Special mission unit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Tier One Special Mission Unit or Special Missions Unit (SMU) is a term sometimes used, particularly in the United States, to describe some highly secretive military special operations forces.[1] Special mission units have been involved in high-profile military operations, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden.

United States[edit]

The United States military definition in the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms comes from Joint Publication 3-05.1 – Joint Special Operations Task Force Operations (JP 3-05.1).[2] JP 3-05.1 defines a "special mission unit" as "a generic term to represent a group of operations and support personnel from designated organizations that is task-organized to perform highly classified activities."[3]

The U.S. government does not acknowledge which units specifically are designated as special missions units,[4] only that they have special mission units within the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is part of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). In the early 1990s then–Commander in Chief of SOCOM, General Carl Stiner, identified both Delta Force and SEAL Team Six as permanently assigned special mission units in congressional testimony and public statements.[5] In 1998, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter B. Slocombe publicly referred to special mission units during a briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee: "We have designated special mission units that are specifically manned, equipped and trained to deal with a wide variety of transnational threats" and "These units, assigned to or under the operational control of the U.S. Special Operations Command, are focused primarily on those special operations and supporting functions that combat terrorism and actively counter-terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). These units are on alert every day of the year and have worked extensively with their interagency counterparts."[6]

List of United States military SMU's[edit]

So far, four US military units have been publicly acknowledged as Special Mission Units:

Additional support[edit]

Units from the Army's Special Forces, 75th Ranger Regiment, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160 SOAR), and Aviation Technology Office (ATO), and the joint Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group (AvTEG) are controlled by JSOC when deployed as part of JSOC Task Forces such as Task Force 121 and Task Force 145.[22]


The Australian Army's elite Special Air Service Regiment is described as being a "special missions unit with unique capabilities within the Australian Defence Force".[23] The Regiment is a component of Australia's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD), and is tasked with conducting "sensitive strategic operations, special recovery operations, training assistance, special reconnaissance and precision strike and direct action".[23]

The SASR currently has four sabre squadrons, known as 1, 2, 3 and 4 Squadron.[24] The first three squadrons rotate through the two roles performed by the Regiment; one squadron conducts the counter terrorism/special recovery (CT/SR) role, and the remaining squadrons conduct the warfighting/reconnaissance role, while 4 Squadron is responsible for collecting intelligence and also supports the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.[25]

Notable operations[edit]

An Iraqi-American military interpreter pictured with Saddam shortly after his capture.
  • Between October 26 and 27, 2019 in Barisha, Idlib Governorate, Syria. Members of 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force) along with paramilitary officers from the CIA's Special Activities Center, Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment and aviators from the 160th SOAR conducted a raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[33] The raid was named Operation Kayla Mueller after American human rights activist and humanitarian aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was captured in Syria, tortured, and eventually killed by ISIL on February 6, 2015. Baghdadi killed himself when he detonated a suicide belt while seeking to evade the U.S. forces during the raid after reaching a dead end in a tunnel. Two Delta operators and one military working dog (Conan) were injured from Baghdadi's suicide belt but sustained no life threatening injuries.[34]


  1. ^ Roblin, Sebastien (19 October 2019). "Dream of Becoming a Navy Seal or Part of Delta Force? Here Is the Ultimate Guide to U.S. Special Forces". The National Interest.
  2. ^ Article title
  3. ^ "Joint Special Operations Task Force Operations" (PDF). 26 April 2007. p. GP-15 (Glossary page). Retrieved 2013-09-19.
  4. ^ a b c d "Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain". The Washington Post. 2005-01-23. Retrieved 2013-09-19.
  5. ^ Collins, John M. (November 1994). Special Operations Forces: An Assessment (Nov 1, 1994 ed.). Diane Publishing. pp. 69–71. ISBN 1410223140.
  6. ^ a b Eric Schmitt (2005-01-23). "Commandos Get Duty on U.S. Soil". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-19.
  7. ^ North, Oliver (2010). American Heroes in Special Operations. B&H Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8054-4712-5.
  8. ^ a b c "The most secret of secret units". The Week. 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  9. ^ a b c Neville, Leigh (2008). Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. Osprey Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-1846033100.
  10. ^ Smith, Michael (2008). Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 332. ISBN 978-0312378264. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  11. ^ "In high demand, Air Force commandos must find new ways to cope with stress of duty | www.gaffneyledger.com". Gaffney Ledger. Retrieved 2013-05-04.
  12. ^ [7][8][6][4][9][10][11]
  13. ^ a b GlobalSecurity.org JSOC entry
  14. ^ a b Rowan Scarborough (15 March 2004). "Agencies unite to find bin Laden". Washington Times. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  15. ^ [13][8][4][9][14]
  16. ^ [13][8][4][9][14]
  17. ^ "AORG-STB MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD SUBJECT: Career Opportunity in Special Mission Unit" (PDF). 2011-10-04.
  18. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (3 Sep 2010). "JSOC task force battles Haqqani militants". Army Times. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  19. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (1 March 2011). "McRaven Tapped to lead SOCOM". Army Times. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  20. ^ Priest, Dana, and William M. Arkin, "‘Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command", Washington Post, 4 September 2011.
  21. ^ McNab, Chris (2013). America's Elite: US Special Forces from the American Revolution to the Present Day. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1780962849.
  22. ^ [18][19][20][21]
  23. ^ a b "Special Air Service Regiment". Australian Army. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  24. ^ Lee (2007), p. 95.
  25. ^ Epstein, Rafael; Welch, Dylan. "Secret SAS teams hunt for terrorists". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  26. ^ "Saddam Hussein Captured". US: ABC News. January 6, 2006. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  27. ^ "Graphic: Osama bin Laden killed at compound in Pakistan". The Washington Post. 2011-05-05. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  28. ^ Thomas Gibbons-Neff (October 24, 2015). "Helmet camera footage shows joint U.S. Delta Force-Kurdish raid to rescue Islamic State hostages". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  29. ^ Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube (October 23, 2015). "Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, U.S. Commando Killed in ISIS Raid, Ran to Gunfight". nbcnews.com. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  30. ^ Jim Miklaszewski, Richard Engel and Alastair Jamieson (October 22, 2015). "U.S. Special Operations Forces Commando Killed in ISIS Hostage Rescue". nbcnews.com. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  32. ^ Katie lange (October 19, 2020). "Medal of Honor Monday: Sgt. Maj. Thomas 'Patrick' Payne". defense.gov. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  33. ^ Pompeo, Michael R. (27 October 2019). "On the Death of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi" (Press release). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  34. ^ Luis Martinez (February 4, 2020). "U.S. Special operations forces raid a compound that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi". US: ABC News. Retrieved October 4, 2020.