All military units from whatever country are highly trained, but just who are the world’s top 10 elite fighting forces? Here we take a look at the world’s top 10 Special Forces units, in no particular order.
The UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) provides the blueprint for Special Forces around the globe. Based in Hereford, the unit was set up in 1941 and has become widely recognised as one of the world’s elite fighting forces. The SAS became a household name in 1980 when they successfully rescued hostages in the Iranian Embassy Siege, and later in the 1990s, thanks to a plethora of books by ex-members, such as Andy McNab. The SAS consists of one regular regiment and two territorial ones, and they are primarily tasked with working on counterterrorism.
Delta Force is one of the best known of America’s elite special forces. Known also as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, Delta Force was formed in the 1970s as a counterterrorism force similar to the SAS. The similarities don’t end there with the structure of Delta Force closely resembling that of their British counterparts. Delta Force recruit from all units of the US Military, choosing the very best and brightest candidates
Part of the US Navy, the Navy SEALS (Sea, Air and Land) were formed in the Second World War. Numbering just 200, they are one of the world’s smallest, but one of the most effective elite fighting forces and have been deployed all over the globe. Specialising in low intensity, secret operations and emergency situations, the Navy SEALS have some of the most highly trained soldiers in the world. It is testament to their effectiveness and efficiency that they were selected to find and kill Bin Laden, which they did successfully.
A regiment of the British Army comprised solely of Nepalese tribesmen, the Gurkhas are one of the most recognisable and highly effective elite fighting forces in the world. Hailing from Britain’s colonial past, the British were so impressed with their fighting abilities when fighting against them in the nineteenth century; they began hiring Gurkha fighters as mercenaries. This gradually evolved into the Gurkha regiment we have today. A specialist infantry regiment with a fearsome reputation, during the Falklands War, many of the Argentinian soldiers surrendered immediately after finding out they were fighting the Gurkhas.
Since Israel was founded in 1948, it has rarely been far from an armed conflict, fighting a total of seven wars, two Palestinian uprisings, and a series of armed conflicts as part of the greater Arab-Israeli conflict. For this reason, Israel’s army, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is one of the world’s most highly effective fighting forces. Their Special Forces units, Sayeret are a true elite, and are involved in a range of roles including intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, commando, and counterterrorism roles.
French Foreign Legion
Founded in 1831, the French Foreign Legion is a unique unit within the French Army that is solely comprised of foreign nationals. As well as an exceptionally tough training regime, the Legion consists of a high number of former members of other elite fighting forces, such as the SAS, Royal Marines, Delta Force and Navy SEALS. Bringing their various skills to the regiment makes it a true elite fighting force ready for deployment around the globe.
Country: North Korea
With North Korea being such a secretive country, information about their elite fighting force, SOF (Special Operations Forces) is hard to come by. What it is safe to say though is that with North Korea’s prioritising of it’s military over almost everything else, the SOF will be one of the best funded and highly trained special forces units in the world. Organised into Airborne, Recon, Infantry and Maritime brigades, the SOF is thought to number 180,000, making it also one of the world’s biggest Special Forces units.
GSG 9 is a German Special Forces unit who specialise in special operations and counterterrorism. Formed after the Munich Games kidnapping in 1973, GSG 9 have become world leaders in dealing with cases of kidnap, terrorism and extortion, and their expertise has been called in many countries around the world. Their effectiveness is testified by the fact that between 1973 and 2003, they successfully completed over 1500 special missions, firing their guns on just five occasions.
Russia’s most famous and effective Special Forces unit, Spetsnaz, are experts in counterterrorism, recon, and are often used as bodyguards for high-ranking Russian politicians. Equivalent to the US Army’s Green Berets, Spetsnaz have perhaps the most brutal training regime of any military regiment in the world. Enduring punishment on a daily basis, Spetsnaz train some of the world’s most battle ready and formidable soldiers. Spetsnaz soldier’s effectiveness relies upon the fact that they are not taught to ignore pain, but to enjoy it.
The SBS (Special Boat Squadron) are the Royal Navy’s equivalent of the SAS. An elite of an elite (the SBS draws its members from the Royal Marines), the SBS has approximately 150 members, who are specialists in marine, recon, and sabotage operations, whether on land or sea. Having seen active service in most of the world’s theatres of war, the SBS are truly an elite fighting force to be reckoned with.