Action heroes are common in Hollywood, hunky men and hot babes seeing off baddies and putting the world to rights. It looks like exciting work but has very little in common with the real work done by elite armed forces around the world. From one devil daring death defying special force unit to another super charged elite commando, we take a look at the world’s most ferocious special forces. Get ready to be blown away by these awesome military units.
Put together during World War II, a war in which the distinction between good and bad was easy to make ,the British SAS (or Special Air Service) began as a regiment in 1941 and through the years has cemented it’s reputation as a force to be reckoned with. Today the unit is essential for dealing with terrorisism worldwide. Only the hardest fighters allowed here, surely with some hefty health insurance too!
Members must go through rigorous training in the jungle to make the final cut, typically only about 15% make it through to the end.
Israeli Shayetet 13
A commando unit made of elite soldiers from the Israeli Navy, the Shayetet 13 is the Israeli Defence Force’s main special commando unit. Highly secretive, there is little information about these guys. Masters of the Israeli martial art, Krav Maga, to be a part of the Shaytet 13 you must sign up for four action packed years.
All year round, no matter the weather, they are up at 4am to start the day’s training with a swim in the sea. You have to be made of seriously tough stuff to become a member of this commando.
Pakistan Special Service Group
Established in 1956, the Pakistan Special Service Group is the Pakistan army’s elite fighting unit, their training methods derived mainly from those of the US Special Forces ( a unit we’ll cover more of later). Formed of eight separate battalions and based in Tarbela Cantonment, the main focus right now for the Pakistan SSG is to fight back against regional Al Qaeda and Islamic State forces.
In December 2014, a special team of SSG and light commandos tracked down and killed the Global Operations Chief of al-Qaeda Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumahalong in Pakistan's South Waziristan.
It’s doubtful you could find more of an apt name for this special unit than Jagdkommando, as it literally translates as ‘Hunting Force’. Thwarting terrorism might be this well-drilled force’s specialty but that only tells half the story, as they are adaptable to whatever the task calls for. No more than 20% of those who begin the training make it through to the end as it takes a special type to withstand the intensity required to join this elite unit.
To become a member, candidates must go through the notorious sere training course which takes place partly in the Austrian Alps. Surely not a fun skiing trip!
Taiwan Republic of China Armed Forces
Founded in 1924 and combining the Army, Police, Navy and Air Force this unit was notably assigned to reclaim all mainland China back from the People’s Republic of China back in the 1970s. Maintaining the safety of China’s vast and tenable cities would be a much harder task without these soldiers watching over them.
It’s current most important task is the protection of the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu from a possible invasion by the People’s Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China (PRC), due to the ongoing dispute over Taiwan’s political status.
Peruvian Armed Forces
Active since 1821 and famous for their camouflaged faces, the Peruvian Armed Forces are linked to the Ministry of Defense and report straight to the Peruvian President. Acting as the military services of Peru, the Fuerzas Armadas del Perú combines the Air Force, Army, Navy and Joint Command.
Headquartered in Lima, as well as being assigned with safeguarding the country from any threat they also take part in the country’s social and economic development.
If you need a job done that nobody else can manage, then the JTF2 are the ones you call upon. From their base on the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario this highly skilled special force respond to a dizzying variety of threats, all the way from counter terrorism to nuclear warfare. As the Canadian government is super secretive about their special forces, there is not much information about them. What’s for sure is that health insurance is at a premium!
Following the September 11 attacks, they were sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in the war on terror. Reportedly, a mission so secretive it was even kept hidden from the Canadian Prime Minister!
US Delta Force
One of the most significant elements of the United States army and also referred to as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta is the US Delta Force. Extremely secretive, this unit is assigned global influencing tasks which us regular joes have no idea about. Formed in 1977 and similar to the work of the British SAS, the US Delta Force is a highly qualified unit adept at hostage and rescue missions and utilized regularly around the world for counter terrorism operations.
To be selected for this unit members must go through rigorous physical and mental tests, resulting in roughly 1 out 10 making it through the whole process.
One of the most highly regarded special forces units in the world, you could probably power a whole city’s electrical grid with only the commitment needed to make it into the German KSK. Training is so meticulous, that to make the cut you have to pass courses in seventeen different schools worldwide. If you’re gonna make your living serving this unit, it really is advisable to top up on your health insurance!
Initially only officers could apply to join the unit but since 2005 ordinary civilians can apply too, although they must pass an 18 month training course before the selection process commences.
An extension of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Serbian Gendarmerie was formed in 2001. The fascinating thing about this elite force is that apart from military duties they also function as a non combatant entity and we don’t mean just taking cats down from trees. As much as performing counter terrorism measures they are adept as rescue units and first responders. It would also definitely be a bad move to rile these guys up. The Serbian Gendarmerie is made up of two units: the Special Police Unit and the Special Operations Unit.
The unit consists of roughly 2800 members. Alongside the operational detachments posted throughout Serbia, the Gendarmery also has various specialized units: the Diving Unit and the Personnel and Infrastructure Protection Unit.
Iraqi Special Operations Forces
The Iraqi special Operations Forces were first established in 2004. Also commonly known as as the Golden Division, the unit is made up of almost 18000 soldiers and is managed by the Iraqi Counter Terrorist Service. One of the unit’s main missions involved patrolling the terrifying and extremely dangerous streets of Mosul where they also had to deal with the threat of Islamic State fighters.
Created by coalition forces following the 2003 invasion, the unit became the first Iraqi force to enter Mosul during the November 2016 offensive. Following this operation, the Iraqi prime minister declared the liberation of Mosul from ISIS.
US Army Special Forces Snipers
Immortalized in film, following the release of the 2014 movie ‘American Sniper’, Chris Kyle is somewhat of a legend. He was a US Navy Seal. However, members of the US Army Special Forces Snipers are known to be some of the hardest and most fearsome fighters in the world. Even after passing all of the Special Forces Qualification Courses, to become part of this elite unit you must still participate in even harder courses. Like leopards sitting in trees biding their time, these fighters can be deployed anywhere in the world, sat patiently alone just waiting to pounce.
The Army Special Forces main objective is to train and lead unconventional warfare forces, or a covert guerrilla unit in an occupied nation. Apart from their military training they also acquire further skills such as languages and cultural knowledge relating to their specific mission.
French Commandos Marine
One of two entries from France in our top 10 and that’s not surprising as you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of these dudes. Apart from being one of the oldest special force units in the world, The French Commandoes Marine are also one of the most respected and highly skilled. Consisting of no more than 600 soldiers, they also go by the nickname of the Green Berets.
Put together in the United Kingdom during World War II, the French Commandos were initially modelled on the British Commandos. To commemorate this, the beret of the French commandos is worn to the opposite of all other French military units.
Let’s be clear, Russia is most definitely a super power and it for sure has nothing to do with (cough cough) green energy or cheap health insurance. What it might be attributed to is it’s famous military might. Generally all special forces units under the umbrella of the Russian Military are referred to as the Russian Spetsnaz.
A Russian term, Spetsnaz (meaning special) is commonly associated with the military police units of Russia, although other post-Soviet states use the term as well when referring to their military police.
Irish Army Ranger Wing
The Irish Army Ranger Wing was established in the ‘80’s when Ireland had many issues with local terrorism. Although tthis special force of hard men still kick bott when dealing with these sort of problems, they now have a wider remit. Their members come from the Irish Army, Naval Service or Air Force and are utilized in war zones all over the world either to help keep the peace or for combat purposes.
The unit's official name is Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm translated into English as “Army Ranger Wing”. The word “Fiann” closely resembles the English word “Warrior” and refers to the ancient band of warriors known as Na Fianna in Irish mythology
Never heard of these guys? No wonder. Almost no information is known about this highly secretive unit. Despite this obscurity, the Indian Marcos are a highly thought of special forces unit. Established since 1987, because of their distinctive disguises they often go by the name of the Bearded Army.
Although proficient in combat on all types of terrain, the fearsome ‘Bearded Army’ are experts in amphibious warfare.
French Special Forces
Formed in 1992 following the end of the first Gulf War, the French Special Forces have a lot on their plate theses days as they are at the forefront of fighting terrorism at home and in the rest of Europe. Often the first to respond when acts of terror occur, the French Special Forces are constantly lert, highly skilled and extremely versatile.
On top of the various operational units, the French Special Forces also keeps support staff, a research and development branch, and a large group of reservists who specialize in conducting civil affairs operations.
US Navy Seals
With their rallying cry of ‘Sea, Air and Land’, their hardcore training and fearsome international reputation, the US Navy Seal are certainly deserving to be on our list. Sent by their government on all types of missions all over the world, wherever the US Navy Seals go they are certain to get the job done.
The roots of today’s Navy Seals can be traced back to 1942 during World War II, when the US Navy realised it needed a special force to survey and maintain positions on beaches before the assault on the designated.
Turkish Maroon Berets
During the 2004 Special Forces Competition, the Turkish Maroon Berets surprised everyone and beat the US Delta Force to come first. Additionally, they managed to defuse a bomb in 8 seconds, which the Delta Force could only do in 14 seconds. Although it takes 3.5 years of rigorous training to become a part of the MB, any member can be deemed unsuitable and at any moment removed from the unit.
All Maroon Berets members are recruited from high-rank Army officers who volunteer to join. With at least served 3 years as an Army soldier these are some awesome fighters indeed.
Taking its cue from the same page as the British SAS, The Australian Special Air Service Regiment received some unwanted attention in 2016 due to the actions of some of it’s members in Afghanistan after allegations of torture surfaced which claimed some operatives cut some rebels hands off. The SASR are still in Afghansitan, working with other Special Forces, performing intelligence activites.
Considered to have the most demanding entry test in the Austarlian Army and often left to their own devices in extremely harsh environments, these guys are certainly no cuddly Kangaroos.
The natural heir to the infamous KGB and causing ripples of fear among Russian civilians, Russia’s Federal Security Force is no run of the mill special fighting unit. Ranging in activities from border control and foreign intelligence to anti terrorism and phone tapping. Since 2006 their remit has come to include the assassination of targets overseas should the all powerful President Putin give the go ahead.
Having been accused of intimidating foreign diplomats and journalists with the use of all kinds of psychological techniques, if you are a budding diplomat you might want to ask to be stationed elsewhere!
Israel’s “Mistarvim” – Duvdevan
Infamous for carrying out dangerous covert operations deep in enemy territory while disguised as local Arabs, Duvdevan’s mistarvim unit go about their business unnoticed until the final moment when they swoop in and catch their target off guard. With strong support waiting in the wings, once the mistarvim reveal themselves they are swiftly joined by their back up force.
Members go through intense training and are schooled not only in urban warfare but also must become fluent in Arabic and masters of disguise so as to blend naturally into the environment.
Cast in the same mould as distinguished forces such as the British SAS and the US Navy Seals, Poland’s counter terrorism unit Grom have become a force to be reckoned with, having played an important role in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the fight against ISIS. Multi skilled, Grom’s assignments include fighting terrorism, hostage rescuing both from buildings and vehicles and backing up other forces when required.
Due to their ability to perform precise covert operations and their extensive medical training, Grom members have acquired the nickname of the Surgeons.
South Africa’s Special Task Force
Skilled like an elite military unit, South Africa’s Special Task Force is actually a specialized police unit. They are on our list due to their defiant “action first, questions later’ school of thought. Adept at various jobs such as catching armed robbers, dealing with hostage situations and masters of all terrains, these dare devils are called into action when a task is deemed to risky for the regular police force.
Since 2004 with the implementation of affirmative action policy, female members have also joined it’s ranks.
Estonina’s Special Forces (ESTSOF)
Although the Estonian Special Forces is a relatively new unit although they have already developed a strong reputation due to their alertness and military skills. Only those cut out for training in below zero temperatures, sleeping for only 2 hours a night and sniper training which goes on for days on end should get themselves involved with this unit. As is de rigueur with units such as these, it is unknown how many operatives are on the books.
The main remit for this unit is to develop skills to deal with unconventional warfare.
Set up to deal with a wide variety of situations, from small to large scale operations and boasting one of the biggest special force units in the world, Brazil’s Special Operations Command is different to most other anti terror groups. Tasked with keeping the public safe during Brazil’s hosting of 2016’s FIFA Soccer World Cup, their remit included dealing with any terror attacks during the tournament.
The SOC’s party trick is in dealing with guerrilla groups as they use methods to dismantle them by absorbing them into the main army.
Tasked with keeping G7 attendees safe during the Italian Presidency in May, Italy’s Leatherheads (actual full name is Gruppo di Intervento Speciale or a little simpler, GIS) consist of only 150 members, of which only it’s leader, Commander Alfa is permitted to address the public. They begun life as a police unit but were promoted in 2004.
The unit’s main protagonist is it’s head figure, Commander Alfa, who has written books about the unit detailing it’s operations and what it means to be part of an elite force.
South Korea’s White Tigers
Due to the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, South Korea made certain such an event would be avoided at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by forming their own anti terror group. Covering a wide array of duties, the White Tigers have a personnel of around 200 members and accept into their ranks both men and women.
Tasked with conducting urban counter terrorist missions, they are also first on the scene when responding to emergency situations.
Netherland’s Korps Commandotroepen
With their slogan of ‘Now or Never!” indicating that there’s no messing with these guys and their skill for operating globally whatever the conditions, you would have to be a very brave wanna be terrorist to take on the Netherland’s Korps Commandotoepen. Pros at working covertly behind enemy line and masters at sabotage, they also provide humanitarian aid when required.
The unit’s roots go back to World War II. From the offset its mission has been to deal with tasks considered too complex and dangerous for the regular army.
Belgium’s Special Forces
Deployed all over the world, from Kosovo to Somalia, to Bosnia to Zaire, Belgium’s Special Forces spread their net far and wide. Only after serving three years in the military can you apply to be a part of this special unit. Training is extremely rigorous including a 100km map reading task to be completed in no more than 48 hours.
Training as an Operator of the Special Forces is an ongoing process. It’s members are always involved with the honing of their skills and the development of new ones.
USA’s Green Berets
With Mission including counter terrorism, direct action, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance and unconventional warfare, the Green Berets tentacles strech far and wide. Nicknamed the ‘Snake Eaters’, they were formed during World War II and have been kicking butt ever since. Slithering their way across the globe, these snakes might need some anti human bite medicine!
Members form tight bonds with one another and their camaraderie is unique, as many of the force’s missions demand that the members rely heavily on each other for support.
Romania’s Special Forces
While this elite unit is relatively new due to being established only in 2009, don’t make the mistake assuming this fearsome group aren’t the finished article. Stationed in Afghanistan amongst other special forces, they are certainly the real thing as their infinite training regime testifies.
In Afghanistan they are tasked with supporting, advising and training the Afghan police special forces.
A tiny unit which members no more than 100, Mexico’s GAFE work closely with their American peers and are widely regarded as experts at counter terrorism. Reporting directly to the Secretary of National Defense, they also boast an amphibious force that supports the army with protecting Mexico’s extensive coastline.
Operating since 1986, their motto is Todo por Mexico which translates as ‘Everything for Mexico’.
Norway’s Forsvarets Spesialkommando
Norway’s Forsvarets Spesialkommando managed to remain a tightly kept secret until November 1994 when they were revealed to be the force behind the thwarting of an attempted airplane hijacking by a local Norwegian. More recent activities include involvement in the war in Syria, where they were tasked with destroying the Syrian government’s chemical weapon arsenal.
The selection process for the unit lasts three weeks and includes intense physical and mental exercises with hardly any food or sleep. Only a select few of those who enter the course make it to the end.
South Africa’s Recces
Nicknamed ‘Recces” due to being reconnaissance commandos and armed with the slogan of “We fear naught but God” are the South African Special Forces. Apart from tasked with tracking down criminals and terrorists both locally and across the globe, it is a little known fact that one of it’s snipers took out a target from over an incredible 2 kilometres away.
To even be considered for selection, a soldier must meet extremely high standards, after which candidates must go through what is known as ‘The Ultimate Challenge’, one of the world’s hardest Special Forces selection processes.
France’s Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (GIGN)
Known for the audacious prevention of the Air France hijacking in 1994, unsurprisingly the main brief for France’s GIGN is rescuing hostages in extremely tricky and dangerous situations. Thwarting a plan to fly into the Eiffel Tower by storming the plane and killing all four hijackers, France GIGN showed rare composure and skill to expertly carry out their plan.
Like several other special force units the GIGN formed after the Munich Olympics 1972 massacre, today the group numbers roughly 400 members.
Even if you don’t understand Spanish, Agrupon de Fuerzas Antiterroristas Urbanas has a pretty nice ring to it. Amongst other duties, the AFEUR also provides protection services for VIPS and American diplomats. Guerrilla activity has been rife in Colombia and although the AFEUR is a highly secretive unit, it is a well known fact they have been active in the war against the local militias.
Surprisingly despite the decades long problem with guerilla groups and the need for such a unit to deal with them, it was only after the Dominican embassy siege in 1980, and the Palace of Justice siege in 1985 that the unit came into being.
Nigeria’s Special Commandos
Nigeria’s notorious Special Commandos are most definitely deserving to be on our list due to their fearsome character.. Some might say that actually might be down to their ‘Shoot first, ask later’ reputation. Similar to other special forces in that there really is not much information out there about them, what we know for sure is that they have recently been spotted training with Pakistan’s SSG.
One of their main challenges is having to deal with brutal terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Denmark’s Frogman Corps
A veteran group formed in 1957, like other special force units Denmark’s Frogman Corps have trained with the British SAS. Apart from well established counter terrorism prowess, they are also tasked with dangerous search and rescue missions and regular law enforcement duties.
The basic Frogman Course last nine long months. Between 500–600 applicants begin the course each year but less than a dozen make it through to the end.
Portugal’s Special Forces
Geographically adjacent to Spain on the most Southwestern part of Europe, you would think this picturesque part of the world has little danger to deal with. But it seems that apart from combating piracy, they also deal in unconventional warfare, rescue missions and have joined the international fight against terror.
Their rallying cry of ‘Mama Sumae’ means ‘Hear we are, ready for the sacrifice’ and is taken from a Bantu tribe in Southern Africa.
Britain’s Special Boat Service
Don’t try to find out what these guys are up to as the British Army will divulge zero information about their whereabouts. Suffice to say that Britain’s Special Boat Service deal with all things maritime. Referred to as the SAS’s sea faring cousin, their motto is ‘By strength and by guile’ and their pedigree certainly merits this rallying cry.
On 12 May 2007, SBS troops stormed a Taliban compound in Helmand Province in Afghanistan and killed their senior military leader, Mullah Dadullah.
The Ghost Army of World War 2
Not operative anymore, or for that matter ever before either, The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (nicknamed the Ghost Army) are widely known as one of cleverest special forces in military history. Created to sow confusion amongst the enemy, the unit never actually existed. It’s camp made up of fake uniforms and equipment, the sound effects of military movements blasting out of loudspeakers caused the German army to attack the wrong spot and hand victory over to the allied forces.
A kept secret for more than 40 years after the war, they performed over 20 missions, their acts of trickery occuring extremely close to the frontline.
From mountainous terrains to submarines, from snowmobiles to parachutes, the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces (or the user friendly acronym of NLMARSOF) specialize in a wide array of combat skills. Their slogan of Qua Patet Orbis ( ‘As Far As The World Extends’) takes on literal meaning as they can actually be deployed anywhere in the world within 48 hours.
Founded all the way back on 10 December 1665 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Korps were the 5th European marine unit to be formed.
Formed in 1953, when the need for a multitasking unit arose, the Special Operations Command or as they are more widely known, the MJK ae Norway’s naval special force unit. Boasting expertise in a wide array of skills including hostage rescuing, covert operations, direct action, counter terrorism and arctic and swampland warfare, there’s not much these guys don’t get up to. Extremely intense training means only a select few make it through. When whittled down to 8, the remaining candidates must carry heavy weights while escaping from the enemy’s clutches. Should they get caught, they are then submitted to 36 hours of interrogation. Ouch!
Regarded to be among the top special operations forces in the world, the Marinejegerkommandoen are one of a select few to be given the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the highest unit award given by the United States to allied units.
1st Scout Rangers
More commonly known as the 1st Scout Rangers are the next gung ho gang on our list, the Philippine Army Special Operations Unit. Their extensive list of duties includes urban and anti geurilla warfare, jungle ambushes, sabotage, raids and close quarters combat. Operating out of their headquarters in Tanay Rizal, they gained international respect following their seizure of the Moro Islamic Liberation rebel camp in 2000.
Established in 1950, the unit is modeled in two legendary combat forces, American Alamo Scouts and the US Army Rangers.
Formed in 2011, the SOG (Swedish Special Operations Task Group) are definitely one of a kind in one unique aspect. Training takes place in a secret multi story compound where the walls are lined with bullet absorbing material. Take that SAS! During peacetime they train and advice foreign units but when called upon they can deal in a variety of situations such as hostage rescue missions, intelligence gathering and high profile assassinations.
It is of note that most SOG combat operations require a special set of skills which conventional forces or weapons cannot carry out, therefore the unit is of great importance to the Swedish Armed Forces.
Naval Special Warfare Command
Though they are known as Navy Seals, the Royal Thai Navy’s special unit actually refers to the animal than to it’s US counterpart. Regardless, they were actually given a hand in their establishment by the US Navy Seals. Forming a type of ‘unit within a unit’ are the Thai Navy’s Seal unit who are experts in maritime counter terrorism. Rumours abound that during tense periods along the Thai border, the Underwater Demolition Assault Unit are nosing around, busy gathering valuable information. These skills have seen them recently deployed in East Africa, hunting down pirates in Somalia.
Furthermore, the Navy Seals recently participated in the rescue of the junior football team trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system
Operating out of their headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and belonging to the Marine Corps Special Operations Battalion are Brazil’s Comandos Anfibios (COMANF). The COMANF are characterised by the phrase Um Comanf é imbatível, dois são inseparáveis e três fazem guerra" which translates from Portuguese as "One Comanf is unbeatable, two are unseparable and three wage war"). Amongst other skills this tough guys specialize in infiltration, counterintelligence, reconnaissance, mountaineering and rappelling.
Some members are sent overseas to train with other special forces such as the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, the Spanish Special Operations Command and the French GIGN.
Canadian Special Operations Regiment
Set up to provide support for Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, the roving Canadian Special Operations Unit (known as CSOR) can also be utilized anywhere at home or abroad. Par for the course, they specialize in special reconnaissance, direct action, diplomatic protection and counter terrorism.
From the same family tree as the First Special Service Force (FSSF), the Canadian-American special forces unit that operated during World War II and earned the "Devil's Brigade" moniker for its daring night raids.
Finnish Border Guard
Apart from the ability to wield power with issues regarding immigration, unsurprisingly The Finnish Rajavartiolaitos (the Finnish Border guard) are tasked with securing the country's borders. They also have further duties including maritime and search and rescues missions. Additionally, some of their equipment, such as helicopters maybe used bly local fire departments should the need arise.
Although not tasked with keeping public order under normal circumstances, the Rajavartiolaitos has two platoons that are ready to assist the Police in unexpected situations in matters of crowd control and internal security.
Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine
Formed in 1955 after Germany were accepted into NATO, the German special marines, or as they are known, the Kampfschwimmer (Combat Swimmers) are the only special force in the German Navy. The first set of recruits were made out of men with no ties to the Nazi party. Notoriously difficult to get into, recruits are required to pass strenuous physical tests to become a member of the unit. These include running 5000 metres under 24 minutes and various challenging underwater tasks. It should be noted though, that most candidates drop out during training not because of the physical hardship but rather the grueling psychological toll extracted.
During training candidates must go through what is known as "hate week" when trainees are deprived of sleep. Meanwhile, the punishing physical daily routine continues.
1st Raider/Paratrooper Brigade
This Greek elite unit is more widely known as the Raider Forces. On their uniform is the unit’s crest, a winged sword epitomizing the unit’s “deadly, silent and swift” approach. As a homage to the World War II fighters of the Free Greek Special Forces, scrolled across their insignia is the slogan “Who Dares Wins”. This deadly fighting unit carries out a wide variety of operations including though not limited to guerrilla warfare, reconnaissance, and airborne missions.
The original Free Greek Special Forces were known as the Sacred Squadron and were a precursor to today’s highly skilled unit.
Para (Special Forces)
Boasting the longest training programme in the world, the Indian Army Parachute Regiment requires three and a half grueling years to become a fully fledged member. It’s an ongoing process which stretches from basic to advanced training as trainees are taught everything from combat diving and survival skills to advance weapon courses and linguistic training. These skills will come to hand later as the unit handles a wide array of duties including direct action, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, unconventional warfare and special reconnaissance.
The commando has special ties to the United States Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom Special Forces and often perform joint training exercises.
Grup Gerak Khas
Formed in 1965, the GGK (short for 21 Gerup Gerak Khas - the 21st Special Service Group) are the Malaysian Army’s special forces unit. Their rallying cry is “Cepat Dan Cergas” which translates as “Swift and Agile”. They came to international attention between 1968 and 1989 when they successfully managed to tame the communist insurgencies in the Malay jungle.
Although they undertake a variety of missions involving guerrilla/anti-guerrilla warfare, sabotage and counter terrorism, their expertise lies in one unique skill – jungle warfare.
Japanese Special Forces Group
The SFGp (the Japanese Special Forces Group) was put together with the specific aim of deterring terrorist and guerrilla warfare on home soil. Recruits for this highly secretive unit are selected from the Japanese Airborne Brigade and their training takes place at their primary facility, the JGSDF Narashino Chiba camp. You’ll be hard pressed to see one of these guys as they hide their identities behind balaclavas and only reveal themselves once given permission by their commander.
Due to performing a similar role, the SFGp is often referred to as Japan's Delta Force. Coincidentally, their US counterpart also helped in the establishment of the Japanese unit.
Special Actions Detachment
An elite unit under the command of the Portuguese Navy, the DAE (in Portuguese they are called Destacamento de Acções Especiais) expertly deal in missions ranging from maritime counter terrorism and beach reconnaissance to combat search and rescue. Of those beginning the selection process, only 5 to 10 percent will make the grade as it is extremely difficult to make your way into this higly selective special force.
Training does not end there though, as DAE members continue to receive a number of courses throughout their service.
Sri Lanka Army Special Forces Regiment
Beginning life as a combat tracker unit in 1986, the Special Forces Regiment is one of 2 Sri Lankan Army elite forces. Don’t try to find out too much about them though, as hardly any official information has been made public about the recruitment process for this highly secretive unit. What is common knowledge is that apart from their eagle insignia epitomizing strength and bravery, it also symbolizes the unit’s capacity to zoom in and hunt down their target. Yikes!
Amongst others, their main roles are believed to be Military Intelligence, Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action and Counter Terrorism.
Headquartered on the outskirts of Izmir along the Aegean coast are the Turkish Navy’s Underwater Offence special unit (SAT). Amongst others, their remit includes special reconnaissance, gathering military intelligence,, direct action, counter terrorism and visit, board, search, and seizure missions. Having developed close ties to the US Navy Seals, it is not surprising to learn that the two share similar structural and training methods.
Recent activities include the 2011 hijacking of a small ferry named Kartepe. After negotiations failed S.A.T. commandos stormed the ferry and killed the lone hijacker and rescued all 24 hostages unharmed.
The People’s Army of Vietnam – North Vietnamese Commandos, 41st Special Forces Battalion
The People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) is from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s military force. We know it best as North Vietnam. These PAVN Special Forces are the 41st NVA Main Force Sapper Battalion. The NVA elite Sapper Battalion was so adept they infiltrated a top-secret American mountain top outpost during the Vietnam War.
What happened is, a U.S. troop battalion was stationed in Laos. It was a top-secret, illegal military camp. So secret, that for 30 years this story remained classified! Out of eighteen CIA and Air Force personnel, only six survived the North Vietnamese special forces’ sabotage. The raid went down on March 12, 1968. A nine-man Sapper commando squad backed up a 33-man platoon with guns, explosives, and rocket launchers. The U.S. troops never saw it coming.
The Italian 9th Parachutist Assault Regiment
This brazen regiment of the Italian Army was so formidable that Winston Churchill notably compared them to the apex predators of the Savannah. He said the 9th Parachutist Assault Regiment is “as fierce as lions.”
Known as the 9º Reggimento d’Assalto Paracadutisti in Italian, their motto is, “Della folgore l’impeto.” It means, literally, they are from the source of lightening. As powerful as Zeus, one can imagine. Training for the 9th Regiment takes at least two years where grueling exercises are conducted in the desert, woods, mountainous areas and wet terrains before enlistees can be full-fledged commandos. Today, the special ops forces are called the COFSI-Comando Operativo Forze Operazioni Speciali.
Poland’s Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosów (JWK)
One branch of the Polish Special Troops Command (DWS) is the JWK. Based in Lubilniec, they have a varied and wide skill set, comparable to the U.S. Army special forces like the Green Berets. Formed in 1961, it is Poland’s oldest special ops unit. Troops are trained for everything from air assault, helicopter and parachute operations to reconnaissance missions.
They are also trained for underwater and frogman attack missions. Recently the regiment provided support for NATO operations in the Kosovo conflict. Even more recently, troops deployed special reconnaissance missions in the War in Afghanistan.
Triple Canopy is a private military company based in Reston, VA. The private security and risk management company is a defense contractor that was established by former U.S. Special Forces like Rangers, SEALs, and MARSOC. Founded in Chicago, the company employs at least 5,500 former special-ops soldiers, police officers and other former military personnel. Triple Crown has provided services for government and multination agencies worldwide. Some of its clients are NGOs, oil and gas businesses, mining companies, financial organizations, and telecommunication companies.
Triple Canopy opened up shop in 2003 during the start of the War on Terror. By 2004, it had become a significant force. At the helm, are former elite special operations Delta Force soldiers.
Syria’s 14th Special Forces Division
Out of the twelve special forces regiments in the Syrian military, the 14th Special Forces Division is the most formidable. The combat-ready al-Wahdat al-Khassa has a ferocious repute in the Arab world. Its tenacious commandos were trained in Lebanon while serving in the 1980s. At that time, it boasted the strength of about 15,000 elite commandos.
Trained in airborne and air assault operations, Syria’s elite fighters also serve as a light infantry force. The 14th Special Forces Division is commanded by President Bashar al-Assad directly and is preferred by the regime for its loyalty. By order of state intelligence, this special-op unit is often deployed to crush popular dissent and neutralize ringleaders.
Canada - Royal Canadian Navy Naval Tactical Operations Group
The Royal Canadian Navy Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) is a relatively new division of maritime commandos. The specialized forces were established in 2014. It was designed for global counter-terrorism and anti-trafficking missions. The unit is trained in Maritime Interdiction Operations and Force Protection such as clandestine ship infiltration to fight ship pirating.
In April of 2019, aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) “Regina,” the NTOG successfully infiltrated a drug-ring seizing 2,600 kilograms of cannabis derivative hashish. The drug bust was part of Operation ARTEMIS, a counter-terrorism effort in Middle Eastern and East African seas. Their investigation found over a hundred bags of hashish hidden in the ship.
Italian Navy Operational Raiders Group – Comando Subacquei ed Incursori COMSUBIN
The Naval Operational Raiders Group (GOI) is a badass Italian force that invented special-ops divisions like Navy Seals way back when the SEALs were just pups. It was also the first special-ops force to use frogman techniques. COMSUBIN, Italian for Diver and Raider Command Group is an elite force that proved its chops in WWI. They were the first to use human torpedoes as well.
In WWI, astoundingly, they sunk the Austrian-Hungarian Battleship Viribus Untis, in part, by using human torpedoes. That 1918 victory brought special naval diving groups into naval forces worldwide. More recently, the group has performed specialized de-mining operations in the Persian Gulf, Albania, and the former Yugoslavia.
Serbia’s Special Brigade –72nd Reconnaissance Commando Battalion
Formed in 1992 and headquartered in Pančevo, the 72nd Reconnaissance Commando Battalion of Serbia is also known as the 72 Special Brigade. It includes a counterterrorism unit that has been called the “Hawks” Battalion. The Special Brigade primarily conducts reconnaissance and demolition missions.
Training is intensive. The commandos need to be competent in tactical, fire, and physical training. Included are martial arts, parachuting, diving, climbing, swimming, rescue, and weapons training. They use a range of weaponry from sniper rifles to grenade launchers. Armor-piercing rocket systems and silencers or suppressors are also employed.
Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade
Trained by the U.S. Army in the 1960s, the Iranian 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade holds onto at least one relic of that past. The green beret. The specialized unit conducts psychological operations, hostage rescue, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism training missions within the Islamic Republic and outside it. Nicknamed the “powerful ghosts” for once taking out two buildings near Tehran in under two hours, the formidable force operates today as advisers to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s presence in Syria.
A vigorous training regimen includes endurance and survival in environments like desert, jungle, and mountain, plus freefall training and parachute skills. It’s very similar to the Green Beret training it received when it was established in 1959 as part of the Imperial Iran Special Forces.
Syria’s 15th Special Forces Division
The 15th Specials Forces Division has the unique distinction of being identified in 2011 by Human Rights Watch. (The 14th division made the watchlist too, incidentally.) It is a branch of the Syrian Armed Forces headed by Major General Ghassan Al Yasmina and based in the As-Suwayda Governorate. Though made up of light infantry units, they are trained for special-ops missions in air assault and airborne operations.
The unit is loyal to President Assad in the Syrian Civil War. Earlier this year, a commander of the 15th Special Forces Division was assasinated. Brigadier General Jamal Al-Ahmad may have been taken out by a sleeper cell of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The Iraqi Special Operations Forces
The Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) were formed by American coalition forces after the 2003 U.S. Iraq invasion. Under the direction of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTB), the ISOF is made up of three brigades. Commando forces were recruited from Shia, Kurd and Sunni fighters. By November 2005, 1,440 men had been trained. The 1st, known as the Golden Division, has a Special Warfare Center and School.
Iraqi special operations troops were first built in the 1950s as the first royal special units of Queen Alia Forces. It was made up of Sunni and Shia Arabs and other Iraqis. They were trained for special missions inside Iraq, and abroad during times of war.
Chilean Air Force Special Forces
Chilean Special Forces consist of commando, reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and support units. The Army, Navy, and Air Force each hold a group of these four special operation teams. Within the Air Force, there is an Air Counter-Terrorism Group, an Aviation Commando unit and a Parachute Search, Rescue, and Recovery unit.
The Chilean Air Force was formed in the early 1900s by training from French forces. It’s the fourth oldest arm of the military, established 17 years before the U.S. Air Force. In 2004, private military contractor Blackwater recruited 75 Special Forces commandos to fight in Iraq.
Mercenary and private war contractor ACADEMI provides Special Operations military services to anyone. Commercial, NGO, state, federal and local governments, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies worldwide represent some of its clients. You’ll know the company best as Blackwater USA, established by ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997.
The name change came in 2011 after private investors took over. Before that, it was called Xe Services LLC, rebranded to avoid bad press earned by its heavy presence in Iraq during the Iraq War. Prince stepped down as CEO of Blackwater Worldwide in 2009. It’s got a lot of names, but it’s still the same war contractor!
Poland’s SOF Unit FORMOZA
The FORMOZA unit of the Polish Navy formed in 1975 as a Frogman division. Frogmen are military and police tactical underwater divers, trained in scuba diving and sometimes called combat divers. The FORMOZA (which means Special Forces Command), deploys special operations in times of peace, war or crisis. They perform onshore and underwater missions. In recent years, Polish forces have been building to defend against Russia’s growing threat by allying with the United Nations.
The SOF Unit FORMOZA provided reinforcement for combat missions in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. They are highly trained and well-respected in the military community.
“DynCorp International is a leading global government solutions provider in support of the U.S. and allied stability objectives.” So, DynCorp International says of its company’s objectives; a morsel of marketing found on the company’s website.
The Virginia-based firm commands a $3 billion annual revenue, almost all of it through U.S. government contracts. It supports U.S. forces worldwide. Dating back to the early 1950s, DynCorp provides aviation support, security, intelligence, and contingency ops. It also responded during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. It’s backed up military operations in Kuwait, Kosovo, Columbia, Haiti, Bolivia, Bosnia, Somalia, and Angola.
Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)
All secret intelligence missions are the responsibility of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). As Russia’s highest intelligence organization, the GRU is believed to outsize the entirety of the U.S. military’s intelligence agencies, combined!
Before 1992, the GRU and the KGB worked together to provide any and all intelligence services to the state, but now the GRU provides exclusively military intelligence. It’s so secretive that the organization of the GRU and information about its superior leaders are state secrets. As one of the world’s oldest intel agencies, it was established in 1810.
Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force (FGNE)
The Special Naval Warfare Force, English for Fuerza de Guerra Naval Especial (FGNE), is the Spanish Navy’s special forces division. Established in 2009, it incorporated the Spanish Navy’s Special Combat Divers Unit and the Special Explosive Diffusers Unit as well as the Special Operations unit from Spain’s Marines. Like the U.S. Navy SEALs, they are a formidable amphibious warfare unit. Spanish Navy and Marine elite forces conduct operations in reconnaissance, ship assaults, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, hostage release, and civil evacuation.
Whether it’s parachuting, diving or climbing, these troops are supplied and ready!
Switzerland’s Swiss Special Forces Command
Despite Switzerland’s foreign policy of military neutrality around the world, the peaceful nation hosts the Swiss Armed Forces. One branch, the Special Forces Command, known by the German term Kommando Spezialkräfte, is an infantry corps of highly trained elite Grenadier special forces.
Recruits undergo comprehensive medical and psychological tests. The 23-week training regimen is physically and psychologically rigorous. After 11 weeks, the weakest recruits are dismissed. Following the initial training, an arduous 41-week and then 56-week specialized training commence. Grenadiers have been a tradition of the Swiss military going back earlier than the 19th century.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Special Operations Forces
About 7,000 to 14,000 troops make up the Special Forces unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Deployed for commando, counterterrorism, and intelligence gathering operations, the force is reserved for rapid-response combat missions in the event of localized war in high-tech arenas. The special forces are a newer development of China’s massive military might. A flexible elite force is a divergence from past armed forces strategy.
An example of localized response missions the Special Forces unit might be deployed for is shown in the photo. It pictures Chinese Special Operatives training for possible urban warfare developments.
Belgium’s 68th Special Forces Brigade
The 68th Special Forces Brigade is one of two branches of special operation units within the Bulgarian Armed Forces. It conducts unconventional warfare under the command of the Bulgarian Armed Forces.
Its tactical and operational parachute forces have an interesting history. Bulgaria is one of the only paratroop forces in the world that developed its own parachuting unit. During WWII, Bulgaria was an ally of the Third Reich, but a less than loyal alliance caused German’s to distrust the nation. In response, German military refused to train Bulgarians in parachute tactics. The Third Reich even used Bulgarians as Guinea pigs for testing new parachute systems! One paratrooper died when he hit the ground.