possessive about the SOF under its command thereby leading to piecemeal employment of a force which is already a scarce resource. It also leads to a serious lack or untimely availability of crucial intelligence for planning & execution of operations.
13. The raising of a Special Forces Command on the US pattern has been widely suggested. Though most Indian analysts are of the view that the recommendation is premature at present, it is pertinent to note that such an organisation will well nigh be a necessity given the spectrum of future conflicts as discussed in the previous chapter. SF units and personnel are a scarce resource that should be closely integrated at the national level for optimum operational efficiency.
14. Although the raising of a Special Forces Command in today's context is actually essential & mandatory, practically it may not be feasible in the immediate future given the bureaucratic & political hurdles it may face. As it is, we have yet not been able to get a Chief of Defence Staff after more than a decade of persuasion.
15. An alternative to this setting up of a SOF Command is to have a SOF Headquarter headed by a Director General of Special Forces (DG SF) who should be vested with the authority to control all SOF of the three services. The officer should be of the rank of a Lieutenant General or equivalent & should essentially be a career 'paratrooper' & should report directly to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (till such time the Chief of Defence Staff is not in place). In addition to this, each Army Command Headquarter should have a SF desk under the General Staff (Operations) Branch & should be headed by an officer of appropriate rank (at least a Colonel). This desk should be responsible for control & coordination of all SOF deployed in the theatre.
16. It is felt that there is definitely a need to establish a SOF Command for effective command, control & employment of the SOF. This Command Headquarter should encompass all the SOF of the nation (including the NSG & SFF). It should also have interface with national intelligence & counter intelligence agencies – the R&AW, IB & DIA – in the form of representatives from these agencies on deputation to the Command Headquarters.
17. The proposed command & control structure for a Special Operations Forces Command is given at Appendix B.
18. The wherewithal necessary to insert and, subsequently, support them in such employment over sustained periods must be acquired no matter what the cost. It needs to be appreciated by India's policy planners that in many situations when war has not yet commenced and it is not possible to employ ground forces overtly, Special Forces can be launched covertly to achieve important military objectives with inherent deniability.
Manpower & Training
19. The most important element of the SF is the individual himself, referred to as a 'Paratrooper', 'Commando' or a 'Special Warrior'. For qualifying as a 'commando', one has to have a certain personality traits which are uniquely different from the 'average' soldier who is more of the 'after-you' type. He is expected to possess a higher degree of intellect, should be able to execute a task without fumbling for orders when there are none, should have an aggressive outlook & what is loosely referred as 'a crack brain'!
20. The quality of personnel in any of the SF units, be it the army SF or the MARCOS or the NSG, is not an issue. They are undoubtedly 'a cut above the rest'. The fact that the 10th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (SF) won the "Best SF" Competition in Africa a few years ago, proves the mettle of our SF. However, there is a need to train this high quality human resource into a more versatile force & task them effectively for 'effect-based operations'
21. There is also a need to enhance the minimum educational qualification for recruitment of 'Personnel Below Officer Rank' to at least 10+2. This is essential to have a human resource with at least the basic IQ level required to be able to not only efficiently handle the high-tech gadgetry required for future operations but also to be able to take sound & rational decisions if & when the situation so demands.
22. In so far as training is concerned, it is imperative that the training standards be revised & changed if so required & be standardised. Also, there is a requirement of establishing a Joint SF Advance Training Centre which is capable of training all the SOF under a single roof. This will ensure enhanced interoperability between the various components if & when required. The implementation of the same will also turn out to be more economical than each service having its own SF training centres.
23. The curriculum at the training establishment must be focussed on developing important skills & specialisations which are mandatory to operate in our region. The basic & mandatory skills required are as follows:-
(a) Free Fall.
(e) Weapon Training.
24. Certain important specialisations required to be achieved are as under:-
(a) Sky Diving.
(c) Underwater Diving.
(f) Laser Designation.
(j) Rock Craft.
Weapons & Equipment
25. The SF by their very nature of their tasks are expected to operate without or with minimal support of the other combat support units like the artillery, armour helicopters & aircrafts. They are expected to generate combat power of their own for execution of the assigned mission & hold the same till such time they are either linked-up with by the regular force or are extracted from the scene of action.
26. The principles for selecting the weapons for the SF are as follows[xxi]:-
(a) Absolute reliability.
(b) Light weight.
(c) Should have maximum firepower.
(d) Resistant to water & dirt.
27. The SF should have the best & the most modern means of communications, especially the ones with long ranges & in-built secrecy. The modern day Thuraya & Kenwood sets which are preferred the world over should be introduced. A SATCOM set at the rate of at least one per assault squad should be made available as a back-up.
28. Upto date, accurate & real-time intelligence is a must for success of any SF mission. Apart from communications, they should also be equipped with such high technology gadgets as hand-held GPS systems & data-transfer enabled palmtop computers.
29. There is little doubt that Jointmanship is the need of the today as well as of the future. This aspect is equally- or perhaps even more- important in case of the SF. Given the complex nature of the geo-political situation in our sub-continent & the omnipresent threat of terrorism within the country, there is a clear need for all the SOF to be able to undertake joint operations abroad as well as within the country. The recent terror attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008 clearly highlighted the necessity of this aspect wherein the MARCOS as well as the NSG was employed to flush out the terrorists.
30. There is a greater need for all the SOF to train together & more frequently at that, to achieve enhanced interoperability & increased synergy while responding to any threat or executing any task whether inside the country or in outside.
31. The army's SF battalions, the navy's MARCOS (marine commandos) and the air force's commando units (Garud) that are reported to be under raising, need to be closely integrated in order to achieve synergy of operations. Unless they are equipped with compatible communications equipment, have similar TTPs and train to common standards, they will not be able to operate effectively with the degree of "jointness" necessary in modern warfare.
32. The aspect of 'Jointmanship' is also pertinent especially between the army & the Air Force as in most missions the two will have to operate together, with the latter providing the mobility in terms of airlift for insertion & extraction. Air effort is also required to assist the SF recovery, escape, rescue operations & for facilitating 'Psychological Operations'. In the light of the above, there is certain need for the SF to have dedicated transport aircraft available to itself. Consequently, it is important for the Air Force to have a squadron of fixed & rotary wing aircraft along with dedicated 'Special Operations Pilots & Crew' who are equally robust – physically as well as mentally as the passengers on board.
33. Another important facet of the air-SF co-operation which has positively emerged since the Iraq War & the ongoing Afghan War is the efficacy of the SF to direct air strikes onto important targets[xxii]. An example of a similar operation from Afghanistan is illustrated below:-
A single US Special Forces (SF) soldier crouched on an Afghan hillside with nothing more than a M16 and radio is credited with turning the war against the Taliban regime. The American forward air controller was working with Pashtun tribesmen advancing on the Taliban capital Kandahar when an enemy column was spotted counter attacking. Within minutes he had called in US aircraft, strafed the column and set it reeling back in disorder.
"When we turned back that convoy, the high religious heads came over to Hamid's (Karzai) headquarters and said if the Americans weren't here, we'd all be dead now. Basically from that point on our relationship was solid with the Pashtun tribes. We broke the back of the Taliban that day. "
Captain Jason Amerine of the US 5th Special Forces G
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