List of military special forces units

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This is a list of active military units, known as special forces or special operations forces (SOF), that are specially organised, trained and equipped to conduct special operations.

These are distinct from special-purpose infantry units such as the Royal Marine Commandos.

Definition[edit]

NATO currently defines "special operation" as;

special operations military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment.[1][2]

In 2001, NATO agreed to definitions with Russia defining special operations and special operations forces:-[3]

special operations military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained and equipped forces using operational techniques and modes of employment not standard to conventional forces. These activities are conducted across the full range of military operations independently or in coordination with operations of conventional forces to achieve political, military, psychological and economic objectives. Politico-military considerations may require clandestine, covert or discreet techniques and the acceptance of a degree of physical and political risk not associated with conventional operations.[4]

special-operations forces strategic formations and units of the armed forces, whose role is to conduct sabotage, reconnaissance, subversive and other special operations on the territory of foreign countries. In wartime they may also be assigned tasks such as intelligence-gathering, the seizure or destruction of key installations, the conduct of psychological operations or the organization of insurgencies in the enemy's rear area. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have separate special-operations forces brigades, battalions and companies which are integrated with the intelligence assets of military districts, fronts, fleets, armies or corps.[4]

The United States definition of special operations is:-

special operations operations requiring unique modes of employment, tactical techniques, equipment and training often conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments and characterized by one or more of the following: time sensitive, clandestine, low visibility, conducted with and/or through indigenous forces, requiring regional expertise, and/or a high degree of risk.[5]

The Canadian definition of special operations forces is:-

special operation forces organizations containing specially trained personnel that are organized, equipped and trained to conduct high-risk, high value, special operations to achieve military, political, economic, or international objectives by using special and unique operational methodologies in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive area to achieve desired tactical operational, and/or strategic effects in times of peace, conflict, or war.[6][7]

Afghanistan Afghanistan[edit]

Afghan National Army Special Operations Command[8]

Albania Albania[edit]

Albanian Armed Forces

Algeria Algeria[edit]

Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité

Angola Angola[edit]

Angolan Armed Forces
  • Special Forces Brigade (BRIFE) — reported 2007, located at Cabo Ledo region, northern Bengo Province.[14]

Argentina Argentina[edit]

Argentine Army[15]
Argentine Navy

Armenia Armenia[edit]

Armenian Army

Australia Australia[edit]

Special Operations Command (Army)[19]
Royal Australian Air Force

Austria Austria[edit]

Austrian Army
  • Jagdkommando[22][23]
    • 1st Special Operations Task Group
    • 2nd Special Operations Task Group
    • 3rd Special Operations Task Group (Reserve)

Azerbaijan Azerbaijan[edit]

Azerbaijani Armed Forces

Bangladesh Bangladesh[edit]

Bangladesh Army
Bangladesh Navy

Belarus Belarus[edit]

Armed Forces of Belarus

Belgium Belgium[edit]

Belgian Land Component

Botswana Botswana[edit]

Brazil Brazil[edit]

Brazilian Army
Brazilian Air Force
  • Airborne Rescue Squadron (Para-SAR) - (Esquadrão Aeroterrestre de Salvamento)[30]
  • Dagger Platoon - (Pelotão Punhal)[31]
  • Special Operations Platoon (Pelopes): One for each infantry unit - (Pelotão de Operações Especiais)
Brazilian Navy

Brunei Brunei[edit]

Bulgaria Bulgaria[edit]

Cambodia Cambodia[edit]

Canada Canada[edit]

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command[39]

Chile Chile[edit]

China China[edit]

People's Liberation Army Marine Corps[46]
  • Special Operations Battalion
  • Special Forces Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion
People's Liberation Army Ground Force

Democratic Republic of the CongoCongo, Democratic Republic of[edit]

  • 391st Commando battalion URR[48]

Croatia Croatia[edit]

Special Operations Command (Croatia)

Czech Republic Czech Republic[edit]

Army of the Czech Republic (ACR)

Denmark Denmark[edit]

Special Operations Command (Danish
Specialoperationskommandoen) (SOKOM)
Danish Home Guard

Two other Danish units have some claim to special forces status. The Danish Home Guard's Special Support and Reconnaissance Company is capable of behind-the-lines stay-behind reconnaissance, similar to the Cold War role of the British 21 and 23 SAS Regiments.[52] The Royal Danish Navy also maintains a unique ski patrol unit that conducts dog patrols of Greenland throughout the year. This unit, the Sirius Patrol, maintains a combat capability.

Egypt Egypt[edit]

Sa'ka Forces Thunderbolt Forces

Estonia Estonia[edit]

Estonian Special Operations Force (ESTSOF)
  • Special Operations Task Group

Ethiopia Ethiopia[edit]

  • Agazi Commando Division[53]
    • 205th/206th Commando Brigade
      • Anti-Terrorism Battalion
        • ESOF(400 men detachment)

Finland Finland[edit]

Finnish Army
Finnish Navy
  • Special Action Detachment (Finnish: Erikoistoimintaosasto) of Coastal Brigade[54]

France France[edit]

Special Operations Command
Directorate-General for External Security
  • Action Division
    • Paratrooper Specialised Training Centre in Cercottes for clandestine operations
    • Paratrooper Specialised Instruction Centre in Perpignan for commandos
    • Paratrooper Training Centre for Maritime Operations in Quelern for combat divers

Gabon Gabon[edit]

Georgia (country) Georgia[edit]

Georgian Army

Germany Germany[edit]

German Army
German Air Force
German Navy

Greece Greece[edit]

Hellenic Army

Hungary Hungary[edit]

India India[edit]

Research and Analysis Wing
Indian Army
Indian Navy
Indian Air Force

Indonesia Indonesia[edit]

Indonesian Army
Indonesian Navy
Indonesian Air Force

Iran Iran[edit]

65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade (Persian: تیپ ۶۵ نیروهای ویژه هوابرد) (or the 65th NOHED Brigade (تیپ ۶۵ نوهد))

Iraq Iraq[edit]

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Bureau (CTB)[79]
  • Iraqi Counter Terrorism Command

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Bureau reports to the Prime Minister directly. The Iraqi CTB oversees the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Command, a formation that includes all Iraqi Special Operations Forces (two brigades, according to the IISS 2013). As of 30 June 2009, there had been legislation in progress for a year to make the Iraqi CTB a separate ministry.[80]

Republic of Ireland Ireland[edit]

Irish Army

Israel Israel[edit]

Military Intelligence Directorate
Israeli Army
  • 89th "Oz" Brigade
    • Unit 212 - Maglan – a commando unit which specializes in operating behind enemy lines[82]
    • Unit 217 - Duvdevan – undercover operations unit operating in the West Bank
    • Unit 621 - Egoz – counter-guerrilla unit, originally for operating in southern Lebanon
Israeli Navy
Israeli Air Force

Italy Italy[edit]

Italian Army
Italian Navy
Italian Air Force
Carabinieri

Japan Japan[edit]

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

Jordan Jordan[edit]

Joint Special Operations Command

Kenya Kenya[edit]

North Korea Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North Korea)[edit]

Korean People's Army Special Operation Force
  • Airborne
  • Reconnaissance Brigades
  • Light Infantry
  • Maritime SOF
Korean People's Army

South Korea Korea, Republic of (South Korea)[edit]

Republic of Korea Army
  • Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command[92]
    • 1st Special Forces Brigade (Eagle)
    • 3rd Special Forces Brigade (Flying Tiger)
    • Oversea Deployment Group (Whole World) (Formerly 5th Special Mission Group 'Black Dragon')
    • 7th Special Forces Brigade (Pegasus)
    • 9th Special Forces Brigade (Ghost)
    • 11th Special Forces Brigade (Golden Bat)
    • 13th Special Mission Brigade 'Black Panther' - reorganized as the "decapitation unit" as of 2017
    • 707th Special Mission Battalion (White Tiger)
Republic of Korea Navy[93]
Republic of Korea Air Force[94]
  • Combat Control Team (CCT)
  • 6th Search and Rescue Group
    • 233rd Rescue Battalion
    • 235th Rescue Battalion

Kuwait Kuwait[edit]

Latvia Latvia[edit]

Latvian National Armed Forces

Lebanon Lebanon[edit]

Lebanese Special Operations Command[95]

Lithuania Lithuania[edit]

Republic of Macedonia Macedonia, Republic of[edit]

Army of the Republic of Macedonia
  • Special Force Battalion ("Wolves")[96]

Malaysia Malaysia[edit]

Malaysian Army
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Royal Malaysian Navy

Maldives Maldives[edit]

Maldives National Defence Force

Mexico Mexico[edit]

Namibia Namibia[edit]

Netherlands Netherlands[edit]

Netherlands Army
Netherlands Navy

New Zealand New Zealand[edit]

Special Operations Command

Nigeria Nigeria[edit]

Nigerian Navy
  • Special Boat Service[111]

Norway Norway[edit]

Norwegian Special Operation Forces (NORSOF) (Norwegian
Forsvarets Spesialstyrker)[112]

Oman Oman[edit]

Pakistan Pakistan[edit]

Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Army
Pakistan Navy

Paraguay Paraguay[edit]

Paraguayan Armed Force
  • Special Forces Battalion - (Batallón Conjunto de Fuerzas Especiales)[citation needed]
    • Special Troops of Army - (Tropas Especiales del Ejército)
    • Amphibious Commandos of Navy - (Comandos Anfibios de la Armada)
    • Commando Company of Air Force - (Comandos de la Fuerza Aérea)

Philippines Philippines[edit]

Special Operations Command (Philippines)

Poland Poland[edit]

Special forces of Poland[121][122][123][124][125]

Portugal Portugal[edit]

Portuguese Army
Portuguese Navy

Romania Romania[edit]

Ministry of Defense

Russia Russia[edit]

Special Operations Forces Command (Russian: командование сил специальных операций, (KCCO), tr. Komandovanie sil spetsial’nalnykh operatsii, (KSSO))[131]
  • Special Operations Forces (Russian: Силы специальных операций, (ССО), tr. Sily spetsial’nykh operatsii, (SSO))[131]
    • Special Purpose Center "Senezh"
    • Special Purpose Center "Kubinka-2"
Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)
Counteraction Underwater Diversionary Forces and Facilities (PDSS)

Serbia Serbia[edit]

Singapore Singapore[edit]

Special Operations Task Force

Slovakia Slovakia[edit]

Slovak Armed Forces

South Africa South Africa[edit]

South African National Defence Force

Spain Spain[edit]

Defence Staff (Joint Operations Command)
Spanish Army
Spanish Navy
Spanish Air Force
  • Airborne Combat Parachute Engineers Squadron (Escuadrón de Zapadores Paracaidistas (EZAPAC))[140]

Sri Lanka Sri Lanka[edit]

Sri Lanka Army

Sri Lanka Navy

Sri Lanka Air Force

Sweden Sweden[edit]

Swedish Armed Forces
Swedish Army
Swedish Royal Navy

Switzerland Switzerland[edit]

Swiss Army

Kommando Spezialkräfte KSK (Special Forces Command)

Professional units

Militia units

  • Grenadier Battalion 20
  • Grenadier Battalion 30
  • Grenadier Battalion 40 (Reserve)
  • Fallschirmaufklärer Kompanie 17 (Parachute Reconnaissance Company 17)

Syria Syria[edit]

Special Forces Command [146]

Thailand Thailand[edit]

Royal Thai Army
  • Special Warfare Command - (Thai: หน่วยบัญชาการสงครามพิเศษ)[149]
    • Task Force 90 - (Thai: ฉก.90 กองปฏิบัติการพิเศษ).[150] Part of 3rd Special Forces Regiment - (Thai: กรมรบพิเศษที่3) (รพ.ศ. 3พัน4)[151]
Royal Thai Navy
Royal Thai Air Force
  • Special Operations Regiment - (Thai: กรมปฏิบัติการพิเศษ กองทัพอากาศ)[153]

Turkey Turkey[edit]

Combined Arms
Turkish Naval Forces[155][156]
Turkish Air Force[157]

Ukraine Ukraine[edit]

Ministry of Defense Units

The Special Operations Forces are one of the five branches of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with headquarters in Kyiv.

Security Service of Ukraine

United Kingdom United Kingdom[edit]

British Army
Royal Air Force/British Army
Royal Navy

United States United States[edit]

Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)[180]
Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC)[180]
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)[180]
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC)[180]

Venezuela Venezuela[edit]

Venezuelan Air Force
  • Special Operations Air Group 10[183]
  • Special Operations Air Group 15[183]
  • Special Operations Air Group 17[183]

Vietnam Vietnam[edit]

Under the General Staff of the Vietnam People's Army (Bộ Tổng Tham mưu Quân đội Nhân dân Việt Nam)

  • Commando (Binh chủng Đặc công),[184] including:
    • Land commando (Đặc công bộ)[185]
    • Naval commando (Đặc công nước or Đặc nhiệm Hải quân)[186]
    • Airborne commando (Đặc công dù)[187]
  • Special reconnaissance (Trinh sát Đặc nhiệm): the reconnaissance force is not a separate branch, every armed branch has a reconnaissance team.[188]

Zimbabwe Zimbabwe[edit]

See also[edit]

Non-combat special units[edit]

While the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group is a relatively overt unit, references to the JSOC units below are rare. Possibly the only authoritative source is Ambinder, Marc, and D. B. Grady The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army, John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Lists of similar military units[edit]

References[edit]

Miscellaneous Notes
  1. ^ The Japanese Special Forces Group is the current name of the former Japanese Special Operations Group, following a name change.
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