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Special Forces— Challenges And Solutions
Majority of the Special Forces have to operate by stealth, in small groups and in enemy territory, involving covert operations.
Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)

SPECIAL FORCES (SFS) ARE elite units who are specially selected, and super trained to carry out dirty and dangerous mission in enemy territory. SFs can be from the army, navy and the air force. More than 90 countries have SFs on their order of battle. This article refers to only army SFs like the US Army SFs (popularly called Green Beret) and India’s Para Commandoes. US also has US Rangers which come directly under the US Army while US Army SFs come under the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). In India the SFs of the Armed Forces are also grouped under a single command.

Majority of the SFs have to operate by stealth, in small groups and in enemy territory, involving covert operations. Their broad role can include unconventional warfare; counter-insurgency; special reconnaissance; counter-terrorism; information operations; counterproliferation of weapon of mass destruction; security force assistance; hostage/POW/civilian rescue and many more. Information Operations, also called influence operations, are the integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception and operations security in synergy with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp the adversaries. SFs have to be ready to be deployed at short notice; train in junior leadership to lead small squads and are prepared to use various means to infiltrate into dangerous and hostile territory. Most of the countries train them as para commandoes but some like the US also train them in SCUBA, sniper, jumpmaster (expert para troopers who train others in para jumping) and foreign languages. Every country designs the training as per the projected role.

Operational Challenges and Solutions

The key challenges and solutions for their role are:

Information about the area of operations. Precise and accurate information of the projected area of operations including terrain, obstacles, and strength and deployment of the enemy.

Infiltration or Insertion. SFs are trained in parachute operations thus they often parachute on to the objective but they are also trained for other types of infiltration like from water, land or rappelling from an helicopter. More than often the infiltration will be through dangerous and hostile territory. The key aspect of SFs’ operation is to carry out their role with surprise and shock.

Explosive Obstacles. Training of special forces to defang booby traps and other forms of explosive obstacles like mines, IEDs etc.

Situational Awareness. Continuous situational awareness from infiltration to exfiltration. May require aerial reconnaissance by aircraft, UAVs or even satellites.

Fire Power. Fire arms which are light, quick to aim and fire, have night firing capability and have immense destructive power. May need silencers and selectively have sniper capability. May use various types of grenades including stun grenades. If the situation so warrants to be able to call for artillery fire or air strikes.

Communications. Reliable and inter/ intra-squad communications.

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October - November 2019