It looks like exciting work but has very little in common with the real work done by elite armed forces around the world. Get ready to be blown away by these awesome military units.
The British SAS (or Special Air Service) began as a regiment in 1941 and through the years has cemented its reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
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.
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.
These days the Pakistan SSG's goal is to fight back against regional Al Qaeda and Islamic State forces.
It’s doubtful you could find more of an apt name for this special unit than Jagdkommando, as it literally translates as ‘Hunting Force’.
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.
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.
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.
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
Extremely secretive, this unit is assigned global influencing tasks which us regular joes have no idea about. Formed in 1977 and does similar to the work of the British SAS.
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. Training is so meticulous, that to make the cut you have to pass courses in seventeen different schools worldwide.
Initially, only officers could apply to join the unit but since 2005 ordinary civilians can apply too (after the 18-month training course, that is.)
Danish Hunter Corps
Although the unit was formed in 1961, it wasn’t until 1995 when they were first utilized in Bosnia during the Balkan War.
An extremely small unit consisting of only 150 members, they are a rare sighting indeed.
An extension of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Serbian Gendarmerie was formed in 2001. 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, also commonly known as as the Golden Division, is made up of almost 18000 soldiers and is managed by the Iraqi Counter Terrorist Service.
Created by coalition forces following the 2003 invasion, the unit became the first Iraqi force to enter Mosul during the November 2016 offensive.
US Army Special Forces Snipers
US Army Special Forces Snipers are known to be some of the hardest and most fearsome fighters in the world.
Like leopards sitting in trees biding their time, these fighters can be deployed anywhere in the world, sit patiently alone just waiting to pounce.
French Commandos Marine
Apart from being one of the oldest special force units in the world, The French Commandoes 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.
Let’s be clear, Russia is most definitely a superpower and they owe it to 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.
The unit's official name is Sciathán Fiannóglaigh an Airm translated into English as “Army Ranger Wing”.
Despite this obscurity, the Indian Marcos are a highly thought of special forces unit. Established in 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 these days as they are at the forefront of fighting terrorism at home and in the rest of Europe.
On top of the various operational units, there is 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 is certainly deserving to be on our list.
The roots of today’s Navy Seals can be traced back to 1942 during World War II when the US Navy realized 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.
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.
Considered to have the most demanding entry test in the Australian Army and often left to their own devices in extremely harsh environments, these guys are certainly no cuddly Kangaroos.
The SASR is still in Afghanistan, working with other Special Forces, performing intelligence activities.
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.
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 undercover Duvdevan’s 'mistarvim' unit go about their business unnoticed until the final moment.
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 mold 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.
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.
Since 2004 with the implementation of affirmative action policy, female members have also joined its ranks.
Estonia's Special Forces (ESTSOF)
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.
The main remit for this unit is to develop skills to deal with unconventional warfare.
Brazil’s Special Operations Command is different from most other anti-terror groups. Tasked with keeping the public safe during Brazil’s hosting of 2016’s FIFA Soccer World Cup.
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 those members, only it’s leader, Commander Alfa is permitted to address the public. They began life as a police unit but were promoted in 2004.
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 personnel of around 200 members and accept into their ranks both men and women.
Netherland’s Korps Commandotroepen
Pros at working covertly behind enemy lines 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.
USA’s Green Berets
With missions including counter-terrorism, direct action, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and unconventional warfare, the Green Berets tentacles stretch far and wide.
Nicknamed the ‘Snake Eaters’, they were formed during World War II.
Romania’s Special Forces
While this elite unit is relatively new due to being established only in 2009. Currently, they stationed in Afghanistan amongst other special forces.
In Afghanistan, they are tasked with supporting, advising, and training the Afghan police special forces.
A tiny unit that members no more than 100, Mexico’s GAFE work closely with their American peers and are widely regarded as experts at counter-terrorism.
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.
More recent activities include involvement in the war in Syria, where they were tasked with destroying the Syrian government’s chemical weapon arsenal.
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.
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.
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.
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
Similar to other special forces in that there really is not much information on 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 a 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.
The basic Frogman Course lasts 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.
Britain’s Special Boat Service
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
Created to sow confusion during WWII, the unit (officially known as The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops) never actually existed.
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.
The Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces (or the user-friendly acronym of NLMARSOF) specialize in a wide array of combat skills.
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.
Based in Norway, when whittled down to 8, the remaining candidates must carry heavy weights while escaping from the enemy’s clutches.
They are also 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 guerilla warfare, jungle ambushes, sabotage, raids, and close-quarters combat.
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.
Naval Special Warfare Command
The Thai Navy’s Seal unit who are experts in maritime counter-terrorism. 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).
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.
The Canadian-American special forces unit that operated during World War II 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, The Finnish Rajavartiolaitos (the Finnish Border guard) are tasked with securing the country's borders.
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 was 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.
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.
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 program in the world, the Indian Army Parachute Regiment requires three and a half grueling years to become a fully-fledged member.
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) is the Malaysian Army’s special forces unit.
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
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.
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 expertly deals 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 highly selective special force.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Training for the 9th Regiment takes at least two years where grueling exercises. 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 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.
Triple Canopy is a private military company based in Reston, VA that was established by former U.S. Special Forces like Rangers, SEALs, and MARSOC.
Some of its clients are NGOs, oil and gas businesses, mining companies, financial organizations, and telecommunication companies.
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 14th Special Forces Division is commanded by President Bashar al-Assad directly and is preferred by the regime for its loyalty.
Canada - Royal Canadian Navy Naval Tactical Operations Group
Established in 2014, The Royal Canadian Navy Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) is a relatively new division of maritime commandos.
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.
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.
In WWI, astoundingly, they sunk the Austrian-Hungarian Battleship Viribus Untis, in part, by using human torpedoes.
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.
Training is intensive. The commandos need to be competent in tactical, fire, and physical training.
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.
Nicknamed the “powerful ghosts” for once taking out two buildings near Tehran in under two hours.
Syria’s 15th Special Forces Division
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 assassinated.
The Iraqi Special Operations Forces
The Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) were formed by American coalition forces after the 2003 U.S. Iraq invasion.
By November 2005, 1,440 men had been trained. The 1st, known as the Golden Division, has a Special Warfare Center and School.
Chilean Air Force Special Forces
Within the Chilean 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.
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.
Previously known as Blackwater USA, the name change came in 2011 after private investors took over. Before that, it was called Xe Services LLC and rebranded to avoid bad press earned by its heavy presence in Iraq
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.
In recent years, Polish forces have been building to defend against Russia’s growing threat by allying with the United Nations.
“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.
It supports U.S. forces worldwide. Dating back to the early 1950s, DynCorp provides aviation support, security, intelligence, and contingency ops.
Russia’s 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!
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)
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.
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.
Recruits undergo comprehensive medical and psychological tests. Following the initial training, an arduous 41-week and then 56-week specialized training commence.
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). The special forces are a newer development of China’s massive military might.
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.
Bulgarian's 68th Special Forces Brigade
The 68th Special Forces Brigade is one of two branches of special operation units. It conducts unconventional warfare under the command of the Bulgarian Armed Forces.
During WWII, Bulgaria was an ally of the Third Reich, but a less than loyal alliance caused German’s to distrust the nation.