Ghatak, meaning ‘lethal’ in Hindi, true to its name is one of the two elite forces present in every infantry battalion of the Indian Army that act as shock troops and spearhead assaults ahead of the battalion. In the recent Indo-China skirmish, the Ghatak platoons played a vital role in fighting the Chinese side.
Crux of the Matter
Strengths & Capabilities
Ghatak platoon consists of 20 soldiers in approximately every 350 infantry battalions of the army i.e. nearly a total strength of 7000. Every platoon consists of a Commanding Captain, 2 non-commissioned officers and some specialised soldiers along with assault troopers.
Ghatak Commandos are capable of carrying out tasks such as special reconnaissance, raids on enemy artillery positions and directing artillery and air attacks on targets deep within enemy lines. Their operations are similar to the Ranger Regiments of the US Army and the Commando Ranger Regiments of the Republic of Korea Army.
They undergo a 6-week Commando Training course in Belgaum, Karnataka. There is an upper age limit of 30 years in this 2 phase training of Acclimatization and High Altitude. They are rigorously trained for heliborne assault, rock climbing, mountain warfare, demolitions, bomb diffusion, advanced weapon training, and infantry tactics.
Some of the qualified soldiers are even sent to the High Altitude Warfare School and the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Kashmir. The most physically fit soldiers either volunteer or are selected to be a part of the Ghatak platoon and it is mandatory for all infantry officers to pass the Commando Training Course.
Ghatak Commandos are armed with INSAS Assault Rifles, AKM Assault Rifles, Pika General Purpose Machine Gun, M4 Carbine, B&T MP9 Submachine Gun, IWI Tavor TAR-21 Assault Rifles, Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle, SVD Dragunov Sniper Rifle, MP5 Submachine Gun and INSAS Light Machine Guns.
They are equipped with standard-issue camouflage and body armour along with sniper teams, light machine gunners, medics, and radio operators. Depending on the mission, they may carry ropes, climbing gear, grenades, rocket launchers, laser target designators, and night vision equipment.
Other Special Forces
Special Forces of India are organised, trained and equipped to conduct special operations in extreme conditions on land, water and air. Three branches of the India armed forces have separate special forces unit namely: Para SF of Indian Army; MARCOS of Indian Navy and Garuda Commando Force of Indian Air Force.
Para commandos recognised with their maroon beret uniforms were formed in 1966. This regiment has the honour of being conferred the Bravest of Brave distinction. Garuda Commando Force established in 2004 has over 1500 personnel. They have been deployed for UN peacekeeping missions in Congo.
MARCOS also called the Marine Commando Force was formed in 1987 to provide support to amphibious operations. They are also reputedly called the ‘Dadhiwala Fauj’ (The Bearded Army) by militants in Kashmir. Apart from these three forces, Indian forces also include COBRA Force, Special Frontier Force (SPF), and National Security Guard (NSG).
Stories of Bravery
Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked the Army’s 12th Brigade in Uri on 18 September 2016. After which the Ghatak platoon from 6th Bihar and 10th Dogra battalions led by 4th and 9th battalions of the Special forces conducted surgical strikes on terror camps in PoK. The Ghatak platoons were used in the flanking role as they are well versed with the areas across the LoC and are better acclimatized.
Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse was the Ghatak platoon commander during a night operation during Operation Vijay in 1999 during the Kargil War. After sustaining a bullet wound, he continued the operation and shot two men and killed two others using his knife in hand to hand combat. He was posthumously awarded the Mahavir Chakra.
In the very recent clash between India and China, the Ghatak commandos were part of the patrolling and backup team on the LAC.
- Lieutenant Colonel Mitali Madhumita, commissioned in 2000, is the first woman officer in India to receive a gallantry award, who received the Sena Medal in 2011 for exemplary courage shown during the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul by terrorists in Kabul, Afghanistan.
- General Bipin Chandra Joshi, PVSM, AVSM, ADC was the 17th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army. General B. C. Joshi has been a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service of the most exceptional order. He gave the name to Ghatak Platoon.
- INSAS. an abbreviation of INdian Small Arms System is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun (LMG). The INSAS assault rifle is the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces and manufactured by the Ordnance Factories Board.