MARCOS (also known as MCF) is an elite special operations unit of the Indian Navy. “MARCOS” is short for “Marine Commandos”, and MCF is an acronym for “Marine Commando Force”.
The initial MARCOS group was planned along with the establishment of the NSG counter-terrorism unit in 1986. The first unit was called the Indian Marine Special Force, and was later renamed as Marine Commando Force (MCF) in 1991.
They are also locally known as the Dadiwali Fauj (Hindi: Bearded Army) since they are the only unit of the Indian armed forces that permits non-Sikh recruits to maintain beards.
Strength and Operations
MCF currently has a strength of 2,000 personnel.
- Operation Pawan (Hindi: Wind): part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in 1988.
- Operation Cactus: part of Indian Navy contingent defending the democratic government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives from a coup.
Training and Activities
Candidates undergo a two-year training regime, which has an attrition rate of almost 50%. In addition to parachute training and diving they are also taught jungle and high-altitude warfare in India’s Northeastern states. Training has been adapted from American SEALs and British Royal Marines Commandos and the training is considered more rigorous than any standard Indian Army unit and even better than their Western counterparts.
Some MCF operations are also known to be very similar to those of the Israeli undercover special warfare units called Mistaravim (Hebrew: “Those who pretend to be Arabs”).
During 2003 the MCF participated in training exercises called Exercise Balance Iroquois 03-1/Vajra Prahar, with American Special Operations Forces in Mizoram.
During September 2005, the MCF participated in the joint US/Indian naval exercises called “Malabar 05”.
The MCF currently operates out of the naval bases at Mumbai INS Abhimanyu, Kochi, and Visakhapatnam.
Plans are underway to set up a commando training facility for amphibious operations at the naval academy in Goa on the lines of the Indian Army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Warangte, Mizoram. The Naval Academy is eventually to be shifted to Ezhimala in northern Kerala.
- Guns: AK-47, Colt M16A1, HK MP5 sub-machine gun, INSAS 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm SLR assault rifle
- Transport: H-3 Sea King and Chetak helicopters, Cosmos CE-2F/X100 two-man submarines