What is Para SF and How Hard is their Training

What is Para SF and How Hard is their Training

The Paratroopers (Airborne) are Elite Troops, not Special Forces. Yet their selection compares to some of the Top Special forces Worldwide. Only these Paratroopers can aspire to be a Para Commando (Also called Para SF) and have to take part in one of the toughest selection process in the world.

Para Commandos are Special Forces unit of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiment. according to reports, out of 7500 Elite Paratroopers (Airborne) only 2500 are Special Para Commandos (SF). [New figures after two more battalions were incorporated into para (SF)]

Operate in Squads of 6​

Weapons, Demolition, Navigation, Communication & Medical

All Indian paratroopers are volunteers. Some enter the Para regiments fresh from recruitment, while others transfer in from regular army units. The first process for an aspirant includes getting into the Paratroopers (Airborne) Battalions (5, 6, 7), which is a 3 month probation and then Para (SF) includes another 6 months rigorous probation/selection period with a passing rate of just about 10% or less on average.


One part was the traditional parachute force, with the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Parachute. The other were the five Parachute (SF) units with the 1 Para (SF), 2 Para (SF), 9 Para (SF), 10 Para (SF) and 21st Parachute (Special Forces). The 1 Para (SF) is trained for mountain warfare, the 9 Para (SF) is trained for jungle warfare and the 10 Para (SF) is trained for desert warfare, & so on.

The initial phase is a three-month probationary training which filters out the promising candidates for the next phases of training. Those who successfully complete the selection are awarded the Para wings and the Maroon Beret, before commencing their yearlong initial Para (Special Forces) battalions (1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21 PARA), which takes place twice a year in the spring and the autumn term.

A notable aspect of this selection is the route match, which involves running 60-70 km with 23 kgs of weight. It is one of the longest and toughest phases in the world where the applicant is exposed to sleep deprivation, humiliation, exhaustion, mental and physical torture. The selection has reported deaths in the process itself. The attrition rate is very high and is in between 90-95 percent. [100 km Endurance Run in approx. 13 hrs]


Taken from Discovery Channel’s documentary on Indian Para SF

The initial phase is a three-month probationary training of physical fitness and aptitude test and it is so gruesome that more than 80% of the applicants drop out. Those who successfully complete the test are subjected to a five-week-long process called the ‘hell’s week’ where commandos are put through extreme sleep deprivation coupled with the most difficult physical tasks, like shooting a target 25 meters away with a man standing next to it, who is usually your buddy.

It’s also where they believe in something called stress inoculation. They expose you to pressure and suffering in training so you’ll build up your immunity. It’s a kind of classic psychological conditioning in various types of hostile control scenarios: the techniques were designed to disorient, break-down, isolate and exploit them in their weakened state. Regardless of how successfully you apply what you’ve learned, everyone is pretty miserable.

The Training

The first phase teaches you how to try to survive alone in the wilderness (edible bugs & plants, how to build tools & get warm, etc). The second teaches how to evade capture & possibly signal friendlies to come to rescue you. The third (and absolute worst) is about dealing with capture, resisting interrogation, enduring certain techniques, which I personally think is a good thing because it helps to know how bad things can get).

All in all, even though you KNOW they can’t hurt you & it’s not going to last very long, at the time your mind forgets that & it becomes a living nightmare beyond belief; something that has to be experienced to fully appreciate.

The Special Forces training is 3.5 years, the longest anywhere and the training is also a continuous process, in the special forces, the members are imparted both basic and advance training. They are taught specialized mode of infiltration and ex-filtration, either by air (combat free-fall) or sea (combat diving).

A para SF soldier

These commandos are even capable of firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds.

Infiltration, ex-filtration, assault, room and building intervention, intelligence gathering, patrolling, ambush tactics, counter-ambush tactics, counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism, unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, raids & sabotage, martial arts training, tactical shooting, stress firing, reflex shooting, buddy system drills, close quarter battle, tactical driving, advance weapon courses & handling, sniping, demolition training, survival skills, linguistic training, logistics training, trade-craft training is imparted by the intelligence agencies.

To get into Para SF, according to sources, you should not cross the maximum age limit of 25 years and have the minimum age limit of 18 years.

As per my Para friend, age is not a consideration, you have to apply within 5 years of joining a regiment. It is easier to join as a soldier. Officer posts are far and few in Para (SF) and very difficult. Good contacts may be of some help getting directly into Para battalion and make it easier to clear SF probation.

However, it is indeed very difficult to get in, approx 1000–800 apply only 100 or even less remain for probation. After the 3 month probation gets over, who knows? Most have been know to quit on their own.

This valuable information was written by Dr. Deya Roy, Centre for Media Studies on Quora and it has been shared with her prior permission.
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