The National Security Guards (NSG) is an Indian special forces unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It was raised in 1984, following Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, “for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against internal disturbances”.
NSG is under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs. However it is not categorised under the uniform nomenclature of Central Armed Police Forces. It has a special forces mandate, and its core operational capability is provided by the Special Action Group (SAG) which is drawn from the Indian Army. The Special Rangers Group (SRG), the police component of NSG, which also handles VIP security, is composed of personnel on deputation from other Central Armed Police Forces and State Police Forces.
The NSG personnel are often referred to in the media as Black Cats because of the black outfit and black cat insignia worn on their uniform.
The National Security Guards (NSG) was set up in 1984 as a Federal Contingency Deployment Force to tackle all facets of terrorism in the country. As a specialized counter terrorism force, it is intended for use “only in exceptional situations” and not meant to take over the “functions of the State Police Forces or other Para Military Forces” Yet, over the years its role has vastly expanded to provide personal security to influential politicians quite independent of the real threat that they face.
The NSG is trained to conduct counter terrorist task to including counter hijacking tasks on land, sea, and air; Bomb disposal (search, detection and neutralization of IEDs); PBI (Post Blast Investigation) and Hostage Rescue missions.
Main article: Director General of the National Security Guard
The head of NSG, designated as Director General (DG), is selected by the MHA-Home Minister. Since its raising in 1984, the NSG has had 28 DGs, in 31 years, with an average tenure one year and few months. Many have served as DG just for few months, while waiting for promotion or a more desirable post. None of the DGs has had experience of commanding NSG special actions groups, or any other special forces command experience . All the selected DGs have been officer from Indian Police Service (IPS). As per the government policy, NSG is to be headed by an Officer from IPS. Since the Combat Units under the National Security Guards , which conduct counter terror operations are commanded by the Army Officers, this effectively negates the possibility of any officer with field experience in counter terror operations heading the organisation as its DG at a later stage.
According to the NSG web site it is modeled on Germany’s GSG 9 (Grenzschutzgruppe 9 or “Border Guard Group 9”).
At Mehram Nagar, Palam
Administration The Director General is assisted by four Indian Police Service officers for administrative matters of whom two are Inspectors General each for Administration and Headquarters (HQ) who in turn are assisted by Deputy Inspectors General. The Financial Advisor of the NSG has been an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer of the rank of Joint Secretary and also has Dy Advisors from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service and Indian Civil Account Service.
Operation and training: Operations and training is under senior army officers on deputation to NSG. A Major General of Indian Army, on deputation, designated as Inspector General (operations), is responsible for planning and conduct of operations. Training is under another Major General (Training), located in Manesar, Gurgaon. They are further assisted by two Brigadiers on deputation from Indian army as DIG (Operations) and DIG (Training). Another Brigadier from army usually from Indian Army Corps of Signals is deputed as DIG (Communication) to look after communication systems of the force. The strength of the NSG is estimated to be about 7000+ personnel. Air transport to support NSG is located at Indira Gandhi Airport.
Special Action Group (SAG)
The SAG is the main offensive or the strike wing of the NSG. Its members are drawn exclusively from the Indian army. The SAGs includes headquarters, support units, and training wing. The training of both the action and ranger group is conducted by the officers and NCOs drawn from the army. There are two SAGs – 51 Special Action Group and 52 Special Action Group. The two SAGs (51 and 52) are tasked for counter-terror and counter-hijack operations respectively. The smallest operation sub unit of the SAG is called “hit”, usually commanded by an NCO. A “hit” has five members – two pairs, or buddies, and a technical support member. Four hits make a team. A team is commanded by a Captain. In hostage rescue operations, depending on the situation, team size may vary between 50 and 90 NSG personnel. For immediate transport airlift IL-76MD strategic transport aircraft are stationed at New Delhi’s Palam Air Force Station and are ready to deploy within 30 minutes. Each SAG is headed by an officer of Rank colonel of Indian Army on deputation as Group Commander
Special Ranger Group (SRG)
National Security Guards has three SRGs, each with a strength of battalion, approximately total 900 all ranks. SRG personnel are drawn on deputation from Central Armed Police Forces and State Police forces. There are three SRGs – 11, 12 and 13. Initially SRG’s mandate was to render logistical support to the SAGs during operations and are deployed for guarding high-risk VIPs/VVIPs. However, Since 2013, 11SRG is converted into a regular SAG unit for undertaking specific counter-terror operations. Each SRG is headed by an officer of Rank Commandant as Group Commander under deputation from CAPFs
Special Composite Group (SCG)
NSG has set five regional hubs under regional deployment. SCG consists of personnel both from Army and CAPFs for counter terror operations with in their area of responsibility. Each SCG is headed by an officer of Rank colonel of Indian Army on deputation as Group Commander. Five regional hubs are
26 SCG Mumbai
27 SCG Chennai
28 SCG Hyderabad
29 SCG Kolkata
30 SCG Gandhinagar
National Bomb Data Centre
The National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) established in the year 1988 & further its role redefined in the year 2000. NBDC was assigned role of monitoring, recording and analysing all bombing incidents in the country. It also records and analyses various bombing incidents across the world to gain expertise knowledge in Bombing and related incidents and effectively counter such and share with relevant security agencies. All national security agencies which rely on NBDC for assistance in bombing incidents and related knowledge have high regards for its working culture. At present NBDC act as a nodal agency for all bombing related facets in the country. It is headed by a Colonel of Indian Army Corps of Engineers on deputation, designated as Director NBDC.
National Bomb Data Centre primarily consists of personnel and officers from Indian Army Corps of Engineers who are Combat Engineers along with personnel and officers from Central Armed Police Forces with bombing related expertise knowledge.
NSG commandos, January 2015.
In response to criticism of the time taken by NSG units to arrive in November 2008 Mumbai attacks, from their base in Manesar, Haryana, the MHA decided to deploy NSG contingents in major cities across India like Mumbai, Kolkata (462 personnel), Hyderabad and Chennai.
Hyderabad will also serve as a regional center in the future. With the ministry of home affairs (MHA) giving its nod and sanctioning Rs 533.68 crore a few months ago, the National Security Guards (NSG) officials are gearing up to set up the Southern Regional Center (SRC) at Ibrahimpatnam, Hyderabad for training commandos. With the state government also handing over 600 acres at Ibrahimpatnam, the SRC is likely to be ready by next year. Tender notices have already been issued for civil works, which would be overseen by the Central Public Works Department. With this, Hyderabad would have an NSG hub at Trimulgherry as well as the SRC for training ‘Black Cats’. As of now, nearly 300 commandos, ready for anti-terror operations round-the-clock, are stationed at the NSG hub at Trimulgherry. Similar hubs are in place in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The proposal to set up a state-of-the-art NSG training centre at Ibrahimpatnam on the lines of NSG Manesar training centre has been pending for over three years. But the MHA officials, in their annual report released recently, announced the release of funds for developing infrastructure. “Post the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike, four regional hubs of NSG were operationalised in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata to reduce reaction time. A regional centre at Hyderabad is also being raised, for which 600 acres of land has been acquired. MHA has conveyed sanction of Rs 533.68 crore towards the construction of this Southern Regional Centre, NSG at Ibrahimpatnam,” the MHA report said. With this, the state would have two trained anti-terror striking forces. Besides the NSG, the Andhra Pradesh police’s OCTOPUS, which also has a training facility at Ibrahimpatnam, has a strength of over 250 personnel. NSG and OCTOPUS personnel, who undergo a gruelling training, including handling sophisticated weapons, commandos are sent back to their parent department once they attain the age of 35, ensuring that the force remains young and fighting fit.
Rank structure and designation
The ranks in NSG are roughly on the pattern of the police and the CAPF, as follows:
(i) Director-General. (Lieutenant-General)
(ii) Additional Director-General. (Lieutenant-General)
(iii) Inspector-General. (Major-General)
(iv) Deputy Inspector-General. (Brigadier)
(v) Group Commander. (Colonel)
(vi) Squadron Commander. (Lieutenant-Colonel)
(vii) Team Commander. (Major/Capt)
Assistant Commanders (JCOs)
(viii) Assistant Commander Grade I. (Subedar Major)
(ix) Assistant Commander Grade II. (Subedar)
(x) Assistant Commander Grade III. (Naib Subedar)
Persons other than officers and Assistant Commanders-
(xi) Ranger Grade I.
(xii) Ranger Grade II.
(xiii) Combatised tradesmen.
The NSG was established in the wake of 1984 Operation Blue Star, and the high collateral damage to Golden Temple, and civilian and military collateral casualties. Since its raising the NSG has been used in the Punjab in 1986, and Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the NSG’s known operations include:
29–30 April 1986: About 300 NSG commandos and 700 Border Security Force troops stormed the Golden Temple in Operation Black Thunder I. The Temple was cleared and handed over to Punjab Police on 1 May 1986. 300 Sikh militants were captured, and there were no deaths or injuries for either side.
January 1988: The NSG conducted Op Black Hawk, a heliborne operation in the Mand area of Punjab. In this operation two terrorists were killed and one 7.62mm was recovered. It was a massive operation, says former NSG Director General Ved Marwah, though it did not get many spectacular results like in Black Thunder.
12 May 1988: 1,000 NSG commandos (all ranks) surrounded the Golden Temple for yet another assault, in Operation Black Thunder II. Sniper teams armed with Heckler & Koch PSG-1 rifles with night scope took up positions, including atop a 300-foot water tower. While commandos from the 51 SAG divided into assault squadrons, the SRG were used to seal off the area around the temple and for tactical support. In the three-day operation between 15–18 May 1988, the NSG cleared the temple. 40 terrorists were killed, and 200 surrendered. In the mid-1990s, a NSG battalion was again deployed in Punjab to confront the Sikh rioters. There they began training the Punjab Police in counter-terrorism.
5 September – 15 January 1988: Guarding of high-risk terrorist code-named ‘Jack’.
4 August 1989: Operation Mouse Trap in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab, in conjunction with Punjab Police and other security forces. NSG was able to demonstrate that it was possible to achieve area dominance at night, if the strategy and tactics were right. Ved Marwah calls this Operation Night Dominance.
10 November 1990: NSG task force flown to Kolkata to rescue hostages of a Thai airbus by Burmese students.
25–26 January 1991: The NSG was involved in Operation Ani Ben, on CI tasks in Baroda, (Gujarat) where Punjab terrorists were holed up inside a house. Two terrorists were killed and two AK-47s were recovered.
1 July-20 September 1991: NSG employed along with SIT in search and strike missions after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
25 November – 16 December 1992: 150 commandos were deployed at Ayodhya during the Ram Janambhoomi and Babri Masjid crisis.
27 March 1993: 52 SAG mobilised and moved to Adampur for rescue of hostages of Indian Airlines Flight IC 486.
24–25 April 1993: NSG Commandos storm a hijacked Indian Airlines Boeing 737 with 141 passengers on board at Amritsar airport during Operation Ashwamedh. Two hijackers, including their leader, Mohammed Yousuf Shah, are killed and one is disarmed before. No hostages are harmed.
October 1998: As part of the implementation of the Union Home Ministry’s decision to conduct pro-active strikes against militants, commando teams supported by IAF Mi-25/35 helicopter gun-ships began striking at terrorist groups deep inside the mountains and forests of Kashmir. After helicopter reconnaissance were conducted to pinpoint the militants, the commandos – comprising NSG and Rashtriya Rifles personnel – were para-dropped, along with supplies, into the area to hunt the militants. They had to rely on these supplies and their ability to live off the land until replenishment every fortnight or so. These missions are possibly ongoing.
15 July 1999: NSG commandos end a 30-hour standoff by killing 2 terrorists and rescuing all 12 hostages unharmed in J&K. The terrorists had attacked a BSF campus near Srinagar, killed 3 officers and the wife of another. The 12 hostages were kept locked in a room.
21 August 1999: After interrogating three captured terrorists, the Delhi Police Crime branch confirmed that two more terrorists were hiding in a one-storied house in Rudrapur, Uttar Pradesh. Since the terrorists were considered armed and dangerous (their colleagues were arrested with 100+ pounds of RDX), the Delhi Police sought assistance from the NSG. A 16-man team arrived at the house at 4:45 am They began their assault at 5:30 am, before first light. The first militant managed to fire at the commandos with a pistol he kept by his bedside, but was killed an instant later. The second terrorist was shot before he had a chance to fire and died 40 minutes later. No NSG personnel were injured.
December 1999: Terrorists hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC814 from Nepal, and landed in Amritsar, Punjab. Within minutes of landing, the Crisis Management Group (CMG), which authorised the use of the NSG, was informed. But the CMG wasted precious hours and by the time the go-ahead was issued, it is too late. On the other hand, the NSG team on alert was elsewhere and no other team was raised during the delay. The hijacked plane took off before the NSG reached Amritsar Airport. The plane landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan where one hostage was killed. Finally, the Indian Government agrees to the terrorists’ demands to release three jailed terrorists. The hostages are released and the terrorists escaped to Pakistan.
February 2000: Following the Flight IC 814 fiasco, the Indian Government decided to implement an Air Marshal programme. At least two NSG operators will be present on flights over select routes. These operators will be armed with weapons firing lethal, but low-velocity, fragmentation rounds to minimise danger to the passengers and prevent penetration of the aircraft. Another decision taken was to deploy NSG teams permanently at eight sensitive airports around the country, especially those bordering Pakistan and the North East. This decision will cut short reaction times for the NSG and eliminate hassles involved in flying the teams to the hijack site. It is not known if this plan has been put into action.
September 2002 – SAG commandos fly to the Karnataka state in India, in an effort to catch sandalwood smuggler and forest brigand Veerappan, in the wake of kidnapping of a former minister of the state cabinet, Nagappa. They pull out after suggesting that intelligence for the operation was inadequate. A small team is left behind to help, the hostage is eventually killed in December 2002.
October 2002 – Two terrorists attack Akshardham temple complex in Gujarat. NSG flies in, delayed by traffic in Delhi. They carry out assaults in which one commando was martyred and another one is seriously injured and was in a coma, passed away after 18 months. But by morning the two terrorists are killed and the operation successfully completed.
December 2002 – Terrorists attack the Raghunath temple in Jammu. NSG ready to be flown out but called back at the last minute.
26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks — Operation Black Tornado and Operation Cyclone to flush out terrorists & rescue hostages after multiple attacks across Mumbai, India. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havaldar Gajender Singh Bisht of the Special Action Group lost their lives during the operations.Over 900 rooms were scanned, 9 Terrorists killed and over 600 hostages rescued during the Operation.
2013 Hyderabad blasts – Deployed in Hyderabad after the bomb blasts.
2013 Bangalore Bomb Blast – NSG was deployed in Bangalore after the bomb blast took place in the city.
2013 Patna bombings – A team of the NSG, which was sent to Patna for post-blasts analysis, said at least three more Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were defused.
2016 Pathankot attack – An NSG team took part in the operation to neutralize terrorists where Lt. Col. Niranjan lost his life defusing a grenade or IED booby trapped on the body of a dead terrorist, and 12 other members of the unit were injured. Six terrorists were neutralised in the operation by the NSG, Defence Security Corps and the Garud Commando Force.
Selection and training
Selection is demanding and has a drop out rate of about 70–80 percent. Three of their 14 months of training in Manesar, Haryana, are devoted to the basics.The basic training period lasts 90 days. Physical fitness training has 26 elements, ranging from a cross-country obstacle course to jumping from heights and across divides and scaling different kinds terrain. One endurance test involves martial arts, target shooting at the end of an obstacle-ridden cross-country run. This is meant to gauge the candidate’s performance under conditions of stress and exhaustion. Those who successfully complete the tests are sent for nine months of advanced training.
Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol
Heckler & Koch MP5A3/A5/SD3/SD6/K – 9mm sub-machine gun
SIG SG 551SB/SG 553LB/SG 553SB 5.56mm NATO carbine
Beretta SC70/90 5.56mm NATO assault rifle
FN SCAR-L 5.56mm NATO assault rifle
M16A1 5.56mm NATO assault rifle
AKMS 7.62×39mm assault rifle
Heckler & Koch PSG1 7.62mm NATO semi-automatic sniper rifle
SIG Sauer SSG 3000 7.62mm NATO bolt-action sniper rifle
Barrett M98B .338 Lapua Magnum bolt-action sniper rifle
Franchi SPAS-15 12 gauge combat shotgun
IMI Negev 5.56mm NATO light machine gun
FN MINIMI 7.62TR 7.62mm NATO light machine gun
Advance audio communication set
GPS and GPRS technological systems
Wall surveillance radars
Night vision devices
Thermal imaging cameras
Mini remotely operated vehicle
Combat helmet with built in hands-free communication sets
Bulletproof vest Level III NIJ
Knee pad and elbow pads
Chartered helicopters and ability to operate civilian aircraft for emergencies
Renault Sherpa 2 APC
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