Countries throughout the world train special operation forces within their military, so coming up with a list of top special operations forces in the world is difficult at best.  All special ops forces train their military men to be the best of the best, to take the impossible task and make it possible.  In that respect, all Special Operations units are top.  While the list below may not be everyone’s top ten, some of those listed would certainly be a part of any top ten lists.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power of destruction housed throughout this extensive gallery.  Authentic weapons from around the world (including some used by Special Forces) dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection.  The oldest piece on display is a rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.

View a recent AFHM video on the movie – Zero Dark Thirty

10.  Russian Spetsnaz

What sets the Russian Spetsnaz apart from other specially trained special ops units around the world is their daily exposure to physical punishment.  The purpose for this portion of their training is to teach them to endure physical pain and to work the mind to “enjoy” it since it is impossible to ignore it.  They are permitted to leave the training anytime they desire.  Their missions generally involve reconnaissance and close quarter combat.   Many of the bodyguards chosen for the high-tanking political figures of Russia are chosen from the Spetsnaz.

9.  Pakistan Special Service Group – This Pakistan Special Service Group (SSG) is also known as “Black Storks” a name derived from their unique headgear the “Maroon Beret”.  The SSG has ten specific missions for which they are trained:

  • Asymmetric Warfare
  • Special Operations
  • Counter-Proliferation
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Foreign Internal Defense
  • Special Reconnaissance
  • Direct Action
  • Hostage Rescue
  • Counter-Terrorist
  • Personnel Recovery

This elite group from Pakistan is somewhat similar to the US Army’s Green Berets and the British Army’s SAS.  They often conduct exercise missions with Special Forces from other countries such as China and the UK.

8.  Austria Eko Cobra

This special ops tactical unit is involved mainly in counter-terrorism.  The group retains a low profile, despite their high-speed involvement in the war on terror.  In Europe, they are known for their competitive edge over other countries at S.W.A.T. and other competitions throughout Europe.  Though their covert missions are carried without with little or no media, they are still considered by many as one of the best trained counter-terrorist units in the world.


7.  French Army Special Forces Brigade

This French Special Ops group has one of the most rigorous qualification training programs in the world.  This group is subdivided into three specially trained areas:

  • 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marin which is based in Bayonne.
  • 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes based in Martignas-sur-Jalle.
  • 4e Régiment d’Hélicoptères des Forces Spéciales, the unit based in Pau.

6.  Polish GROM

Activated in July of 1980 in response to terrorist threats, GROM is one of five Special Ops units in Poland.  They are trained to respond to a variety of threats and unconventional warfare roles.  Their existence was not even acknowledged by the Poland until 1994.  Within five years, the group converted to a special military formation in compliance with NATO standards.  They are revered among the newest members of NATO as the best commando unit.

5.  German GSG9

The GSG9 is a special operations unit of the German Federal Police, specializing in counter-terrorism.  The group was formed after the failed attempt of the German Police to successfully free 11 Israeli athletes who were kidnapped in Munich in 1972 during the Summer Olympic Games.   They recognized, as a result, that their forces were not properly trained or equipped to handle such situations.  They have since been trained in deployed in situations when hostages are taken, kidnapping is involved or in cases of terrorism or extortion.

4.  Israeli Shayetet 13

This Special Ops group shares the Israeli Army motto:  “Never Again”, referring to the Holocaust.  Though they are one of three special units, the Shayetet 13 bears the closest resemblance to the US Army’s Delta Force.  They are specially trained for rescuing hostages and in counter-terrorism.  Though they remain an extremely secretive group, the most public noted mission was Operation Spring of Youth.  During this operation, the Shayetet 13 went into Beirut Lebanon where they hunted down and killed all the terrorists involved in the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes.

3.  US Army Delta Force

The US Army’s Delta Force is the only official US counter-terrorism unit focused on hostage rescues, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism.  To be selected for this specialty force team, an individual must undergo a rigid physical test that begins with sit ups and push-ups and a 3 mile run – all to be completed within an undisclosed time frame.  Next, the each prospective member must complete an 18-mile hike over rugged, mountainous terrain carrying a 35 lb backpack and compass, but no a map.  This physically grueling entrance test does not end there.  Another 45-mile hike is then required, this time with a 45 lb backpack and an even shorter time limit.  Afterwards, each individual must further undergo a number of mental exams where examiners attempt to confuse and thus break the individual.  Once the above requirements are successfully completed, the recruit is then permitted to enter into the actual 6 month training program for the Delta Force.

2.  US Navy SEAL Team 6 – DEVGRU

The first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 was Dick Marcinko – a US Navy representative for the Joint Chiefs of Staff task force Terrorist Action Team.  The team was created in October of 1980 after a failed attempt in 1979 to rescue American hostages being held in Iran.  As a result, the US Navy recognized the imminent need for a specially trained counter terrorist team.  SEAL Team 6 (or currently DEVGRU – Naval Special Warfare Development Group) consists of four line squadrons – Red, Blue, Gold and Silver.  The men within these units are the elite of the elite of special op forces and are trained on Sea, air and land, making them a well-rounded, highly trained group of individuals.

1.  British SAS

The British SAS follow the sea, air and land training of the SEALs; however their training in counter-espionage is more in-depth and complex than the SEALs.  Both the SAS and SEALs receive comparable training as they sometimes work closely.  They are trained in numerous fighting techniques and remain the primary model in which most national commando units are based.

The above Special Ops Forces list may not be a conclusive top list for everyone.  Given the number of excellently trained units around the world, they all maintain the highest integrity and require their team members to constantly challenge themselves under some of the most extreme grueling circumstances experienced by man.  They must always be ready for the worst of the worst, but who better to be ready than the best of the best.  The ten Special Ops units above have certainly proved themselves time and again and therefore have earned them a spot on this particular list of the top ten Special Operations Forces in the world.

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