The martial tradition of Bengal has its roots in the during Mughal rule since the early 18th century, when three successive Muslim dynasties, namely the Nasiri, Afshar and Najafi, ruled Bengal. During the Colonial Rule of the British, Bengal was principally a bulwark of British power and trade in the South Asian region. The British under Robert Clive defeated a 50,000 strong Bengal Army of Nawab Siraj-ud-daullah in the Polashey(Plassey) in 1757 and later the forces of Nawab Mir Qasim at the Battle of Buxar in 1764. The Army of Bengal was formed, which later became part of a united Indian Army from 1895 to 1947. The eastern part of the region was a prominent place for military and police recruitment, with entire horse-mounted cavalry and lancer units being recruited there prior to the Bengal Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Post-mutiny, units with the epithet "Bengal" in their name, such as Bengal Sappers and Bengal Cavalry, were largely recruited from non-Bengali peoples from Bihar, Varanasi and Uttar Pradesh which were technically still part of Bengal Presidency at that time.
During the Second World War, British Eastern Command created an auxiliary force who were part engineers and part infantry named as Indian Pioneer Corps. Most of the soldiers were recruited from both West and East Bengal. This force assisted the main war effort by building roads, airfields, fortifications and, when needed, fought the Japanese in an infantry role. These force was organised in company groups attached to various regiments of Indian Army in direct support role. An Officer by the name of Captain A Ghani was a Company Commander in the Burma front and led his troops in battle fearlessly to command respect of his men and superiors. After the war these Pioneer Troops were concentrated in Jalna, India, waiting to be demobilised and return home. Captain Ghani saw in the soldiers from East Bengal place he belonged, the fearless fighting spirit as other regiments of Indian Army like the soldiers of Bihar Regiment with whom they operated. He envisioned, if the Biharis could pride themselves like the races of Punjab or North West Frontier of India or Beluch or Jat or Gurkhas or Marathas so and so forth as martial races why the Bengali should not be the flag bearer to pride themselves as a martial race? In 1946 Captain Ghani the then Adjutant and Quarter Master of Indian Pioneer Corps Centre at Jalna envisioned and generated the idea of forming an Infantry regiment out of the Pioneer soldiers from East Bengal who would be returning home demobilised, to the Centre Commander. The Centre Commander of the Corps Lieutenant Colonel R. R. Morierty applauded the idea of Captain Ghani and encouraged to select and organise his men to form the nucleus of an Infantry Regiment.
Before the creation of Pakistan Captain Ghani got the approval of the then newly appointed Commander in Chief to Pakistan Army General Messervey to from the East Bengal Regiment composed solely of youths from East Bengal, would be East Pakistan. On 17 August 1947 General Messervey while bidding farewell to the Pioneer Corps soldiers from Bombay the General endorsed the views of Captain Ghani and said' you will prove to the world that Bengali soldiers are equally competent as other nations of the world.' With these inspiring words Captain Ghani moved to Dhaka in September 1947 with two Pioneer Companies and was temporarily located in Pilkhana now the Headquarters of Border Guards Bangladesh. He was later told by the administration to find a suitable place to accommodated the soldiers. He moved to the north of the Capital and found Kurmitola as the perfect place for a cantonment. Toiling day in and day out the barracks were constructed and jungles cleared, parade ground prepared.
On 15 February 1948 the flag of First East Bengal Regiment the pioneer of Bangladesh Army was raised with Captain Ghani on the lead of all the affairs though the first Commanding Officer was British Lt Col V J E Patterson. After the raising of the first battalion the second battalion was approved but where to find the suitable soldiers from a society who were not exposed to any organised military tradition like the West wing of the country? Here again the task was thrust upon Captain Ghani to recruit the right personnel for the regiment. Given the amenities and the conditions prevailing then the task was herculean. However, no task seemed to be challenging to Captain Ghani who was die hard to make his vision come true and show the Pakistani hierarchy that he meant every word he said. He tirelessly moved from one corner of the country to the other convincing people to join the newly formed regiment and that they had to stand equal to the other races of West Pakistan. His tireless efforts bore fruit and on 7 February 1949 the flag of the Second East Bengal was raised with the newly recruited soldiers and from personnel from First East Bengal. It was the dedication, initiative, drive and the insatiable will to succeed that Captain Ghani gave the solid foundation to an army which expanded on this foundation. Until the Great Liberation War of 1971 there were 8 battalions of the East Bengal Regiment and after the War to expand even more and now prides itself of having another Infantry Regiment chalked out of the East Bengal Regiment as Bangladesh Infantry Regiment.
On 25 March 1971 Pakistan Armed Forces cracked down on the civilian population of East Pakistan brutally killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and uniformed personnel. As a result, in March 1971, Bengali soldiers in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) revolted and the Bangladesh Independence War started. There was a Bangladesh Army Sector Commanders Conference during 11–17 July 1971. The conference was held three months after the oath of the newly formed Bangladesh Government at Meherpur, Kushtia. During this conference the structure and formation as well as resolving issues surrounding the organisation of the various sectors, strategy and reinforcements of the Bangladeshi forces was determined. It was of considerable historical importance from a tactical point of view, as it determined the command structure of the Bangladeshi forces throughout Bangladesh Liberation War that was fought between Bangladesh (East Pakistan until 25 March 1971) and West Pakistan in 1971.
This conference was presided over by the Bangladesh interim government in exile, headed by then Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and Colonel (Retd.) M. A. G. Osmani. M. A. G. Osmani was reinstated into active duty and promoted to General as the Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Forces. Principal participants of this conference included: Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan, Major Ziaur Rahman, Major Abdul Jalil, Captain ATM Haider, Lt. Col. MA Rab and Major Khaled Mosharraf. As a result of this meeting, Bangladesh was divided into eleven sectors. These sectors were placed under the control of Sector Commanders, who would direct the guerilla war against Pakistani occupation forces. For better efficiency in military operations each of the sectors were also divided into a number of sub-sectors. As a point of note, the 10th Sector was under direct command of the Commander-in-Chief and included the Naval Commando Unit as a C-in-C's special force.
Following the conference a period of prolonged guerrilla warfare was launched by Bangladesh Forces, which continued for a number of months. A further restructuring was undertaken, and the Bangladesh Forces were organised into three brigade size combat groups.K Force, under Major Khaled Mosharraf, was created with 4th, 9th and 10th East Bengal Regiment.
S Force, under Major K M Shafiullah, was created with 2nd and 11th East Bengal Regiment.
Z Force, under Major Ziaur Rahman, was created with 1st, 3rd and 8th East Bengal Regiment.
Bangladesh Army has expanded considerably albeit erratically since its formation on 21 November 1971. During the sensitive and formative years after the end of the war, personnel of the Mukti Bahini were absorbed into different branches of Bangladesh Army. Sheikh Mujib's Awami League government created disenchantment among army personnel when his party formed and operated state funded separate militia groups around the nation run locally by his party men at the command of his son Sheikh Kamal. These policies and actions laid the foundation and formed the bedrock of disputes between professional army officers and the ruling administration.
The year 1975 was a turning point year in the history of Bangladesh as a nation. On 15 August 1975 few disgruntled members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces have been involved in two assassinations and coups albeit without the knowledge or participation of the entire Bangladesh Armed Forces. In 1975 a few sacked, disgruntled junior officers and NCOs secretly planned and assassinated the entire immediate family of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his personal residence in Dhanmondi, Dhaka, except for his two daughters who were abroad. Some of those responsible officers were finally brought to justice in January 2010. Some are still at large. A new government led by Khandkar Mushtaq Ahmed and almost the entire cabinet of Sheikh Mujib's government was set in place. Three months later on 3 November 1975, several senior officers and NCO's led by Maj. Gen. Khaled Mosharraf and Colonel Shafaat Jamil led their own forces to untangle another internal conspiracy and removed Khandakar Mushtaq's government from power whom they believed was an unlawful government in the first place. That same day the same group of disgruntled army personnel who assassinated Sheikh Mujib and his family took action that resulted in the assassination and jailing of several senior Army officers and noted civilians who were involved in the nations war of independence. Those jailed and later assassinated inside the jail premises were Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Muhammad Mansur Ali and AHM Qamaruzzaman. Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ziaur Rahman was placed under house arrest. On 7 November 1975, a short but highly organised uprising concentrated only in Dhaka, formed by members of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party) and members of lower-ranking army personnel led by Lt. Col. (Retd.) Abu Taher also resulted in the killing of several army and air force officers and men including Major General Khaled Mosharraf, Major ATM Haider to name just a few. Colonel Shafaat Jamil was arrested and forcibly retired. Major General Ziaur Rahman was released and took the opportunity to bring order and discipline in the country as well as in the armed forces under temporary martial law. Zia took promotion to Lieutenant General and was appointed Chief of Army Staff and Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator. Later, in 1977 under a public referendum of a yes no vote he took the helm as President. On 30 May 1981 President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in the Chittagong Circuit House in a military coup. Less than a year later, the then Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Hussein Muhammad Ershad in 1982 March 24 took power in a silent coup at dawn, suspended the constitution and imposed martial law and remained in power through farce elections and corruption. He remained in power until 6 December 1990.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Conflict was the political conflict and armed struggle between the Government of Bangladesh by the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts) and its armed wing, the Shanti Bahini over the issue of autonomy and the rights of the tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Shanti Bahini launched an insurgency against government forces in 1977, and the conflict continued for twenty years until the government and the PCJSS signed the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in 1997.
At the outbreak of the insurgency, the Government of Bangladesh deployed the army to begin counter-insurgency operations. The then-President of Bangladesh Major General Ziaur Rahman created a Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board under an army general to address the socio-economic needs of the region, but the entity proved unpopular and became a source of antagonism and mistrust among the local tribes against the government. The government failed to address the long-standing issue of the displacement of tribal people, numbering an estimated 100,000 caused by the construction of the Kaptai Dam by the then Pakistan government in 1962. Displaced tribesmen did not receive compensation and more than 40,000 Chakma tribals had fled to India. In the 1980s, the government began settling Bangalis in the region, causing the eviction of many tribesen and a significant alteration of demographics. Having constituted only 11.6% of the regional population in 1974, the number of Bangalis grew by 1991 to constitute 48.5% of the regional population.
Peace negotiations were initiated after the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh in 1991, but little progress was made with the government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Fresh rounds of talks began in 1996 with the newly elected prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was finalised and formally signed on 2 December 1997.
Following the 1975 coup, additional personnel were absorbed into the regular army when the martial law government abolished the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini. Under Zia's rule, Bangladesh was divided into five military regions. When Ershad assumed power in 1982, army strength had stabilised at about 70,000 troops. Starting in 1985, the army had experienced another spurt in growth. As of mid-1988, it had about 90,000 troops (although some observers believed the number was closer to 80,000), triple the 1975 figure.
The Bangladesh Army structure is similar to the armies of the Commonwealth Nations. However, major changes have taken place following the adoption of US Army tactical planning procedures, training management techniques and noncommissioned officer educational systems. In times of war and national emergency, the Bangladesh Army can also be reinforced by the Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Ansars, Village Defence Parties, Bangladesh National Cadet Corps and other paramilitary organisations.
Bangladesh Army has specialised its peacekeeping operation capabilities around the world through participation in numerous peacekeeping and nation building operations. It has created BIPSOT (Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training) which specialises in the training of peacekeepers for employment in all types of UNPSO (UN Peace Support Operations). This institute fulfills the requirement of UNDPKO as per U.N. General Assembly resolution which outlines 'the necessity and responsibility of every nation to train their armed forces before any deployment.
Bangladesh armed forces are going through a long term modernization plan named Forces Goal 2030. Bangladesh army is under a massive expansion and modernization drive as per the plan. The force is being divided into three corps — Central, Eastern and Western. Two new infantry divisions have been raised, the 17th infantry division at Sylhet and 10th infantry division at Ramu in Cox’s Bazar to make the number of total infantry divisions nine. The soldiers are being equipped with modern gear like Night Vision Goggles (NVG), Ballistic helmets, protective eye gear, bulletproof vests, person to person communicators, palmtop GPS devices and BD-08 MK2 assault rifles with ACOG sight.
Bangladesh Army procured 44 MBT-2000 tanks from China in 2011. Bangladesh army engineers have completed the upgrade of Type 69 tanks to Type 69IIG standard. They are now upgrading the Type 59 tanks to Type 59BD standard. To increase the mobility of the infantry forces, many Armoured personnel carriers such as BTR-80, Otokar Cobra and BOV M11 have been procured.
To modernize the artillery forces, Nora B-52 K2 self-propelled artillery system have been procured from Serbia. Their firepower is further increased by the addition of one regiment of WS-22 Guided Multiple Rocket Launcher System.
For anti-tank role Metis-M missile systems and PF-98 rocket systems were procured. Two regiments of FM 90 surface to air missile were to be added by 2016 to enhance air defence capabilities.
The aemy aviation wing is also being modernized. Two Eurocopter AS365 Dauphins were put into service in 2012. A contract was signed for six Mil Mi-171 helicopters from Russia under the $1 billion arms deal. One C-295W transport aircraft were ordered from Spain and will be delivered in 2017.
Bangladesh Ordnance Factories (BOF) makes BD-08 and BD-08MK2 assault rifles and LMGs. The factory can produce 14,000 rifles with 600,000 grenades and 400,000 cartridges annually. Bangladesh produces artillery shells domestically. Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) assembles utility trucks for the army called "Arunima Baliyan ". In 2015, BOF successfully tested 60mm and 82mm mortars and mortar shells. A missile assembly plant, explosives testing lab, bullet-proof jacket production plant and APC manufacturing plant wee established. Assembly of FN-16 MANPADS was to start in Bangladesh under ToT from China.
The Bangladesh Army has been actively involved in a number of United Nations Peace Support Operations (UNPSO) since its formation in the 1970s. Its first deployments came in 1988, when it participated in two operations – UNIIMOG in Iraq and UNTAG in Namibia President HM Ershad initiated these deployments for the first time, starting with the contribution to UNIIMOG in Iraq.
Later, as part of the UNIKOM force deployed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia following the Gulf War the Bangladesh Army sent a mechanised infantry battalion (approx. 2,193 personnel). Since then, the Bangladesh Army has been involved in up to thirty different UNPKOs in as many as twenty five countries. This has included activities in Angola, Namibia, Cambodia, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Mozambique, former Yugoslavia, Liberia, Haiti, Tajikistan, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Ethiopia.
As a result of its contributions to various UN peacekeeping operations, up to 88 Bangladesh soldiers have lost their lives (as of February 2009). However, the performance of Bangladesh's contingents has been described as being of the "highest order" and the appointment of several senior Bangladesh military officers as the Commander of UN peacekeeping missions and Senior Military Liaison Officers, may be seen as further recognition of the Bangladesh Army's growing esteem in the peacekeeping community.
In January 2004, BBC described the Bangladeshi UN Force as "Cream of UN Peacekeepers". Bangladesh Armed Forces participated in the Gulf war in 1991 Operation Desert Storm alongside other multinational forces under Allied Command. The Bangladesh Army brought in a contingent of Engineers and undertook the task of clearing mines and bombs in Kuwait. This assistance took place under the operational code name "Operation Kuwait Punargathan (OKP)" in English "Operation Rebuilding Kuwait (ORK)".
Bangladesh Army is divided into the following administrative Corps:
JCOs are not Officers, they are enlisted personnel.
Women are being recruited as Ordinary Soldiers (In Bengali: Sainik) since 2013. The first recruit batch of female soldiers completed their training on 29 January 2015. NCO rank starts from Lance Corporal. Sergeants holds key appointments in companies, batteries (company equivalent of artillery), infantry battalions and artillery regiments, e.g. Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS), Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), persons holding these appointments have separate rank insignias though these are not actually ranks.
Cantonments are where Bangladesh Army personnel work, train, and live.
Under Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC)Bangladesh Army International University of Science & Technology (BAIUST), Mainamati Cantonment, Comilla.
Bangladesh Military Academy (BMA), Bhatiary, Chittagong
School of Infantry and Tactics (SI&T), Jalalabad Cantonment, Sylhet.
Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSC&S), Mirpur Cantonment, Dhaka.
National Defence College (NDC), Mirpur Cantonment, Dhaka.
Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), Mirpur Cantonment, Dhaka.
Armoured Corps Centre & School (ACC&S), Majira Cantonment, Bogra.
Engineer Centre and School of Military Engineering (ECSME), Quadirabad Cantonment, .
Signal Training Centre and School (STC&S), Jessore Cantonment, Jessore.
Army Service Corps Centre & School (ASCC&S), Jahanabad Cantonment, Khulna.
Army Medical Corps Centre & School (AMCC&S), Shaheed Salahuddin Cantonment, Ghatail, Tangail
Ordnance Centre & School (OC&S), Rajendrapur Cantonment, Gazipur
Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT), Rajendrapur Cantonment, Gazipur.
Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Centre and School (EMEC&S), Saidpur Cantonment, Nilphamari.
Centre and School of Military Police, Education and Administration (CSMEA), Shahid Salahuddin Cantonment, Ghatail, Tangail.
Army School of Physical Training and Sports (ASPTS), Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.
Army School of Music (ASM), Chittagong Cantonment, Chittagong.
Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.
Artillery Centre and School (AC&S), Halishahar, Chittagong.
School of Military Intelligence (SMI), Comilla Cantonment, Comilla.
East Bengal Regimental Centre (EBRC), Chittagong Cantonment, Chittagong.
Bangladesh Infantry Regimental Centre (BIRC), Rajshahi Cantonment, Rajshahi.
Non Commissioned Officers Academy (NCOA), Majira Cantonment, Bogra.
Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), Mirpur Cantonment, Dhaka.
Bangladesh Army University of Science And Technology (BAUST), Saidpur Cantonment, Nilphamari.
Bangladesh National Cadet Corps (BNCC), Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.
Bangladesh has made a long term modernisation plan for its Armed Forces named Forces Goal 2030. As per the plan, Bangladesh Army will be divided into three corps — Central, Eastern and Western. The number of infantry division will be increased to ten. Already, two new divisions have been formed, 17th infantry division at Sylhet and 10th infantry division at Ramu in Cox’s Bazar, making the number of divisions nine. Another infantry division is under formation at the Lebukhali of Patuakhali district, to be completed in 2016. A riverine brigade is being formed at Mithamain of Kishoreganj district. A full-fledged cantonment is being established at Ruma of Bandarban district.
Bangladesh government is actively considering the formation of Special forces at brigade level.
The process of upgradation of 174 Type-59 tanks is underway. Government is actively considering the formation of two new tank regiments.
Army has signed for 330 armoured vehicles under $1 billion arms deal with Russia whose delivery will start from the end of 2016.
One battery of WS-22 Guided Multiple Rocket Launcher System consisting of six launcher vehicle has been already to army in 2014. Two more batteries of this system will be procured within 2015 to form a full MLRS regiment. Bangladesh has also bought the technology of this system to start assembling at BMTF.
For improving air defence capabilities, two regiments of FM 90 surface to air missile will be added by 2016 from China.
Six Mil Mi-171 helicopters has been procured for Army Aviation from Russia under $1 billion arms deal, will be delivered from 2016. One C-295W transport aircraft were ordered from Spain which is expected to be delivered in 2017.
Bangladesh Army has started an ambitious modernisation program for its infantry soldiers. This Future soldier system includes equipping all of its soldiers with ultra-modern equipment like Night Vision Goggles (NVG), Ballistic helmet, protective eye gear, kevlar bulletproof vest, hand to hand communicator, palmtop GPS device and modern homemade BD-08 MK2 assault rifle with ACOG sight.
BOF is making BD-08 and BD-08 MK-II assault rifle and Light Machine Gun and BD-14 heavy machine gun. The factory has the capability of producing annual 14000 rifles with 600000 grenades and 400000 cartridges. Bangladesh is also producing different types of artillery shells domestically. Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) is assembling utility trucks for army called Arunima Baliyan. In 2015, BOF successfully tested 60 mm and 82 mm mortars and mortar shells. A missile assembling plant, explosives testing lab, bullet-proof jacket production plant and APC manufacturing plant is being established for further development of defence industry. Soon, the assembling of FN-16 MANPAD will start at Bangladesh under ToT from China.
Tender has been floated for procurement of a command ship for army to be made in any Bangladeshi shipyard. The ship will be around 30 meters in length, 8 meters in breadth and an endurance of minimum 15 days. It will have a complement of 15 personnel and a maximum range of 2200 nautical miles with a top speed of 20 knots. The vessel will be used as a floating command centre during different operations.