Garud commandoes take first casualties after secretly operating in J&K for 12 years - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 11 October 2017

Garud commandoes take first casualties after secretly operating in J&K for 12 years

Modelled on Israeli Shaldag, Garuds earn combat experience in Kashmir

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Oct 17

In January 2016, while defending the Pathankot air base in Punjab, Corporal Gursewak Singh became the first Garud – the Indian Air Force (IAF) commando force – to fall to terrorist bullets.

On Wednesday morning, two more IAF commandos – Sergeant Milind Kishor and Corporal Nilesh Kumar Nayan – became the first Garud fatalities in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

Kishor and Nayan died in action in Hajin village, near Bandipura in North Kashmir. They were operating with an army unit, 13 Rashtriya Rifles, when three armed militants opened fire at them. Incident accounts indicate the Garuds quickly killed two militants and were outflanking the third when he fired, catching them in the open.

Like the navy’s Special Forces – dubbed Marcos, or Marine Commandos – the Garud force has been operating in J&K since 2005. Over the years, they have had significant successes, including killing two Hizbul Mujahideen district commanders in Kupwara.

“We prefer to remain quiet about our operations in Kashmir and elsewhere”, says a Garud officer when asked for details.

The Garud force was conceived in September 2004, when air force chief, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, on a visit to Israel, was impressed by their air force Special Forces Unit 5101 – also called Shaldag, or Kingfisher in Hebrew. On his return to India, Krishnaswamy ordered the establishment of a similar unit. It was named Garud, after a heavenly bird in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

The Garud force conducts “aviation special operations”, including combat search and rescue (retrieving IAF pilots shot down or bailed out in enemy territory), “laser designation” of strategic enemy targets for smart bombs dropped from IAF strike aircraft, assessing the damage done to enemy targets after IAF air strikes, and the physical destruction of enemy air defence radars and guns.

For these dangerous tasks, the Garuds must infiltrate into enemy territory by air, sea or land. Certain helicopter units are affiliated to the Garuds for airborne infiltration.

While the force today numbers over 1,500 persons, Garuds typically operate in small tightknit “squads” of 14 commandoes. These are grouped into “flights” of 60-70 men.

All Garuds are volunteers, with some being directly recruited into the force and others opting to sidestep into the Garuds from other air force branches. It is rare to find pilots opting for the Garuds, since pilots link their futures with maximising hours in the cockpit.

The Garuds are equipped with specially procured weaponry, like the Israeli Tavor rifle. Reports from Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence indicate a range of advanced counter-terrorist equipment is being procured for the Garud force, including thermal night vision binoculars, special silenced carbines with holographic and night sights. Lighly armoured strike vehicles are also being procured.

The Garud force is headquartered in Chandinagar, near Baghpat, where training is carried out. In addition, Garuds are given specialist training by the navy’s Marcos, and army para-commandoes.

In a message tweeted by Northern Command today, the army paid its respects to the two Garuds: “[Army Commander Northern Command] and all ranks salute the supreme sacrifice of our martyrs [and] offer our deepest condolences to the families.”


  1. Nothing secret. You are trying to sensationalist a simple fact that only army has units in combat operations and all other SF units use the opportunity to get combat experience in valley or NE for their troops by imbeding with the units at sharp edge.

  2. Loss of lives of young men who sacrifice their lives for the nation is especially sad. They had so much more to offer had their lives not been cut short so abruptly! One would also like the media to report the names of the deceased warriors correctly. The Sergeant's name, from available news paper reports was apparently Milind Kishore Khairnar, which can be independently verified.

    One would also seriously dispute the contention that the Garuds are equipped with specially procured weaponry, specifically the Tavors. One has seen the security detail assigned to a high profile industrialist in Mumbai, wielding these weapons!

    One's point is - Since the MARCOS, Garuds, IA Paras are special forces, they must be given top of the line equipment which is at par with those available with the best militaries of the world. At the moment, this bench marking is missing.

  3. The issue at hand apart, the very existence of Garuds brings into focus the kind of empire building the armed forces should avoid. It is one thing to have commandoes specifically trained for air centric operations (including ground support) and quite another to have that within the air force. It is high time we had a Marine Corps but that would have to be part of a radical reorganisation to theatre commands and host of other higher defence reforms. That would also mean the Army would have to stop fantasising about offensive air assets.

    It is a pity that this government with a 330 MP majority in the Lok Sabha is as feckless as the last one in seriously thinking through our defense posture. As much as I detest Stephen Cohen's mollycoddling of Pakistan and its army, his conclusions in "Arming without Aiming" are indeed prophetic. The only way this will perhaps change is introduction of compulsory draft for kith & kin of politicians and babus.

    1. occasion demands more sensitivity rather trying to give gyan!! Major threats lie over land borders then why marine Corp!! won't theatre commands create new empires!! So wash your dirty linen in your own home !! And as of now respect the fallen soldiers be it from army navy or Air FORCE!!


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