Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Imperative Options

In what can only be described as a massive, multi-dimensional and unified show of ‘dissuasive deterrence’ against the multi-faceted scourge of terrorism, and from which India can draw important lessons, Indonesia’s armed forces and police forces staged a no-holds barred and countrywide anti-terror drill between December 18 and 21 last month in full view of the whole world by simultaneously storming and ‘liberating’ a hijacked Presidential airliner, rescuing ‘hostages’ from a 5-star hotel (the Borobudur) and the National Stock Exchange Building in downtown Jakarta, raiding a ‘hijacked’ merchant vessel in the Malacca Straits, and conducting cordon-and-search operations in luxury resorts located in the scenic island of Bali. The national anti-terror drills were conducted by about 7,000 members of the National Police (POLRI), armed forces (TNI) and emergency-response workers in six major cities, and all these were beamed live by Indonesian TV channels, which showed helicopter-borne counter-terrorism forces landing on the roof of the Borobudur Hotel before blasting through windows to release the screaming ‘hostages’, leaving a trail of shattered glass. In another scenario at an airport in Jakarta, ‘terrorists’ seized an airliner carrying the country’s President, killing one of its Pilots and dumping his body onto the tarmac. After a 90-minute standoff, counter-terror forces overpowered the ransom-demanding ‘hijackers’. Similar drills were held in Bali, which has suffered suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005 that killed more than 220 people, many of them foreign tourists. The counter-terror forces also stormed a merchant ship in the Straits of Malacca, among the world’s busiest shipping lanes, in a bid to free hundreds of passengers seized in another mock hijacking.

For those who may not be aware, Indonesia, after Vietnam, has ASEAN’s biggest complement of special operations warfare personnel, and all of them have decades of combat experience in fighting home-grown terrorism and insurgencies. The counter-terror assault-cum-hostage rescue agencies involved in last month’s exercises included the following:
· The 2,500-strong President Security Forces (Paspampres)
· Delta 88 a 300-man POLRI unit trained and equipped entirely by the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and Australia at a cost of US$24 million. Located at Mega Mendung, 50km south of Jakarta in central Java, this unit has since 2003 been raised and trained by instructors in hostage rescue, crime scene investigation and bomb disposal.
· Gegana special response unit, also known as the 840-strong 2nd Regiment of POLRI’s Mobile Brigade.
· The Indonesian Army’s Special Force Command’s (KOPASSUS) 500-strong Group 5, also known as SAT-81 Gultor, which is based in Cijantung, East Jakarta.
· The Indonesian Air Force’s 50-strong Bravo-90 Detachment, also known as Satgas Atbara (Counter-Terrorist Task Force), whose personnel are drawn from the Air Force’s Pasukan Pemukul Reaksi Cepat (Rapid Reaction Strike Force). The unit specialises in hostage-rescue missions involving hijacked aircraft.
· The Indonesian Navy’s Special Force and Operations Command’s 70-strong Jala Mangkara Detachment (DENJAKA), the 300-strong Underwater Special Unit (KOPASKA), the 700-strong Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (YONTAIFIB), and the 250-strong, Jakarta-based Kesatuan Gurita whose primary role is offshore counter-terrorism operations against merchant shipping and offshore oil installations.

The combined, nationwide counter-terror drills were significant in several respects, including:
· The exercises were the first such ones to be conducted after the deadly terrorist strikes in Mumbai, India on November 26 last year and they were strikingly similar to the scenario that had unfolded in Mumbai and involved multiple, simultaneous terror-strikes.
· The exercise planners went out of their way to both highlight and plug the very kind of ‘first response’ gaps that characterised the Indian response to the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.
· The lessons learnt from the Indonesian counter-terror exercises decisively underscored the conclusion that multiple-dimension terrorist attack can be countered only by the security forces’ unified command-and-control mechanism and this in turn ensures seamless integration of the responses by various counter-terror forces. It was convincingly proven during the exercises that such an approach is far better than the ill-conceived concept of locating hubs of a single, ‘elite’ counter-terror force in several strategic and urban centres across a country--what can accurately be described as the ‘Rambo model’ of response. The latter idea presupposes that several small contingents (each numbering no more than 100 personnel) of a single counter-terror force would quickly be able to smash up any terrorist group that may have the audacity to attack. The Indonesian counter-terror exercises drove home the point that any unfolding terrorist operation can only be contained or neutralised in the first few minutes. Which means that the ‘first responders’ have to be equipped, trained and capable of, if not neutralising, then at least containing the terrorists. The reality is that, while ‘special forces’ such as the quick-response special weapons & tactics (SWAT) and hostage rescue teams (HRT) within Police or paramilitary set-ups may play a significant tactical role in counter-terrorism, the strategic success of a country’s counter-terrorism responses will depend overwhelmingly on the capacities, mandate and effectiveness of its ‘general forces’, such as the armed services.
· Lastly, the Indonesian counter-terror drills underscored the need for a hierarchical chain of command in terms of both comprehending the nature of the threats and devising ways of countering such threats by multiple internal security agencies. To this end, Indonesia is blessed with the fact that it has a Cabinet-level Coordinating Minister for Defence and Internal Security (a post now held by retired Admiral Widodo Adi Sucipto) to whom the Minister of Defence and Ministry for Internal Security report. Thus, in times of national emergencies, it is the Coordinating Minister that serves as a single-point national security adviser to the Indonesian President, and his Ministry becomes responsible for coordinating and mobilisation and operations of all counter-terror agencies of both the POLRI and TNI.

On the home front, project files prepared way back in 1997 are now being dusted off and resurrected for fast-track implementation, with the most ambitious being the setting up of a combined sea surveillance-cum SIGINT system in an arc along the coastlines of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Global tenders will shortly be floated for supplying such a system for which the principal bidders are expected to include Germany’s EADS Defence and Communications Systems and its French subsidiary SOFRELOG, the UK’s BAE Systems, Sweden’s Saab Systems, Japan’s NEC Corp, Italy’s Finmeccanica/Selex Sistemi Integrati teamed up with Bharat Electronics Ltd, Raytheon, and Indra of Spain. The contract, estimated to cost €120 million, will include the installation of a sprawling chain of remote fixed stations each equipped with sea-surveillance radars, an optronic platform (like Sagem Défense Sécurité’s VAMPIR NG), and SIGINT sensors. The sea surveillance radars to be installed will be of two types: short-range radars with a range of 15nm, and long-range radars with a range of 50nm. The stations will be connected to four command-and-control centres (two located in each state), which will integrate all the data compiled by sensor stations to create a common and unified scenario of India’s western coastline to alert the systems operators for possible threats (like drugs/arms trafficking, illegal immigration, etc) with enough time for an effective response from marine police units. The command-and-control centres will also transmit to and receive information from Coast Guard patrols. While the sea surveillance system component will be under the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction, the SIGINT component will come under the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Also to be acquired are harbour surveillance and coastal maritime traffic control systems by the Ministry of Shipping.

As far as the offshore requirements (out to 12nm) of the Marine Police detachments for Gujarat and Maharashtra go, to be imported in the near future are up to 60 fast intervention craft, each of which will weigh only 26 tonnes and feature a composite hull. Such craft are designed to carry out a wide range of littoral and coastal water law enforcement and naval duties, including SAR, anti-smuggling, pollution control, anti- terrorist protection of coastal and offshore installations, general surveillance and covert surveillance, and naval special forces insertion and extraction. Depending on the engine configuration, the craft’s proven deep-V hull enables the vessel to reach speeds up to 70 Knots in calm waters and above 50 Knots in Sea State 3, allowing rapid reaction comparable to a cruising helicopter, and can be used in confined spots or bad weather conditions not suitable for helicopter operations. The vessel’s steerable twin-disc Arneson surface drive system provides extreme manoeuvrability and a very shallow draught, enhancing operations in confined waters. The all-composite hull and superstructure of such craft will be constructed in accordance with the Det Norske Veritas-type approval Certificate 416.01. The propulsion system comprises twin diesel engines, twin-disc Arneson surface drives and surface-piercing propellers. The craft will also come fitted with a multi-sensor surveillance suite, modular integrated combat system, and a stabilised 25mm naval gun that is remotely operated. The craft will have a range of more than 300 nautical miles, an endurance of two days out at sea without replenishment, and a four-man crew complement. For inshore patrols out to 3nm, the procurement of several light hovercraft units are being considered, as are V-hulled rigid-hull inflatable boats for the SWAT and HRT units that the state police forces of both Gujarat and Maharashtra are now raising.—Prasun K. Sengupta


Anonymous said...

"a 90-minute standoff"
don't make me laugh ,prasun!
don't you remember IC 814's stay in Amritsar?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Of course you will laugh since you're obviously unaware of the exercise schedules and protocols. How can you possibly compare the IC-184 (it wasn't 814, you forgetful, ignorant and careless brat!) incident, which was a real-life event, with a simulated hijack incident meant to test the quick-response and crisis management protocols of the security agencies? And if you can recall when exactly was the last time such an anti-hijacking exercise was carried out in India, then for how long did such an anti-terror exercise last? Wanna laugh some more at your own expense?

left wing nut job said...

Hasn't the MHA ordered multiple GRP hull interceptor boats from GRSE?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Presently, the technology to build GRP-hulls does not exist in India. It will come along with the contract to build GRP-hulled MCMVs.

sachin_sathe said...

Can the usv like protector be of use in shore protection?If so can it be procured?

on a diff topic is the Al-31 part of the Mig-27 upgrade which was finished
recently?If so what are its advantages(other than higher reliabiliy)?Also,Does the upg package contain IFR?

if F-18 superhornet is selected for the mrca procurement will it be a direct contract with Boeing like the lrmp?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Sachin: Yes the Protector USV can be used for 24-hour surveillance of coastal enclaves and approaches, and be used for protecting the Navy's offshore armament depots like the one on Pigeon Island off the Mumbai-based WNC. Regarding the upgraded MiG-27M, the AL-31F and IFR were not incorporated and were therefore not part of the upgrade package. With regard to the Super Hornet, the answer is yes.

max said...

de macha, let the comments be there..after all they are only comments only,rite? lets see if we can engage in a healthy dicussion with fellow commentators.

sontu said...

who is this troll ?? must be that void walker guy!!!
btw, prasun, do u any news abt void walker? is he dead or what?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Max & Sontu Da: The reason I know far too well it was IC-184 was because a close friend of mine (Swiss passport holder) was on board that ill-fated flight and he related to me soon after that incident what exactly happened. Therefore, that IATA flight code has been etched in my mind. But along come some Orang Utans from Borneo with only Wikipedia as their abili! Well, then how about this:

Then comes another Orang Utan claiming that anti-hijack drills have been conducted by the CISF, and not the NSG! I don't think it is Void Walker (as I presume he has no reason to hide his identity) and the last I heard from him was during Deepavali when we exchanged greetings. Am not aware of his current status.

Bobs said...

but prasun, pls check NDTV archives or india-defence archives....they all mention IC 814 ....
even the archives of India Today and Outlook tell the same.

Bobs said...

Yeah ,I hav heard of CISF conducting anti-hijack drills....coz they are responsible for airport security and also the security of aircraft....but its not related to storming of the aircraft post the hijack..thats the job of NSG.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

I got the scanned print editions of INDIA TODAY and OUTLOOK and they all say it was IC-184. Let us not forget that such typographical errors frequently occur. That's why you'll find one edition of Indian Express saying IMMEDIATELY after the incident that it was IC-184, and another one a few years later claiming it was IC-814.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Bobs: According to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security the CISF is responsible for airport terminal, tarmac and perimeter security functions, with the NSG (as you've stated) being responsible for storming the hijacked aircraft.

not an anon said...

Anon@6:36:00, people don't make mistakes and that does give you right to be arrogant.

Prasun, I am not the same person who was arrogant.

Here is the links that you wanted (government sources)


Anonymous said...

Prasun, while I agree with most of your views; I certainly won't agree on this "It was convincingly proven during the exercises that such an approach is far better than the ill-conceived concept of locating hubs of a single, ‘elite’ counter-terror force in several strategic and urban centres across a country"

Reason is that the vast size of India. It would take 2 to 3 hours for NSG to reach places like Chennai from Delhi. Each state is asked to form commando team with the police available there. Reforms are happening here too; but those reforms are tailored to the needs and restrictions prevailing in India.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Anon@7:49PM: If you were to take the example of the last Mumbai terror attacks, the following are immediately evident and beyond dispute:
1) Rather than create NSG hubs, it is far more simpler to raise 200-man SWAT teams in those metros most threatened by terror attacks of the type witnessed in Mumbai. Regarding Mumbai, such a team should have been created way back in the mid-1990s and the sea surveillance system commissioned by 1997. That all this had not been done only highlights criminal neglect on the part of successive Maharashtra state govts.

2) The NSG in its present form is just an Army infantry formation, with a different mindset and its rules of engagement are at total variance with what's reqd as far as first respondents to a terror incident go. This was clearly revealed by the MARCOS interviews when it was stated that their deliberate intervention ROEs called for a shoot-to-kill policy and taking no prisoners. That's fine by me but in cases where lare nos of hostages are involved, such ROEs can be detrimental.

3) The concept of NSG hubs should also include, ideally, requisite support equipment like medium-lift IFR-capable helicopters but this does not seem to be happening. No one has asked why did the NSG have to wait till early morning to use the IAF's Mi-171s, and not mount a pre-down heliborne assault. It is very clear from the photos that the Mi-171 helicopter used was not IFR-capable (it neither had a weather radar nor an obstacle avoidance system). Ideally, heliborne assaults/rooftop insertions are carried out by ALH-type IFR-capable helicopters (not just one, but at least three, with the other two acting as decoys and airborne command posts) equipped with 30-million candlelamp searchights.

4) The sight of NSG personnel carrying Carl Gustav LAWs was horrifying, especially for employment in civilian confined spaces, when the same job could have been done by 40mm hand-held AGLs. None of the NSG or MARCOS teams were equipped with such AGLs.

To conclude, utmost priority must be given to the creation of SWAT teams as the first respondent, with the NSG acting as a second-echelon force, and not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

instead of creating NSG hubs across the country why not relocate the NSG hub to a Central Indian city.
It's probably long overdue for major metros to raise SWAT teams with the mandate to 1)rescue hostages alive 2)neutralize/capture terrorists.
Maybe the time has come to look to the police forces in the US such as NYPD, LAPD who have excellent SWAT teams.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

The fundamental problem with the NSG's location status is this: it would have to sited in close proximity to an airport/air base (within a 5km radius) and the force would also require dedicated air transportation assets, either owned by NSG itself, or kept on Alert 15 or Alert 30 standby, with the assets belonging to the IAF.
I entirely agree with you on the need to raise dedicated SWAT and HRT units YESTERDAY. I for one am very surprised that the terrorists waited until 2008 to strike, when it was possible for them to strike effortlessly in the 1990s itself. Such SWAT/HRT teams must also have the own integral air assets in the form of a Police Air Wing equipped with at least four light medium-twin helicopters like the IFR-capable Dhruv, and equipped with belly-mounted searchlights and chin-mounted FLIR turrets, and at least one of them should be equipped as an airborne command post.


Prasun Da:

Are you in a position to verify an information I have on IC 184?

One of the major reasons it was not stormed was due to the fact that the brother-in-law of the then NSA official was present in the flight. THe other was presence of senior RAW official too.

Is there any "germ" of truth to these stories. Thanks.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To BuA: None whatsoever. The reason it was not stormed was because it just could not be done in a hostile environment. Unless one has an environment that can be controlled (via friendly ground and aerial logistics) and one that is receptive to the idea of ending the hijack by 'foreign' hostage-rescue teams storming the aircraft, the question of storming the aircraft does not arise. If a political decision was made to 'storm' the aircraft, then the only way it could be done was by ferrying the entire HRT contingent (about three infantry companies, or 450 personnel) in about six IL-76MDs to southeastern Iran and then undertaking a covert heliborne or para-led insertion all the way to Kandahar, securing the airport first with the para forces, using up to four attack helicopters (like the Mi-35Ps that would have to be airlifted to Iran using chartered Russian An-124-100s) to sanitise the airport's immediate vicinity, and then gaining control of the airport so that the IL-76MDs could make use of it to airlift the hostages and Army-led rapid intervention team back to Iran. All this could have been done with Iranian and Russian support had the Indian political leadership been audacious. The only X-factor in this scenario is how would the Pakistan Armed Forces have reacted.

Anonymous said...

I guess you are talking about the situation in "kandahar". But what about when the plane was in "amritsar". That was hardly a "hostile environment" - why was it not stormed there?

Bobs said...

BuA @ 10:34 pm
its IC 814 AND NOT IC 184 as most of you have stated. I suggest you & others to pls check with the log book of the flight dispatcher at the relevant place. or else check up with timeline datasheets available with the ICAO.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Anon@8:28PM: The reason it was not stormed in Amritsar was because the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security at that time did not have any established protocols that required the hijacked aircraft to be grounded and not allowed to take off nor be refuelled. And this happened because neither the BCAS nor the NSG had ever simulated such an incident. That's how ad hoc and shameful the crisis management procedures were at that time.