List of military special forces units

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This is a list of active military special forces units. Several NATO documents use the term special forces.


NATO Allied Joint Publication (AJP) 3.5 defines special operations as "Special operations are military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment. These activities may be conducted across the full range of military operations, independently or with conventional forces, to help achieve the desired end-state. Politico-military considerations may require clandestine or covert techniques and the acceptance of a degree of political or military risk not associated with operations by conventional forces. Special Operations deliver strategic or operational-level results or are executed where significant political risk exists.'

The NATO-Russia Glossary of Contemporary Political and Military Terms does not contain any definition for special forces. It does have a definition for "special operations forces" and "special operations force":[1]

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.

special-operations force
Designated special groups of selected servicemen which provide NATO with unique capabilities of special reconnaissance, direct action and military assistance in order to undertake difficult, dangerous and sometimes politically sensitive missions for the theatre commander.

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

Other potential sources of a good definition for special forces or special operations forces include the Department of Defense Dictionary (Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms) and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron memoir No Room for Error by Col. John T. Carney, and Benjamin F. Schemmer.

For other units, see:

Afghanistan Afghanistan

Afghan National Army Special Operations Command[2]

Angola Angola

Angolan Armed Forces
  • Special Forces Brigade — reported 2007, located at Cabo Ledo region, northern Bengo Province.[5]

Armenia Armenia

Armenian Army
  • one spetsnaz regiment (Source IISS).[6] A special forces presence was reported in the Russian-language internet at Nubarashen district, part of Yerevan, in 2012.[7]

Australia Australia

Special Operations Command[8]

Austria Austria

Austrian Army

Belarus Belarus

Armed Forces of Belarus

Belgium Belgium

Belgian Land Component

Botswana Botswana

Brazil Brazil

Brazilian Army
Brazilian Air Force
Brazilian Navy

Brunei Brunei


Canada Canada

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

Chile Chile

China China

People's Liberation Army Marine Corps[28]
  • Special Operations Battalion
  • Special Forces Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion
People's Liberation Army Ground Force

Democratic Republic of the CongoCongo Democratic Republic of

  • 391st Commando battalion URR[30]

Czech Republic Czech Republic

Army of the Czech Republic (ACR)

Denmark Denmark

A brief from the Royal Danish Defence College listed two Danish special operations units:[32]

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.[35] 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

Estonia Estonia

Ethiopia Ethiopia

  • Agazi Commando Division[37]
  • 205th/206th Commando Brigade
  • Anti-Terrorism Battalion
  • ESOF(400 men detachment)

Finland Finland

Finnish Army
Finnish Navy
  • Special Action Detachment (Finnish: Erikoistoimintaosasto) of Coastal Brigade[38]

The conscript-training units Parachute Jaeger Company (Finnish: Laskuvarjojääkärikomppania) of Utti Jaeger Regiment,[39] the Diver School (Finnish: Sukeltajakoulu) of the Coastal Brigade[40] and the Special Border Jaeger Company (Finnish: Erikoisrajajääkärikomppania) of the Finnish Border Guard Border and Coast Guard School[41] are called in common parlance special forces. While they are volunteer-only, they are not standing professional formations like the others mentioned, but units training conscripts to serve as reservists in special operations forces during a crisis.[42]

Thus, some official Finnish Defence Forces sources[43] state that the only special forces in Finland are the Special Jaeger Company and the Special Action Detachment.

France France

Special Operations Command

Gabon Gabon

  • Commandos Fusiliers Marins (COFUSMA)
  • Presidential Guard Unit[citation needed]

Georgia (country) Georgia

Georgian Army
  • Special Operations Brigade[45]
    • 1st Special Operations Group
    • Naval Group Special Operations
    • Iverioni Mountain-Reconnaissance Battalion
    • Support-Maintenance Battalion

Germany Germany

German Army
German Navy
German Air Force

Greece Greece

Hellenic Army

Hungary Hungary

  • HDF 34th ’László Bercsényi’ Special Operations Battalion[49]
  • HDF 25/88th Light Mixed Battalion[50]
  • HDF 5/24th 'Gergely Bornemissza' Reconnaissance Battalion[51]

India India

Indian Army
Indian Navy
Indian Air Force

Indonesia Indonesia

Indonesian Army
Indonesian Navy

Iraq Iraq

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.[59]

Republic of Ireland Ireland

Irish Army

Iran Iran

Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC)

Israel Israel

See also: Sayeret
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Army
Israeli Navy

Italy Italy

Italian Army
Italian Navy
Italian Air Force


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

Jordan Jordan

Joint Special Operations Command
  • 61st Special Reconnaissance Battalion[72]

Kenya Kenya

  • One Army special operations battalion (IISS 2013)

Kuwait Kuwait

  • One special forces unit (forming) (IISS Military Balance 2013)

Malaysia Malaysia

Malaysian Army
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Royal Malaysian Navy

Namibia Namibia

Netherlands Netherlands

Netherlands Army
Netherlands Navy

New Zealand New Zealand

Special Operations Command

Nigeria Nigeria

Norway Norway

Pakistan Pakistan

Pakistan Army
  • Special Service Group (SSG)
  • Special Response Force (SRF) was created in April 2012 to strengthen the security of strategic nuclear assets.[89]
Pakistan Navy
Pakistan Air Force

Philippines Philippines

Philippine Air Force
Philippine Army Special Operations Command
Philippine Marine Corps
Philippine Navy

Poland Poland

[96] [97][98] [99] [100]

Portugal Portugal

Portuguese Army
Portuguese Navy
Portuguese Air Force

Romania Romania

Ministry of Defense

Russia Russia

Main article: Spetsnaz
Special Operations Forces, subordinate directly to the MoD[106][107]
  • Special Operations Command (KSO)[108]
Russian Ground Forces[110]
Russian Airborne Troops[111]
Russian Navy[112]
Foreign Intelligence Service[113][114][115][116]
  • Special Operations Department of Directorate S (Zaslon)

South Korea Republic of Korea

Republic of Korea Army
  • Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command[117]
    • 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 Forces Brigade (Black Panther)
    • 707th Special Mission Battalion (White Tiger)
Republic of Korea Navy[118]
Republic of Korea Air Force[119]
  • Combat Control Team (CCT)
  • 6th Search and Rescue Group

Serbia Serbia

Serbian Armed Forces

Slovakia Slovakia

Military of Slovakia

South Africa South Africa

South African National Defence Force

Spain Spain

Defence Staff (Joint Operations Command)
Spanish Army
Spanish Navy
Spanish Air Force
  • Airborne Combat Parachute Engineers Squadron (Escuadrón de Zapadores Paracaidistas (EZAPAC))[125]

Sweden Sweden

Swedish Armed Forces

Switzerland Switzerland

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)

Turkey Turkey

Ukraine Ukraine

  • Ministry of Internal Affairs units:[130]
    • Omega: Stationed in Kyiv the unit has been active in the 2014 War in Donbass. Designed to combat terrorism, often works along with Vega special forces unit.
    • Scorpion: Specializes in the defense of Ukraine's nuclear facilities
    • Falcon: Stationed in Kyiv and designed to battle organized crime
    • Griffin: Tasked with protecting courts, ensure the safety of judges
    • Jaguar: Regiment tasked with stopping hooliganism, cease riots, suppressing riots in prisons.
    • Titan: Ensuring the safety of foreign deputies, investigating fraud and counter-fitting rings.
    • Vega: Combat terrorism, works closely with the Omega unit.
  • Ministry of Defense Units:
  • Security Service of Ukraine

United Kingdom United Kingdom

United States United States

Venezuela Venezuela

Venezuelan Air Force
  • Special Operations Air Group 10[143]
  • Special Operations Air Group 15[143]
  • Special Operations Air Group 17[143]

Vietnam Vietnam

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),[144] including:
    • Land commando (Đặc công bộ)[145]
    • Naval commando (Đặc công nước or Đặc nhiệm Hải quân)[146]
    • Airborne commando (Đặc công dù)[147]
  • Special reconnaissance (Trinh sát Đặc nhiệm): the reconnaissance force is not a separate branch, every armed branch has a reconnaissance team.[148]

Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

Non-combat special units

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.


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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External links