Life at the National Defence Academy

by Sachin Kumar on January 4, 2015

The National Defence Academy (located at Khadakwasla near Pune, Maharashtra) is the Joint Services academy of the Indian Armed Forces, where cadets of Army, Navy and Air Force train together for three years.

national defence academy

Every year about 4 to 5 lakh aspirants appear for the NDA exam, out of which ten thousand candidates clear. Next, they face SSB, i.e. Service Selection Board. About 320,000 applicants sit for each written exam. Typically, about 9,000 of these are invited to interview and finally around 300-350 cadets are accepted to the academy each term.

The academic year is divided into two terms i.e. Spring (Jan. to May) and Autumn (July to Dec.) A cadet must undergo training for a total of six terms (three years) before graduating from the NDA. On successful completion of the three-year course, Cadets are sent to their respective training academies for one year of training before granting of commission. Army cadets proceed to the Indian Military Academy (Dehradun), Naval cadets to Indian Naval Academy (Ezhimala) and Air Force cadets to the Air Force Academy (Dundigal, Hyderabad).

After 3 years of training all the cadets are given graduation in BA/BSc or BCs (Computer Science) degree of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Apart from academic training they are also trained in outdoor skills, like Drill, Physical Training, Sports and games. The emphasis in NDA is on character building, esprit-de-corps, mental and physical robustness, leadership and a sense of keen observation.

Life at NDA

The first thing every candidate experiences is the haircut which becomes his identity to the outer world. All cadets are allotted with a bicycle, an academy number and a Squadron which is basically becomes his home for the duration of his training. Each cadet is given a room of his own. The cabins can be inspected anytime and so keeping things in order becomes second nature for the cadet.

There are 18 Squadrons which are named as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hunter, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Panther, Quebec and Romeo. Battalion No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 Battalions have four squadrons each (in alphabetical order) and No. 5 Battalion has two squadrons. Each Squadron has approximately 100 to 120 cadets divided almost equally in 6 terms.

All the squadrons compete for the Inter Squadron championships awarded to the best squadron epitomizes the pinnacle of teamwork and team spirit. The champion squadron has the privilege of possession of the Champion banner for one term, which is carried during the parade and other sports meets.


A cadet is welcomed in NDA by Joint training team (JTT) through the two months long ‘Orientation Capsule’ during which, he is conditioned to toughen up mentally and physically. Cadets are imparted a blend of outdoor and indoor training. Outdoor training is carried out in the hilly and dense green terrain around the NDA campus. Indoor training includes theoretical and practical training.

In Academics, the common subjects of the three services are covered. These include weapon handling, map reading, military law, history and organization of each service. Analysis of military campaigns and operations are also done. Debates, public speaking competitions, seminars and interactions with civil institutes are regularly organized.

Till fifth term all cadets undergo same training while the sixth term emphasis on service training. The Army cadets study tactics like judging distances, terrain study, indication and recognition of landmarks, camouflage and concealment, trench digging, observation by day and night, stalking, field signals, fire control orders, ambush, patrolling, attack, defence and casualty evacuation in the VI term. Cadets are also trained in handling of firearms, marksmanship and night firing.

Air Force specific training takes place under the Air Force Training Team (AFTT). Flying training commences in the VI semester. Super Dimona twin seat powered sailplane are used to train the cadets to fly.

Naval training is given by the Naval Training Team (NTT) at Watermanship Training Centre (WTC).  Cadets train cadets in yachting, rowing, kayaking, windsurfing and water skiing. A scaled model of a frigate is used as a training ship, which has actual equipment from decommissioned ships to help Navy cadets get a feel of life at sea.

Daily Routine

The schedule of cadet’s training is decided before the term starts and the same schedule is followed till the end. In no way the schedule changes either it rains badly or intense heat is there.

All wake up early in the morning and after attending muster fall-in (morning roll-call) proceed to attend their outdoor training i.e. grueling PT/Drill. After PT/Drill cadets comes back to his squadron, takes bath, changes clothes, goes for breakfast and rushes to attend classes all within minutes. Time is very important and cadets have to reach on time irrespective of whether they have taken breakfast or not and how far the class is.

There is also a games period where you play games like football, hockey,basketball. In army sports play an important role and you have to play games. If you don’t know any game then you will learn there. After dinner seniors escort weak cadets for PT or ask them to do any other work. After lights out no body is supposed to be outside of his cabin.

Similar to other colleges, exams are held at NDA at regular intervals. To improve your endurance various exercises and long run backs with full battle load are held, in which you navigate and compete with other squadrons for a distance of 40-60kms.

NDA is very strict for the discipline and tough punishments are awarded to the defaulters. You will be so busy in your training that you will not get time for yourself. In NDA you will not feel bored as number of events are held at regular intervals such as quiz, debate, x-country, boxing, athletics, etc and in spite of heavy schedule cadets are allowed to watch English and latest Hindi movies.

Cadets are asked to join clubs where you can explore yourself and learn new things. Outdoor clubs include archery, astronomy, golf, automotive, martial arts, aero-modelling, trekking, rock climbing, shooting, sailing, parasailing, paragliding, water skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, rowing, gardening, skating, etc. Indoor clubs include arts, classical music, dramatics, media, western music, literature, yoga, public speaking, artificial intelligence, robotics, and 10m shooting.

Most of a cadet’s training constitutes of events that an average jawan undergoes. This is kept intentionally so that an officer can understand jawan’s mental & physical attributes and at the end of their tenure at academy they are in a position to command them efficiently.

The pace of training at the Academy is fast and intense and the time flies. During his short stay in the academy, a cadet learns to live his life with more passion. Days spent in the academy are golden moments of the life. No two days in academy are the same, and every day throws up a new challenge, a new experience.

Got a Question? Leave a comment via Facebook...

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mdbappa March 11, 2015 at 3:39 am

i join the indian army


mdbappa March 11, 2015 at 3:43 am

I am Passing class 12th. Date of Brith 20. 10. 1992. How to join the Indian Army.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: