Thanks to India
that is visible is a blur of black, the glint
of metal and then two muffled cracks - shots
from silencer-fitted machine pistols. The commandos
of an elite counter-hijack squad of the National
Security Guards (NSG), wearing menacing black
hoods, have just stormed a Boeing-737, hijacked
by the Hizbul Mujahideen
at New Delhi's Indira
Gandhi International Airport, seconds after
receiving the green signal from the Crisis Management
men from a Quick Reaction Team of the NSG, armed
with the H&K 9mm MP-5 sub-machine guns,
Glock 17 or the Sig Sauer pistols and poison-tipped
knives, split into pairs and enter the plane
through seven different entrance points, the
doors and the cockpit.
team takes the three hijackers by complete surprise.
In fact the two patrolling the aisle are dead
with soft-penetration, non-ricochetable ammunition
in their heads even before they have time to
react. And the third hijackers is disarmed in
the cockpit by the No.1 team. Time taken for
the entire operation; a mere 12 seconds.
A NSG commando dressed to kill
is just one of the hundreds of realistic scenarios
that India's premier counter-terrorist force
simulates in daily drills; the key being fitness
& surprise. "Surprise doesn't mean
that the terrorists don't know we are coming.
It is just that we have chosen the when, how
and where. And it is with our chosen technique
and weapon," says Colonel V.K. Dutta, who
has been associated with the NSG since its inception
they dramatically proved during Operation Ashwamedh,
the storming of a hijacked Indian Airlines (IA)
aircraft at Amritsar airport on 24 April 1994,
neutralising the hijacker, Mohammed Yousuf Shah,
before he could react. But to reach that level
of professional excellence isn't easy.
basic training period at the organisation's
training centre at Manesar, 50km from New Delhi,
last ninety days. Only those who complete the
entire course successfully are in inducted into
the NSG and given further specialised training.
The probation grind saps the toughest of recruits
and the drop out rate is 50 - 70%.
starters there is a 26-item, 780 metre obstacle
course, with a qualifying time of 18 minutes.
If a person completes the course in 25 minutes,
he is deemed fit. The best do it in less than
nine minutes. The obstacles have to do with
heights, horizontal gaps and vertical scaling
and are difficult to tackle in sequence. As
if this is not enough, there's a target shooting
session at the end of the obstacle course meant
to test the aspirants' performance under severe
stress and exhaustion.
obstacle in a 26-item obstacle course - qualifying
time for the course is 18 minutes but the best
manage to do in just nine
the Combat Room Shoot, the combatant enters
a dark room, adjusts to the darkness and engages
the target with either a torch light or a compatible
laser image intensifier - all within three seconds.
And not just in darkness but under the strobe
lights of a discotheque as well, which are some
of the most difficult shots to take. "We
train them to take only head shots. And two
at a go - the double tap system. It's to ensure
neutralisation of the target. In the close hostage-terrorist
situations we face there is little scope for
body shots," says Colonel Dutta.
hone shooting skills the training centre has
an Electronic Combat Shooting Range built at
a cost of over Rs.1 crore. Divided into 11 zones
and spread over 400 metres, a recurit has to
cover the distance in six minutes 30 seconds
and fire at 29 targets along the way. The target
exposure time is between two and three seconds
and the targets are of all kinds - vertically
rising, popping out, moving and rotating. The
faster a person engages the target the more
points he scores.
is not just non-reactive targets that they practise
against. In twin room shooting, rival combatants
enter contiguous rooms and watch each other's
movements on a screen. They are supposed to
neutralise each other by shooting at the screen.
The exercise test the combatants' response time
and accuracy under near-field conditions.
fast-reaction shooting from difficult angles
at targets that pop up for split seconds to
achieve absolute accuracy
men are also put through a battle inoculation
program where they have to stand right next
to the target while one of their partners shoots
at it. "They have to become used to live
bullets flying under their noses. Also the person
shooting is conscious that if he misses by even
a couple of inches the bullet is going to hit
his partner." says an instructor. They
don't wear the kavach either, a bullet-proof
vest, designed by Colonel Dutta himself. The
vest can withstand an AK-47 or a 7.62mm carbine
shot at point blank range.
of them have received additional training in
Israel and use weapons like the 9mm Uzi sub-machine
NSG's weapon of choice is the Heckler &
Koch family of 9mm sub-machine guns, the 7.62mm
PSG-1 sniper weapon and the H&K 512 12-gauge
shotgun. They are also armed with state-of-the-art,
day & night, surveillance gadgets and other
on the lines of the German GSG9, the NSG is
divided into two groups; the Special Action
Group (SAG) and the Special Rangers Group (SRG).
The SAG, which comprises 54% of the force, is
the elite, offensive wing with all the members
drawn from the Indian Army.
A NSG sniper
takes aim at a target
SRG has members on deputation from central police
organisations like the CRDF, BSF, ITBP and the
RAF. Its primary function is to play a supportive
role to the SAF, especially in isolating target
areas. For maintaining the young profile of
the force, troops are rotated and sent back
to their parent organisations after serving
in the NSG for three to five years.
smallest combat unit in the NSG's counter in
the NSG's counter-terrorist operations is a
hit which comprises of five members - two pairs,
or partners and a technical support member.
Four hits make a team which is under the command
of a captain. The number of hits used for an
intervention job depends on its complexity and
the magnitude of the operation.
members are assigned partners soon after completion
of basic training and they train and even go
on leave together. But as crack professionals,
they are under orders to shoot their partner
if he makes a single threatening step detrimental
to the security of a VIP. On an average, a commando
fires 2000 rounds of live ammunition during
practise sessions throughout the year. This
is apart from the two months that units have
to spend in alert status and for whom it's a
daily stint at the range. "I did more firing
in a week of alert status than in my entire
10-year stay in the Army," says an NSG
on a roof to storm a terrorist hideout
an average a person fires close to 14,000 rounds
over a period of two months in alert. The target
strike rate has to be above 85% for a person
to remain in the force. But for all this, apart
from VIP duty, the NSG has seen few operations,
the most notable among them being Operation
Black Thunder I and II in the Golden Temple
complex in 1986 & 1988 and Operation Ashwamedh
Black Thunder I was conducted on 30 April 1986
when the NSG commandos stormed the Golden Temple.
Compared to Operation Bluestar in 1984, however,
this was a tame affair; no weapons were discovered
and nobody was killed.
Black Thunder II was conducted on 12 May 1988
when 1000 NSG commandos had arrived at the temple.
Black Cat sniper teams armed with Heckler &
Koch PSG-1 rifles with night scope took up positions,
including atop a 300-foot watertower. While
commandos from the 51 SAG divided into assault
squadrons, Special Ranger Groups were used to
seal off the area around the temple and for
tactical support. On May 15th, the NSG began
gun fire and rockets were used to cut holes
in the temple's minarets, followed by teargas
canisters. Once it was determined that the towers
had been abandoned, the SAG used explosives
to break holes into the temple basement. By
May 18th, all militants had surrendered at the
cost of only 2 wounded Black Cats. In mid-1990
an NSG battalion was again deployed to Punjab
to confont the Sikh rioters. There they began
training the Punjab Police in counter-terrorism.
taking over a hijacked train
NSG was raised by the Cabinet
an armed force under the National Security Guard
Act of 1985. They
are popularly known as Black Cat Commandos
because of the black nomex coveralls the black
balaclavas they tend to wear while in the field
and on parade. They also have a superb bomb
disposal squad. They
have a strength of around 7500 personnel.
NSG is trained in the following;
of specific terrorist threats in vital installations
or any given area.
and neutralising terrorists in specific situations.
hijack situations involving piracy in the air
and on the land.
hostages in kidnap situations.
addition, NSG provides security to high risk
VIP’s, conduct anti-sabotage checks of venues
of visits/public meetings of VVIP’s and VIP
security. It has been reported that an NSG contingent
is permanently stationed at New Delhi's Indira
Gandhi International Airport for any hijacking
NSG is an elite force providing a second line
of defence to the nation. They have played a
pivotal role in safeguarding the unity of India
and have commendably foiled attempts of anti-national
elements to tear apart the social fabric of
the country. The NSG has maintained an edge
over terrorist outfits in possession of latest
technology and are considered among the finest
special operations units in all of South Asia.
as Colonel Dutta says, "We are like nukes.
The ultimate back-up."
© BHARAT RAKSHAK.
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