The Bangladesh Army is the largest of the tri-services in the delta nation. It is responsible for defending Bangladesh against external aggressors and supporting national development during peacetime. Recruitment to this force is done through voluntary enlistment.
Organisationally the Bangladesh Army maintains its headquarters in Dhaka. It is further divided in to three regional commands, each the size of a Corps formation having at least three Infantry Divisions each besides Artillery, Special Forces and supporting formations and units under it. It is estimated that the Bangladesh Army has a force size of nearly 300,000 personnel with inclusion of new formations.
Historically, the Bangladesh Army can trace its heritage back to the Bengal Army during Mughal rule since the 1700’s when three Persian Muslim dynasties such as the Nasiri’s, Afshar’s and Najafi’s ruled Bengal.
After the Mughal empire’s capitulation the Bengal Army existed as part of the British empires forces in colonised South Asia. It played an important role as Bengal was the foremost centre of trade and governance in the region at the time. Bengali forces, such as engineering units and sailors also participated in World War I and II as part of the Commonwealth forces contribution to the allied war efforts.
After the British vacated South Asia, the Muslim majority East Bengali’s became part of the newly born country of Pakistan. Bengali forces were again united under a formation known as the East Bengal Regiment. The regiment earned the highest number of gallantry medals in united Pakistan before. Its participated in the Battle of Chawinda and the defence of Lahore during the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
During the Liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 the East Bengal Regiment fought alongside the Mukti Bahini (Bengali freedom fighters) to liberate Bangladesh from West Pakistani oppression.
After the end of the war the Bangladesh Army was formed on the 26th of December, 1971. Between 1973 and 1975 the Army absorbed 28,000 hard hardened freedom fighters in to its ranks.
Under Zia’s rule Bangladesh was divided in to 5 military regions for efficient management. When Ershad assumed power in 1982 the Army had 70,000 personnel. The Army experienced another spurt of growth during 1985 then finally in mid-1988 it had about 80,000 to 90,000 personnel. In 1995 the Army had 101,000 personnel.
After 2000, the Bangladesh Army’s strength swelled to 150,000 personnel. A new regiment called the Bangladesh Infantry Regiment was also raised during that period.
Since 2001, the Bangladesh Army started recruiting female officers for non-combat roles. In doing so it became one of the few Muslim countries in the world to allow women amongst the ranks of male-dominated disciplined forces.
By 2015, the size of the Bangladesh Army stood at 260,000 personnel. It incorporated new technologies and improved training to operate effectively as a modern army.
In the past the Bangladesh Army was organised along the lines of the British-Commonwealth armies, however U.S Army ranks, tactical procedures, training management, and non-commissioned officer training were adopted to enhance the combat efficiency of the organisation.
At present the Bangladesh Army has ten regional Infantry Division HQ; (Those are Savar, Bogra, Chittagong, Ghatail, Comilla, Jessore, Rangpur, Ramu, Sylhet with Headquarters in Dhaka). There are more than thirty-five Infantry Brigades, seven Armoured Regiments, seventeen Artillery Regiments and various divisional support formations deployed throughout the country. It also has the following independent units under direct command of Army Head Quarter: 46th Infantry Brigade (QRF), 14th Engineers Brigade, one Para-Commando Brigade, 6th Air Defence Artillery Brigade, 86 Independent Signal Brigade and three Army Aviation Squadrons. In addition to this, the Army also has a division for Training and Doctrinal policy formulation and conduct, named the Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC) Division and a number of training institutions spread all over the country that supplement its combat capability. Capability development and training are managed by each Corps, and as such the Bangladesh Army is divided into the following administrative Corps:
The principal combat arms of the Bangladesh Army include Infantry, Armour and Paracommandos. Combat support arms include Army Aviation, Regiment of Artillery, Air Defence Artillery, Corps of Engineers, Military Intelligence, Corps of Signals, Corps of Military Police.
Support Services include the Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Medical Corps (AMC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps (EME), Remounts Veterinary and Farm Corps – (RV and FC), Army Dental Corps (ADC), Army Education Corps (AEC), Army Corps of Clerks (ACC) and the Armed Forces Nursing Services (AFNS.
Training in the Bangladesh Army is done almost entirely inside Bangladesh though staff officers are sent abroad to friendly countries such as US, China, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan as Bangladesh signed military training protocols with these countries.
Officer training is conducted at various intuitions such as the BMA, NDC, DSCSC, CSMEA, MIST, SI &T, AFIP and AFMC. Non-commissioned officers are imparted training at the NCO academy.
The Bangladesh Army is equipped with armoured vehicles such as Type 59, Type 62, Type 69 II G tanks, MBT-2000, BTR-80, BTR-82A, Cobra, Type 62 and Type 85 APC’s. Artillery equipment includes systems ranging from 105 mm to 155 mm howitzers guns, MBRL’s and self-propelled howitzers. There are mortars of 60, 81, 82 and 120 mm calibre used by the Bangladesh Army in both towed and self-propelled versions.
Weapons such as Type 69-I RPG, HJ-8 ATGM, Metis-M and South Korean-made M40A1 RCL’s dominate the anti-tank inventory.
Standard issue infantry small arms include Type 92 9mm pistol, BD-08 assault rifle, Type 56 submachine gun, G3A2/3 combat rifle, HK 11A1/21A1, Type 67-1 and Type 85 general purpose machine guns, AI Arctic Warfare and Type 85 sniper rifles.
Air defence artillery is equipped with mainly low-level anti-aircraft guns and man-portable surface-to-air missile launchers from China. Mentionable models include the FM-90B, QW-2, FN-16, Type 56 14.5 mm anti-aircraft machine gun, Type 74/65/55 37mm anti-aircraft gun and Type 59 57mm anti-aircraft gun.
The Bangladesh Army boasts a wide array of logistical and engineering equipment due to the nature of its operational deployments. Armoured bridge layers, pontoon bridges, armoured recovery vehicles, graders, rollers, bulldozers, heavy cranes, Toyota, Land Rover, Nissan, IVECO, BMC, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, BMTF, Isuzu, BMC and Western Star trucks and vehicles are in operational usage.
Aviation assets include Mi-171Sh combat-support helicopters, Bell 206L-4 and AS365N3+ utility helicopters, Cessna 152, Cessna 208, CN-295W and Piper PA31T1A fixed wing transport aircraft.