As the helicopters hover above, intermittent firing continues on the ground as the commandos empty magazine after magazine of their Berreta assault rifles, Heckler and Koch MP 5 sub machine guns and Glock pistols. Simultaneously, another team of commandos start room-to-room intervention to pin down the terrorists holed up in a seven-storeyed building in the heart of the city, using their corner shot guns and buster tools while communicating with each other in the tactical sign language.
A heavy exchange of fire follows between the terrorists and the commandos and the enemy is soon neutralised. The team leader then gives a thumbs up, a sign of mission accomplished!
But no, this is not a real mission but just a glimpse of the gruelling training sessions that the elite counter terrorism forces undergo in order to keep them battle-ready. With the opening of an NSG hub on the city outskirts, Hyderabad has emerged as a hotspot for conducting joint training sessions of foreign special forces along with our own and elite National Security Guards (NSG) — something which no other South Indian city can boast of.
1st Battalion and the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) — part of the United States forces and those stationed out of Okinawa in Japan have all trained at the NSG hub, as have the GIGN — the French Special Forces
“The NSG hub at Hyderabad is chosen as the venue because of varied reasons including the exact type of counter terrorist training, weather conditions, opportunities to train, availability of high quality infrastructure, the international airport and the city itself,” says Director General of NSG, Sudeep Lakhtakia.
Dr Seema Rao training commandos.
Notably, the 1st Battalion and the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) part of the United States forces and those stationed out of Okinawa in Japan have all trained at the NSG hub, as have the GIGN — the French Special Forces. NSG has time and again, exercised with many Special Forces units around the world like US Army Green Berets, German GSG-9, Thai Special Forces. “Some other foreign special forces have also been trained here, but their identity cannot be revealed,” says Lakhtakia, adding that the NSG also goes out of the country to train with counterparts. “We cross train and exchange best practices with our counterparts,” shares the NSG chief.
Dr Seema Rao, India’s only woman commando trainer explains, “The NSG was raised in 1984 as a special federal force against terror incidents and attacks. With a view to decrease the response time after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Centre had set up NSG hubs in seven cities. Comprising Army and paramilitary forces, the NSG has a multi-dimensional responsibility of countering terrorist attacks, hijack attempts and also providing proximate security in four States, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.”
She adds, “Now that terrorism is synonymous with urban battle, foreign armies and their special forces want to hone their skills. Urban battle scenarios involve battle at close quarters with hostages, concrete walls ricocheting bullets and collateral damage due to close proximity of engagement. Hyderabad is an ideal location for urban training with hotels, transportation stations, crowded roads and easily available soft targets.”
Given that they are India’s elite counter terrorism unit, the NSG Black Cats cross train with foreign special forces routinely to expand their skills. They have the highest of skill and experience needed to tackle terrorist attacks in urban scenarios, especially after the Taj Terror attack. At the same time, the presence of the NSG hub at Hyderabad offers an opportunity to train in an urban location at a state-of-the-art training facility. “That is why Hyderabad has become a training ground for elite units from within and outside the country. No wonder we see US Special Forces training here. We shall see a lot more elite forces worldwide following suit thanks to the world class facilities offered at the NSG hub,” says Dr Seema Rao.
An official shares, “Our training is on par with any other special forces in the world. We have several new training modules, scenarios and the required paraphernalia. We have dummy buildings and installations to carry out mock drills. The NSG hub is spread over 200 acres and is on par with Manesar (another NSG training facility). When foreign special forces train along with the NSG, they build a strong camaraderie.”
A senior police official adds, “It is good that foreign special forces train here along with our forces. It instills a sense of confidence among the state police force as well.”
Soon after the American Special Forces conducted a joint exercise with the NSG, US Consul General Katherine Hadda said, “The US-India security partnership is strong. The special forces exercise in Hyderabad further advances our two countries’ operational coordination and will clearly benefit both our nations.”