It is nowhere in the mainstream media but as per sources on the 1st of May this year, the Indian Army raised another battalion of Special Forces, the 13th PARA SF (Aka. Thunderbolt Thirteen). Before, the raising of this new battalion of Special Forces, the Army had total nine battalions – 1,2,3,4,9,10,11,12, and 21. Although, not much information about this battalion is there in the open source but choosing the number 13 as it may sound unlucky or not auspicious resounds the fact that this is yet another dreaded covert battalion of the Para SF, much like the 9 PARA SF which was famously known as the “ghost battalion” of the Indian Army, hence the number 13 gives the battalion a deadly profile for what SF are known for.
Moreover, it must be noted that the battalion came into existence after the raising of the Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) which was operationalised in the end of the year 2019. Therefore, it can be assumed that the 13th PARA SF battalion has been raised to purely cater to the Indian Army ever growing Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Given the multi-skilled approach which the Indian Army follows in raising such specialised units, it is possible that the 13 Para SF might hold multi-skills to its envelope like other PARA SF battalions.
1 Para SF – Red Devils
It is the oldest unit of the Parachute Regiment Indian Army. The unit was raised in 1761 and was converted into SF in 1978. The unit is specialized in Urban Warfare and tactical needs.
2 Para SF – Predators
The unit was raised in 1797 as 3rd battalion of Maratha Light Infantry and was converted to SF in 2000. The unit is specialized in Mountain Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations.
3 Para SF – Russel’s Viper
The unit was raised in 1813 as 1st battalion of Kumaon regiment and was converted to SF in 2002. The unit is specialized in Desert Warfare.
4 Para SF – Daggers
The unit was raised in 1961 as Para Airborne unit and was converted to SF in 2003. The unit is specialized in Mountain Warfare and Counter-Insurgency/Counter-Terrorism operations. The unit also actively took part in Surgical Strikes in 2016.
9 Para SF – Pirates
The unit was raised in 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion and now it is known as 9 Para SF. The unit is specialized in Mountain Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations. The unit also actively took part in Surgical Strikes along with 4 Para SF in 2016.
10 Para SF – Desert Scorpions
The unit was raised in 1967 as 10th Parachute Commando Battalion as sister unit of 9 Para SF. The unit is specialized in Desert Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations.
21 Para SF – Waghnaks
The unit was raised in 1985 as 21st Battalion of Maratha Light Infantry and was converted to SF in 1996. The unit is specialized in Jungle Warfare, Mountain Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations.
11 Para SF – Vipers
The unit was raised in 2011 as a new Special Forces unit. The unit is specialized in Jungle Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations.
12 Para SF – Dirty Dozens
The unit was raised in 2011 from 23rd Battalion Rajputana Rifles as was designated as Special Forces unit. Jungle Warfare, Mountain Warfare and Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism operations.
(The other PARA battalions are 5 Para, 6 Para, 7 Para, 23 Para and 29 Para known as Airborne battalions. There are also 2 PARA Territorial Army Battalions and 1 Rashtriya Rifles battalion.)
Starting of a Great Game?
Especially after getting hands on experience over the recent India-China dispute in the northern sector. It is possible that the 13th PARA SF battalion might also be specialised undertaking Special Operations in the mountainous terrain, especially given the experience the Army gained in the recent entanglement with the PLA in the Leh and Ladakh region.
To put it simply, this is a big move by the Indian Army as raising a new Para SF battalion is not just of a customary importance there must be some strategic goals to achieve as only handful number of these battalions are presently in service.
The last new SF battalion, the 12 PARA SF was raised in 2012 then it was reported that the Army HQ was not willing to make a new battalion rather wanted to employ Assam Rifles and Assam Regiment for continued CI/CT ops in the North East Region (NER), it was also reported then that these battalions will be provided with the sate-of-the-art equipments and every battalion shall consist of 700 men.
After the raising of the 12 PARA SF battalion, we have over the years seen significant drop in insurgency related incidents in the NER. Hence, it must be understood that the raising of such battalion doesn’t provide immediate results- it takes years of experience to make anything perfect. It goes without saying that the 13th PARA SF battalion will have to develop their own set of expertise and operational knowledge as any other newly raised battalion.
The PARA SF itself is a strategic arm of any country and raising battalion at this point of time reflects the fact that the Army has got enough experience from the recent India-China disputes, that the Army is implementing now. This also give an indication that the posture of India vis-à-vis China is changing. Now, India is not merely interested in undertaking defensive posture when it comes to China but is looking forward towards developing offensive capabilities. Given the new approach of the Army, there is possibility that more such new battalions and task force would be created based on modern age requirements as we face the constant threat of two-front conflict.