A contingent of Indian Garud commandos are in Israel taking part in exercises with elite Israeli special forces as part of the Blue Flag aerial drill.
“The roles of the commandos of the two nations are similar. We carry out what others cannot do,” wing commander K. Baharat told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “Our aim is to learn and interact with the world’s best special forces and share how we operate as well.”
While crews from the US, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy are honing their aerial skills at Uvda Air Base, the 16 Indian commandos are stationed at Nevatim and Palmahim air bases.
The commandos, who are part of a 45-man delegation and a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane, will be training with the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit and Airborne Combat, Search and Rescue Unit 669.
Formed in 2004 by the Indian Air Force, Garud’s mission is to deploy behind enemy lines, protect vital installations, carry out counterterrorism operations and conduct hostage rescues operations.
Among the weapons used by the commandos are Israeli-made Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles, Galil sniper files and Negev machine guns.
According to India’s Hindustan Times, Delhi is planning to expand the commando wing with at least 10 more units of 70-80 members to secure additional military bases.
Unit 669 was formed in 1974 following the Yom Kippur War and was initially charged with rescuing Israeli pilots shot down in enemy territory. Troops from 669 later began undertaking rescue missions of special forces soldiers and later injured or stranded Israelis, rescuing over 10,000 people across the country and the world.
Also formed after the Yom Kippur War, Shaldag conducts special reconnaissance missions in combat and hostile environments to allow the IAF to collect intelligence and carry out commando operations.
Defense ties between Israel and India have grown in the past few years, with Delhi becoming a major purchaser of Israeli military hardware such as weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made history in July when he became the first Indian head of government to visit Jerusalem, highlighting the growing bilateral relationship. Other high ranking Indian officials have also visited in the past year, including air force chief Arup Raha and navy head Sunil Lanba. In May, three Indian Navy warships docked in Haifa’s port for a three-day visit aimed at strengthening the countries’ friendship.
“We are a peace-loving country, but we need to be prepared for anything,” Baharat said, adding that “our aim is to keep improving ourselves in order to deal with threats.”