A MARCOS operator armed with an MP-5, grenades and crossbow. The crossbow was used for sentry elimination and silent killing with cyanide tipped arrows and has been replaced by less cumbersome silenced pistols. Note the trademark beard – the Indian Navy is the only branch of the military that permits beards for non-Sikh members.

Once trainees have completed their first nine months of these rigorous tests, they join groups – on a probational basis – where additional specialized training is carried out. This combat ready qualification takes another year. Most of the training deals with counter-terrorist operations, such as protecting oil platforms off Mumbai and also with anti-hijacking/piracy operations. All MARCOS personnel are static line parachute qualified and a number are freefall qualified (HALO/HAHO). MARCOS is one of only a handful of units in the world that is capable of para-dropping into the sea with full combat load and equipment. By the end of two years, only 10% – 25% of the candidates remain. As with other Indian Special Forces units, all MCF personnel attend the four week high-altitude commando course run by the Parvat Ghatak School in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.


The strength of the unit is a closely guarded secret, however sources say that the number could be close to 2000 personnel, in 10 groups of 200 personnel each. Currently there are three main groups detached to the three naval commands; Mumbai (West), Cochin (South) and Vizag (East). INS Abhimanyu, in Mumbai, is where most of the specialised training is now done. The unit’s quick rise has changed the unit’s role – it was intended to be dedicated to special maritime operations, but a considerable part of the MARCOS is doubling as marine infantry, assigned to the 340th Brigade, with the usual flexibility of commando forces.

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