Explained: What is the Special Frontier Force, referred to as Vikas Battalion?

Context: There have been reports that a Special Frontier Force (SFF) unit, referred to as Vikas Battalion, has been instrumental in occupying some key heights on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh to thwart any occupation by the Chinese troops.


What is the Special Frontier Force (SFF)?

  • SFF was raised in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 Sino-India war.
  • It was a covert outfit which recruited Tibetans (now it has a mixture of Tibetans and Gorkhas) and initially went by the name of Establishment 22.
  • It now falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat where it is headed by an Inspector General who is an Army officer of the rank of Major General.
  • The units that comprise the SFF are known as Vikas battalions.

Are SFF units part of the Army?

  • Strictly speaking, the SFF units are not part of the Army but they function under operational control of the Army.
  • However, they are highly trained special forces personnel who can undertake a variety of tasks which would normally be performed by any special forces unit.
  • They have their own training establishment where the recruits to SFF are imparted special forces training.
  • Incidentally, women soldiers too form a part of SFF units and perform specialised tasks.

What are the major operations in which SFF units has taken part?

  • There are several overt and covert operations in which SFF units have taken part over the years.
  • They took part in operations in the 1971 war, Operation Blue Star in Golden Temple Amritsar, Kargil conflict and in counter-insurgency operations in the country.
  • There are several other operations too in which the SFF has participated but the details are classified.

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