The British Ministry of Defense plans to establish a specialist Gurkha unit to further enhance the combat effectiveness of the Gurkha Brigade.
The 3rd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles will be a specialized infantry battalion with approximately 300 personnel. The new outfit will be responsible for conducting Foreign Internal Defense missions around the world. And there are plans to raise an additional four specialized Gurkha battalions, bringing the total number to five, each assigned to a particular region of the world. That’s similar to how each U.S. Special Forces Group is assigned to a specific region, for instance, the 1st Special Forces Group covers the Pacific, the 7th Special Forces Group covers Latin America, and so on.
According to the British Army, recruiting for the new outfit will begin later this year. All Gurkha recruits come from Nepal. Training takes place in the United Kingdom. For many recruits, the process is unique. Nepal is small, and its inhabitants don’t tend to travel far. Thus, adding to the arduous physical and mental testing that aspiring Gurkhas have to go through, there is also the cultural dimension, since most recruits speak little English.
Mark Lancaster, Minister for the Armed Forces, said: “The Gurkhas have built an outstanding reputation for their skill and bravery as soldiers through centuries of service and sacrifice. They bring unique expertise and perspective to the United Kingdom and British Army which makes them an ideal choice to form a third battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles as a Specialized Infantry Battalion.”
It isn’t clear, however, if the new unit will fall under the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade, which brings under one umbrella the elite Parachute Regiment and the 1st Gurkha Battalion. The Pathfinder Platoon is also part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade but often conducts operations under the discretion of the Director of Special Forces, who commands the United Kingdom Special Forces. The Pathfinders are a small Special Operations-capable outfit responsible for reconnoitering drop zones for the brigade. In Iraq and Afghanistan, however, they have conducted operations outside that spectrum to include long-range reconnaissance patrols and raids. The best U.S. equivalent to the Pathfinders would be the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company.
Nonetheless, there are plans for two Signals Squadrons and an Engineer Squadron that would bring the number of active duty Gurkhas to over 4,000. Lately, the Gurkhas have seen their role as one of Britain’s elite outfits expand. For instance, the British contingent in NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Force is set to be comprised almost exclusively of Gurkha units.