Indian Para-SF vs Pakistans’ SSG commandos – The comparisons are inevitable. The Indian Para-SF has generally been praised for its agility and ability to penetrate deep into enemy territory while the Pakistani SSG or Special Services Group have been lauded for being a battle-hardened unit who have demolished staunchest of the enemies.
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On 29 September 2016, India announced that it conducted “surgical strikes” against terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”.
Indian Army commandos, not the elite Para-SF, went 38 kilometres deep inside Pakistan-controlled -Kashmir and claimed to demolished seven terror launch pads and transit camps of militants. All were reportedly within two to three kilometre of the Line of Control (LoC). The surgical strikes were carried out in Bhimber, Hotspring, Tattapani, Kel and Lipa sectors on Pakistan’s side of the LoC.
However, Pakistan too has a similar commando force that is the SSG. The EurAsian Times compares the Indian Para-SF with the Pakistan SSG commandos and evaluates how the special forces of India and Pakistan match or unmatch each other.
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1) India’s Para Commandos (Para-SF)
The Para-SF heritage stems from World War II, with the creation of the 50th Parachute Brigade in October 1941. 9 Para SF, raised in 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion. The first para commando battalion was raised in 1966, and, by 1968, it was split into two — 9 Para (Special Forces / SF) and 10 Para.
According to the experts talking to the EurAsian Times, “9 Para was meant for Jammu and Kashmir whereas 10 Para was meant for border operations in Rajasthan.”
The first test of the Para SF came with Operation Mandhol in the western sector during the 1971 war over Bangladesh. Pakistan had artillery guns positioned near Mandhol village in Poonch and 9 Para SF were tasked with the mission to destroy them. The Indian elite commandos carried out the operation, completing it in less than 24 hours.
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The 2015 Myanmar operation was carried out by 21 Special Forces, set up in the 1990s from the 21st battalion of the Maratha regiment.
Training of Indian Para SF
The initial training to become a Para SF commando is 3.5 years, the longest anywhere, but the training is also a continuous process. In the Special Forces, the members are imparted both basic and advanced training.
They are taught specialised modes of infiltration and exfiltration, either by air (combat freefall) or sea (combat diving). Some trainees return to PTS to undergo the free-fall course, which requires at least 50 jumps from altitudes up to 33,500 feet (10,200 metres) to pass. Both High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) techniques are learned.
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The Parachute Regiment presently has nine Special Forces, five Airborne, two Territorial Army and one Counter-Insurgency (Rashtriya Rifles) battalions in its fold. The initial phase is a three-month probationary training of physical fitness and aptitude test and it is so gruesome that more than 80% of the applicants drop out.
Those who successfully complete the test are subjected to a five-week-long process called the ‘hell’s week’ where commandos are put through extreme sleep deprivation coupled with the most difficult physical tasks, like shooting a target 25 meters away with a man standing next to it. These commandos are even capable of firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds.
The para commandos are being trained with almost every type of infantry weapon required for particular missions: from high-end automatic pistols to assault rifles like small arms guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers etc.
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Pakistan’s SSG and SNG
The Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG), also called the Maroon Berets is the special operations force of the Pakistan Army tasked with their five primary missions: foreign internal defence, reconnaissance, direct actions, counter-terrorism, and the unconventional warfare– their most important mission.
The Special Services Group (SSG) boasts of prooven combat experiences in Yemen, India, and Afghanistan. In 2010, 300 commandos of the SSG assisted Saudi Arabia and Yemen in combating the Houthi rebels in the region.
In October 2009, SSG commandos stormed an office building and rescued 39 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants after an attack on the army’s headquarters.
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The Special Service Group Navy of Pakistan performs some of the country’s most secret missions. The members of the group are regularly sent to the US Navy SEALs for training. With a dropout rate of 80-90 per cent, the group has one of the most stringent training routines in the world.
Training of SSG
The training courses in the Pakistani SSG emphasize strong physical conditioning and mental fitness, including the strategic thinking quiz and a 36-mile march in 12 hours.
The curriculum of the basic military training course included the mastery in Judo and Karateka, special weapons training, military navigation, and handling and disarming of the chemical explosives, survival skill training.
There are schools of special warfare that the trainee soldier chooses: Snow and High Altitude School, Mountain Warfare School, Airborne Warfare School, Desert Warfare School, Sniper School, and Frogman School.
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These schools offer the advanced training courses which run for an additional 25–30 weeks and only successfully passed out personnel are awarded badges of their specialized fields by their specialized school faculty. The dropout rates of SSG (Army) are 85 to 90 per cent due to the extremely tough training process.
The SSG has equipped itself with the latest and most advanced weapons. It has a wide arsenal to suit its needs. It includes the famed Heckler and Koch submachine guns, sniper weapons, G3s, Finnish Tikka bolt actions. Pistols in use are Austrian 9mm Glock 15, the Berretta M9 (M92F), the SIG Pro 226 apart from the latest FN-Herstal P90 SMG – reserved for very high-risk applications.
Verdict: SSG vs Para-SF
There is no official agency or rankings which could compare Indian Para SF with the Pakistani SSG commandos. Both the special forces have not really come face to face, unless in covert operations, which is unknown to the EurAsian Times.
Going by the secondary research conducted by the EurAsian Times, the general consensus of the Indian Para-SF comes as an elite, well trained, spirited, and heavily equipped commandos who go through one of the world’s hardest training program. The raw energy, determination and fearlessness of the Para-SF is incomparable.
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The Pakistan SSG commandos just like the Indian Para-SF demonstrate of raw energy, fearlessness and brute approach. The Pakistani SSG commandos, however, are definitely more battle-hardened than the ParaSF and see a lot of action, while the Indian commandos are unquestionably better trained and equipped but see very little action, despite being used in Kashmir for counter-insurgency operations.