Imperative Options


Senior Member
Feb 23, 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

TRISHUL: Imperative Options

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