Marcos (Marine Commandos)
The Marine Commandos, abbreviated to MARCOS and officially called the Marine Commando Force, are the special forces unit of the Indian Navy and is responsible for conducting special operations. The MARCOS were founded in February 1987.
The Marine Commandos, abbreviated to MARCOS and officially called the Marine Commando Force (MCF), are the special forces unit of the Indian Navy and is responsible for conducting special operations.[Note 1]
The MARCOS were founded in February 1987. MARCOS are capable of operating in all types of environments; at sea, in air and on land. The force has gradually acquired more experience and an international reputation for professionalism. The MARCOS regularly undertake specialised maritime operations in Jammu and Kashmir through the Jhelum River and Wular Lake, a 65 square kilometres (16,000 acres) freshwater lake, and conduct counter-insurgency operations in the region.
n 1955, the Indian military established a diving school at Cochin with the assistance of the British Special Boat Service and began teaching combat divers skills such as explosive disposal, clearance, and salvage diving. The combat divers failed to achieve their desired outcomes during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 as they were not adequately trained for sabotage missions. The combat divers had also taught basic underwater demolition training to insurgents from Bangladesh, who were then sent on missions during the war but did not cause any substantial damage to Pakistani military installations. Subsequently, during the war, the Indian Navy assisted the Indian Army in landing operations against the Pakistani military base in Cox's Bazar. After the war ended, army units were often drafted into amphibious exercises. In 1983, the Indian Army formation called 340th Army Independent Brigade was converted into an amphibious assault unit and a series of joint airborne-amphibious exercises were conducted in later years.
In April 1986, the Indian Navy started planning for the creation of a special forces unit that would be capable of undertaking missions in a maritime environment, conducting raids and reconnaissance, and counter-terrorism operations. Three volunteer officers from the diving unit, which was created in 1955, were selected and underwent training courses with the United States Navy SEALs at Coronado. They later went on training exchanges with the Special Boat Service. In February 1987, the Indian Marine Special Force (IMSF) officially came into existence and the three officers were its first members. The IMSF was renamed as 'Marine Commando Force' in 1991.
Known activities and operations
The MARCOS are capable of undertaking operations in all types of terrain but are specialised in maritime operations. The force has undertaken numerous joint exercises with special forces from around the world. As of 2012, the MARCOS has about 2,000 personnel though the exact number remains classified. Operations undertaken by MARCOS usually remain classified; some of the known operations are:
A Marine commando during Urban Combat Training alongside US Navy SEALs and Japanese forces at Malabar 2021.
As a specialised force, the MARCOS is responsible for conducting operations at the strategic and the tactical level. MARCO operations are usually conducted in support of naval forces, although MARCOS are also deployed in other domains. The responsibilities of MARCOS has evolved with time. Some of the duties of MARCOS include:-
Providing support to amphibious operations.
Special surveillance and amphibious reconnaissance operations.
Clandestine operations inside hostile territory, including diving operations and special raids.
Hostage rescue operations.
Foreign internal defence.
Additionally, MARCOS can also assist the Indian Air Force in Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) missions.
Commissioning of INS Karna, a dedicated base for MARCOS
The MCF currently operates out of the naval bases at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Kochi and Port Blair. There are plans to shift the current training facility at the Naval Special Warfare Training and Tactical Centre to a new facility to be set up at the erstwhile Naval Academy in Goa.
INS Abhimanyu, located in Mumbai, was the base where MARCOS was formed. It is named after Abhimanyu, a character from the epic Mahābhārata. The base is a part of the Western Naval Command. It was originally created in 1974 and was commissioned on 1 May 1980. The Indian Marine Special Force (IMSF) was located there in 1987. On 12 July 2016, the naval base INS Karna was commissioned near Visakhapatnam as a permanent base for the unit.
Selection and training
Diving training of MARCOS off the coast of Kochi
All MARCOS personnel are males selected from the Indian Navy when they are in their early 20s and have to go through a stringent selection process and training. The selection standards are extremely high. Training is a continuous process. American and British special forces assisted in setting up the initial training program, which now consists of a two-year course for new recruits. The training regimen includes airborne operations, combat diving courses, counter-terrorism, anti-hijacking, anti-piracy operations, direct action, infiltration and exfiltration tactics, special reconnaissance and unconventional warfare. Most of the training is conducted at INS Abhimanyu, which is also the home base of MARCOS.
All MARCOS personnel are freefall qualified (HALO/HAHO). A few also qualify to operate the Cosmos CE-2F/X100 two-man submarines. MARCOS train with the Special Forces officers of the Indian Army like the Para Commandos at the Indian Special Forces Training School, Nahan and Army's other schools for unconventional warfare. These include the Junior Leaders' Commando Training Camp in Belgaum, Karnataka, the Parvat Ghatak School for high altitude mountain warfare in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, desert warfare school in Rajasthan, the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Sonamarg, Kashmir, and the Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte, Mizoram. These schools routinely host students from other countries. MARCOS are then trained at agencies within the navy.