The Para Commandos are a special forces unit of the Indian Army. Formed in 1966, the Para Commandos are the largest and most important part of the Special Forces of India. They are a part of the highly-trained Parachute Regiment of the Indian Army and, generally, all the Para-Commando personnel are selected from it. They are the ‘CRACK FORCE’ and help the main army to get in the enemy lines without much damage. The main aim of having a Parachute Regiment is for Quick deployment of Soldiers behind the enemy lines to attack the enemy from behind & destroy their first line of defence. The Indian Paras are the elite group of soldiers and they are better known as Commandos.
The Parachute Regiment consisting of PARA and PARA (SF) battalions is the elite volunteer force of the Indian Army. Because of its specified role, the regiment needs to be kept at optimum level of operational efficiency and physical fitness. Towards this end, this specially selected manpower should be comparatively young, physically fit and mentally robust, intelligent, innovative and highly motivated so as to successfully accomplish the assigned operational tasks.
The regimental badge for the Parachute Regiment is an open parachute, partially behind a circle with the word “Parachute” at the top and a scroll at the bottom with the word “Regiment”; wings are spread out from the circle, and a dagger is superimposed on the parachute and upper portion of the circle; the whole in silver metal. As with much of the world’s parachute forces, the normal headgear is a maroon beret, although there is a maroon pagri for Sikhs. The maroon beret is the basis for the unofficial nickname “The Red Devils.”
The special forces battalions now have a distinct insignia: a commando knife, point downwards, with two wings extending from the blade upwards and a scroll superimposed on the blade, with the word “Baldan” in Sanskrit lettering; 37 the whole in silver metal on a red cloth rectangle.
There remains a single airborne brevet : an open parachute in white, with light blue wings extended from it, the whole on a grey-green drab background. (Some other variants have existed for summer or dress uniforms, e.g., with gold wings on a red background, or the normal colors on a tan background). This was formerly worn on the upper right sleeve but now appears above the right chest pocket. There is also a small enameled version (white parachute with blue, yellow, or red wings) worn on the left pocket as Jump Indicator Wings (for 25, 50 or 100 descents, respectively).
Functions & Goals
- Intelligence collection, Special reconnaissance
- Subversion and sabotage of vital enemy infrastructure and communications through deep penetration and surgical strikes behind enemy lines.
- Covert and overt/Direct action special operations as part of the Indian Army’s counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.
- Hostage rescue operations within and beyond Indian territory.
Strength & Organization
The Parachute regiment has a total of 11 regular, one Rashtriya Rifles and two territorial army battalions; of the regular battalions, four are standard parachute infantry battalions, while seven are commando trained battalions(Para Commandos). Formerly designated as “commando” units, they are now designated Special Forces:
- 1st Battalion (Special Forces) – ex 1st Battalion, 2nd Punjab Regiment Raised 1761, conversion to Special Forces 1978
- 2nd Battalion (Special Forces) – ex 3rd Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry raised 1797, conversion to Special Forces 2000
- 3rd Battalion (Special Forces) – ex 1st Battalion, Kumaon Regiment raised 1813, conversion to Special Forces 2002
- 4th Battalion (Special Forces) raised 1961, conversion to Special Forces 2003.
- 5th Battalion (Airborne Infantry) raised 1961
- 6th Battalion (Airborne Infantry) raised 1963
- 7th Battalion (Special Forces)(Airborne Infantry)(Commando) raised 1963
- 9th Battalion (Special Forces) raised 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion.
- 10th Battalion (Special Forces) raised in 1967 as 10th Parachute Commando battalion from 9 Para Cdo.
- 11th Battalion(Special Forces) raised in 2011
- 12th Battalion(Airborne Infantry) under raising, as in 2011
- 21st Battalion(Special Forces) – ex 21st Battalion, Maratha Light Infantry raised 1985, conversion to Special Forces in 1996
- 106th Infantry Battalion(Para) Territorial Army – Bangalore
- 116th Infantry Battalion(Para) Territorial Army – Deolali
- 31st Battalion(Commando) – Rasthriya Rifles
Three of the Special Forces battalions were originally trained for use in certain enevironments; 1 Battalion[Strategic Reserve], 9th Battalion[mountain], 10th Battalion[desert] and 21st Battalion[jungle]. Currently, all Special Forces Battalions are cross trained for all environments.
The Paratroopers saw their first action in 1945 when a Battalion group was dropped at Elephant Point for the Battle of Rangoon.
Selection & Training
All ranks from other Arms/Services can volunteer to join Parachute Regiment, including PARA (SF) battalions, as hither-to-fore. All members of the special forces are volunteers, either fresh from recruitment or after having served in other units.They are put through a probationary period of six months for special forces regiments(1,2,3,4,9,10,11 & 21 PARA(SF)) and three months for normal parachute regiments(5,6 & 7 PARA)where they undergo various physical, mental and psychological tests, rejection rate averaging 70-80 percent.
Those selected are sent to the Paratroopers’ Training School (PTS) at Agra, Uttar Pradesh for their Basic Course in Paratrooping, which includes ground and air training. Those who are successful are made to do five static line jumps from varying altitudes which include one night jump and one with full battle equipment. On completion of the five jumps, the individual is awarded the coveted parachute wings which is worn on the right chest as well as the Maroon Beret. Only when the probationer has served for six months in hostile areas or one year as a whole is he awarded the Special Forces Tab as well as the Balidan badge.
As training is an ongoing process in the army, more so in the special forces, the members are further trained in specialised mode of infiltration and exfiltration, either by air (Combat Freefall) or sea (scuba diving). Some return to PTS to undergo the free-fall course, which in order to successfully pass requires at least 50 jumps from altitudes up to 22,500 feet. Both HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) and HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) techniques are learned. The ability to use the HAHO method and specially designed maneuverable parachutes called HAPPS (High Altitude Parachute Penetration System) to conduct stealth insertions over distances up to 50 km is also perfected.
For combat diving training, the commandos are sent to the Naval Diving School,Kochi. Daily routine begins with a 5 km morning run. Infiltration, assault and ambush tactics are refined and perfected. Special attention is given to CQB, urban warfare, counter-terror warfare and unarmed combat.
Off and on, night and weapons training and field craft involving 20 km treks with 60 kg (132 lb.) loads and live ammunition. Monthly forced marches with 65 kg combat loads with distances over 30 to 50 miles and quarterly night drops with full combat loads are also conducted. In addition to this in-house training, the commandos also attend a number of schools run by the Army that specialize in unconventional warfare.
These include the Junior Leaders’ Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka, the Parvat Ghatak School (for high altitude mountain warfare) in Tawang Arunachal Pradesh,Desert warfare school, the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir and the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram. These schools are among the finest of their kind anywhere and routinely host students from other countries.
Para Commandos can also undergo a complete Combat Divers course, in which they earn a combat diver badge. They are also experienced in conducting SHBO (special heli-borne operations) and typically employ Cheetahs, MI-8/MI-17, ALH (Dhruv)helicopters for this purpose. Now the Paras are also accepting women, not in the Battalions, but the Parachute-trained units of supporting services e.g., engineers, signals, medical corps, etc.
Decorations & Honours
6 Ashoka Chakras, 10 Maha Vir Chakras, 6 Kirti Chakras, 2 Uttam Yudh Seva Medals, 3 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals, 47 Vir Chakras, 32 Shaurya Chakras, 109 Sena Medals, 5 Bar to Sena Medals, 11 Yudh Seva Medals and 8 Vishisht Seva Medals. In addition to the above the ‘Parachute Regiment’ has been awarded the following honours:
- Theatre Honours: Sindh – 1971, Jammu & Kashmir – 1971, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) – 1971, Kargill 1999
- Battle Honours: Shelatang , Naushera [24 Jan-7 Feb 1947], Punch [20 Nov 1947-23 Nov 1948], Jhangar [15-18 Mar 1947], Hajipir [26-31 Aug 1965], Poongli Bridge [11-12 Dec 1971], Chachro [7 Dec 1971]
Individual battalions have also received COAS [Chief of Army Staff] Unit Citations:
- Operation Rakshak 1992: 21st Para (SF)
- Operation Rakshak 1995: 9th Para (SF)
- Operation Orchid 1996: 5th Para
- Operation Orchid 1997: 3rd Para
- Operation Orchid 1998: 1st Para (SF)
- Operation Rakshak 1998: 2nd Para (SF)
- Operation Meghdoot 2000: 5th Para
- Operation Rakshak 2000: 6th Para
- Operation Rakshak 2001: 9th Para (SF), 31st RR (Cdo)
- Operation Rakshak 2003: 3rd Para, 9th Para (SF)
- Operation Rakshak 2004: 2nd Para (SF), 31st RR (Cdo)
- Operation Rakshak 2005: 5th Para, 10th Para (SF)
Para Commandos have access to all types of infantry weapons required for a particular mission.
- Browning Hi-Power 9mm Semi-automatic pistol
- Glock 17 9mm Semi-automatic pistol
- SIG P226 9mm Semi-automatic pistol
- Heckler & Koch MP5 Sub-machine gun
- 1A SMG Sub-machine gun
- INSAS Assault rifle
- AKM and AKMS Assault rifle
- AK-103 Assault rifle
- SA Vz. 58P and SA Vz. 58V Assault rifle
- TAR-21 Tavor Bullpup Assault rifle
- M4A1 Carbine
- 1A SLR Battle rifle
- Mauser SP66 Bolt-action sniper rifle
- SVD Dragunov Semi-automatic sniper rifle
- IMI Galil Sniper Semi-automatic sniper rifle
- Heckler & Koch MSG90 Semi-automatic sniper rifle
- Gepard GM6 Lynx Anti-materiel rifle
- OSV-96 Anti-material rifle
- IMI Negev Light machine gun
- PK General purpose machine gun
- MG 2A1 General purpose machine gun
- RCL MkIII 84mm recoilless rifle
- B-300#Shipon 82mm Rocket launcher