Category: Special Forces

Special Gear of the Special Ops

The Special Ops of the US Military are trained using special gear which allows them to properly execute their extraordinary task(s).  These specially trained units are the best of the best, and they use the best of the best.    Below is a brief overview of some of the special gear used by the Special Ops forces.

 

Eotech Sighting Systems – This system combines range and aim in a single holographic image.  The wide field of view is advantageous to maintain awareness within the broader field.  Combine the above with the Eotech Sighting System’s unmatched speed in target acquisition and it is easy to see why it is a top choice for US Special Forces.

 

 

Surefire Millennium Universal Weapons Lights – This light features is consistently reliable in combat situations due to its high degree of shock-isolation.   The components for this modular unit are interchangeable allowing rapid field conversion.

 

Protech Delta 4 Ballistic Helmets – The Protech Delta ballistic helmet is chosen for its light weight structure and its ability to meet the demands of a special ops team.  This helmet was designed to provide ballistic protection to the extreme – threat level IIIA protection.

 

 

Benchmade Knives – The quality, craftsmanship and dependability make Benchmade Knives a top choice for Special Forces.  One such knife is the 9050SBK.  The automatic opening mechanism on this knife makes it reliable for rapid deployment, yet can still be easily closed using one hand.  The knife is used by US Coast Guard rescue swimmers, and is used in US Air Force survival kits and vests and is also used by other US armed forces including special operations.

 

Blackhawk Commando Chest Harness – This extremely comfortable chest harness has a number of pouches to carry various types of munitions ordnances and other items like compasses, radios and rations.  The ¼” closed cell foam in the back doubles as an flotation device for river and stream crossing.

 

Blackhawk Serpha Level 3 Tactical Holster – This patented level 3 tactical holster provides a high level of function, retention and security.  The holster allows for even weight distribution.  In addition, the swivel buckles allow for quick-disconnect while delivering maximum mobility.

 

 

Invisio Q7 Communication Device – This device uses bone conduction technology and is a top choice for SWAT Teams and military Special Forces alike.  The device operates well in windy, noisy or even quiet environments.

 

 

AN/PVS-17 Night Vision Scope – This high scope intensifies images for night vision sight and fits easily on a variety of weapons.  The PVS-17 operates submerged in depths up to 66 ft.  It is currently used by the Special Forces of the US Marine Corps.

 

The above equipment represents only a small sample of the extensive list of special gear used by the US Military’s Special Ops.

Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces – Special Service Group

Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces is known as the Special Service Group and is considered on of the top Special Forces in the world.  They are also known as the Black Storks and the Maroon Berets and go by the codename SSG.  This group has been active since March of 1956 and is authorized in ten different types of missions:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Foreign Internal Defense
  • Special Recon Missions
  • Direct Action
  • Hostage Rescue
  • Personnel recovery
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Counter-proliferation
  • Special Operations
  • Asymmetric Warfare

This elite force closely resembles the US Army’s Special Forces and the British Army’s SAS.  Roughly 7,000 men are on active duty in Pakistan’s Special Services Group.  The actual number of combat battalions is thought to be ten.  However, due to their top secret operative scope, the actual number is kept highly classified.

Training for the SSG

SSG PakistanOfficers for the SSG are required to have served at least three years in the military.  They also must volunteer from other formations within the SSG for a minimum of three years.  The non-commissioned officers, as well as the enlisted men, must volunteer from other formations and are required to serve permanently with the SSG.

Those training for the SSG must first successfully complete an eight month program consisting of a series of physically challenging courses.  Next, they are required to complete a four week airborne training course.  Once the course is completed and the trainees have completed five day-jumps and three night-jumps, they are issued their commando wings.  In addition, trainees are instructed in hand-to-hand combat.

Additional Information on the SSG

The battalions of the SSG are always on rotation throughout noted “hot spots” or when involved in UN peace keeping operations.  They also provide security to vital areas such as nuclear facilities located in Pakistan.  Any other information on their “covert” operations remains highly classified.

The motto for Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces – Special Service Group – is “Fear is no policy and surrender is no option.”

Today’s Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the World

This list of Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the world is subjective at best.  Unless you looked at specific aspects and judged based on that criteria alone, the list cannot be definitive.  One can look at a nation’s defense budget or the size of their enlisted members, or combine the two.  Another area for consideration is the amount of armor a nation has inventoried including tanks, helicopters, aircraft and ships.  This top ten took in a little of all of that, but it is still one perspective looking at the Armies around the world.  Input and educational pieces on other armies not listed here, or any additional information that may have been omitted, are welcomed.

Before listing the top ten, one country fell just short of making the list, but certainly deserves to be mentioned – North Korea.  They not only have one of the largest Special Forces in the world – 120,000 members – they have a very large inventory of armor.

10.  Pakistan

Pakistan is known for their good upper leadership.  Founded in 1947, their three branches of service totals more than 600,000 people – all volunteers.  They have close Pakistan Aircraftties to the militaries of the US and China.  Pakistan’s budget of over $5 billion is smaller than all the other top ten militaries, but it does exceed the overall defense budget of a number of other countries around the world.  While Pakistan has about the same number of naval craft as the United Kingdom (see below), they have more aircraft and helicopters and an incredible total of 9,000 tanks and armored vehicles.  They have assisted the United States in their War on Terrorism by fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and along their own borders.

9.  United Kingdom  

British Forces include three branches of service, – the navy, the army and the air force. Below are some figures for the United Kingdom – the figures presented could vary slightly:

  • British HelicopterActive Military (including army, navy and air force) – 197,700
  • Reserve – 212,000
  • Paramilitary – 152,000
  • Aircraft and Helicopters – 1,800
  • Tanks and Armored Vehicles – 5,500

Despite having one of the smallest numbers of active military, the militaries of the United Kingdom are a sustainable force and their SAS is among the world’s top Special Forces.  Britain is a steadfast ally of the U.S.

8.  Iran

Iran militaryIran has one of the best small forces in the world.  Half of this countries government’s income goes towards defense.  Their modern day military was first founded in 1923 and currently boasts over 500,000 active members.  In addition, its defense budget of $10 billion has allowed more aircraft than the US and UK combined and almost the same amount of aircraft and helicopters as China, a country with a much larger force and budget.

7.  Turkey

Turkey militaryTurkey’s Army dates back over 2,000 years.  Their modern day militaries were not established though until 1920.  Turkey has over 600,000 members in its military forces and its budget is close to $19 billion.  This country comes in fourth for the total number of tanks and armored vehicles – 11,000 plus.  All Turkish males – once they reach 20 years of age – are required to serve in the military.  There are very few exceptions to this requirement.

6.  Germany 

Germany's Leopard IIMuch of Germany’s notable military history began with the rise of Hitler.  They were responsible for the start of WWII when they invaded Poland.  When the war was over, the country divided and the West German Army was formed.  It wasn’t until the 1990s the country reunited.  Currently, Germany has more than 200,000 active military members who are well-trained and well-equipped.  Germany boasts of one of the best tanks in the world – the Leopard II.

5.  France

France's MilitaryFrance’s military does not have the reputation as a super power, but its numbers would say differently.  Their military totals over 360,000 members spread throughout their navy, air force and paramilitary branches.  All three branches are very well rounded, but many feel their navy is bar far their strongest branch.  France’s defense budget comes in just over $58 billion.  Despite this impressive budget, it still has the smallest number of aircraft and helicopters than any other country on this list.

4.  India

India has a more advanced Air Force and very-well trained Special Forces.  They have four branches of military and also additional paramilitary units.  Their active military India's militaryhas more than 1.3 million members.  India has an additional 2.1 million in reserves and their paramilitary has 1.3 million members.  In all, India has more than 4.7 million total members.

Despite their large number of service members, India’s aircraft and helicopter and tank and armored vehicle totals put them only in the center of the list of countries listed here and they do have the smallest naval craft fleet.  Some estimates of nuclear warheads in India’s possession go as high as 80.

 

3.  Russia

This former superpower still has a large amount of equipment in its military inventory.  They have well over 1.2 million active military members and an additional 750,000 in Russian Militarythe reserve.  Their paramilitary total comes in at around 5,000.  The total military budget for Russia is in excess of $64 billion.  Only two countries have a higher military budget than Russia – the United States and China.

The current known Russian force was first founded in 1992, but Russia’s military history dates back to as early as 863.  Between the ages of 18 and 27, all male Russians are drafted into the country’s service for a period of 12 months.  A few exceptions, such as being a student or the parent of two or more children, serve as exemptions to this otherwise steadfast rule.

Russia is known to have the largest number of nuclear warheads on hand, but most of them are not active.

2.  China

Founded in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army of China has more than 2.3 million China's militaryactive service members in its military making it the largest active force in the world. With a reserve of 800,00 and a paramilitary of 1.5 million, in all, China has more than 4.5 million military members.   China’s defense budget of $129 billion is continually increasing each year by an average of 12 to 15%.  This total makes it the second largest defense budget in the world – second only to the United States.  China is believed to house as many as 240 nuclear warheads.

1.  United States

The US military has history dating back to 1775 when it first formed forces (Continental Army) to fight in the Revolutionary War.  The US Army has been involved in every major world war as well as the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism.

United States militaryThe defense budget for the United States is more than the combined totals of the previous nine countries coming in at over $689 billion.  The US has just over 1.4 million active military members, another 1.4 million reserve members and 11,000 in its paramilitary.  The US ranks second behind Russia in the total number of warheads, but it does have the largest number of active warheads.  The United States leads in the overall aircraft and helicopters – 21,000 – but is just barely ahead of China with its total of tanks and armored vehicles.  The United States also has an impressive 12 aircraft carriers in its fleet.

This list of today’s top ten armies (military powers) in the world, certainly sheds light on the overall power of these nations given their impressive numbers in members, equipment and budget.

French Army Special Forces Brigade

Based in Pau, Pyrenees-Atlantiques France, the French Army Special Forces Brigade – one of the top special forces in the world was first activated in July of 2002 and are still an active .  They are one of three units which train together annually in an exercise known as “Gorgones” a name meaning ‘three mythological figures’.  The purpose of this Special Forces Brigade – which in French is Brigade des Forces Speciales Terre, BFST – is to support peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Afghanistan.

 

The French Army Special Forces Brigade is composed of the following three units:

1)      1er RPIMa is highly skilled and experienced, specializing in areas such as counter-terrorism and patrol operations (amphibious, jungle, mountain or motorized).  They are among Europe’s most highly trained Special Forces, partly due to their continued operational deployments over the past thirty years.  They are based in Bayonne.

2)      13e RDP, the French Army’s Long Range Recon Patrol, is comprised of seven squadrons.  Three of these squadrons are dedicated to intelligence, two head up long-range communications and the final two are training squadrons.  This unit is based in Martignas-sur-Jalle.

3)      4e RHFS is responsible for providing air transportation and support anywhere in the world to France’s Special Forces.

Not much information is available on the selection and training process for the BFST.  However, this lack of information, in no way, implies a less elite or less experienced group of individuals.

The French Army Special Forces Brigade is still considered one of the top Special Forces worldwide.

Poland’s Special Forces – GROM

Poland’s Special Forces – GROM – was first activated in July of 1990 and has since become one of the top special forces in the world.  Translated, its name means “thunder”.  The GROM are involved in several types of special operations including anti-terrorism.  They are also called upon when additional power is needed at the back of enemy lines.

The Establishment of GROM

Initially, a proposal for a special, fast response team in 1982 was declined.  General Edwin Rozlubirski had made this proposal after Poland’s Embassy in Bern was seized by terrorists.  Then in 1989, the fear of Islamic terrorism surfaced when Jews were permitted to leave the USSR and flee to Israel – something the Islamic terrorists vehemently opposed.  At that time, Poland was one of the few countries willing to provide assistance in organizing this operation.

Following the shooting of two Polish diplomats in Beruit,  Lt. Col. Slawomir Petelicki went to Lebanon to assist in the secure transfer of civilians and diplomats.   Once he returned to Poland, he recommended a plan of action for establishing a special military force.  This time, the Ministry of Defense approved the idea.

Training for GROM

GROM recruits are required to pass a psychological test, a durability test and what is known as a “trust” test.  The purpose of the trust test is to exhaust applicants physically and mentally, filtering out any weak recruits.  The balance of applicants go on to be trained in a number of specialized areas including anti-terrorism, special operations, scuba diving, sniping and parachuting.  The units are set up in teams of four, each learning the responsibilities of the others.  About 75% of the recruits are also trained as medics or paramedics and each group receives the support of a physician.

GROM teams are skillful in rescue operations that are complex – such a terrorist hostage situations.  They are trained to operate on the land, the sea and in the air.   The motto for Poland’s Special Forces GROM is “Tobie Ojczyzno!”  or “For you, Fatherland!”.

Russian Special Ops – Spetsnaz GRU

The term Spetsnaz refers to any Russian Special Ops Group, specifically to any units that are considered special or elite and fall under the Federal Security Service, the Internal Troops of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and/or units which are under the control of GRU – a Russian military intelligence service.  The name GRU is shortened from GRU GSh, which stands for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba.  Translated, this means Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (of the Russian Federation).

The Spetsnaz GRU is the oldest of all special operations forces in Russia, is considered on of the top Special Forces in the world  and is regarded as the best trained and most experienced units of the Russian Federation.  Spetsnaz GRU first began operations in 1949.  Their main role involves reconnaissance, direct action, assassination and sabotage.  The Spetsnaz has ten different brigades, each stationed at a different location.

Special Weapons

A knife was designed specifically for the Spetsnaz Units.  The ballistic knife utilizes a spring installed inside the grip, which allows the blade to eject forcefully enough to use it as a harmful projectile.  Another knife used by the Russian Special Ops units is the NRS-2.  Built into this knife is a single-shot firearm, capable of firing an SP-4 cartridge.  However, how effective these two knives are in actual combat remains unknown.

Today

Top secret no longer accurately describes the Spetsnaz units today.  All Russian Special Ops – including the Spetsnaz GRU – are gradually becoming more of a commonplace in Russia as they are often involved in police drug raids, terrorist scenarios or military operations.  News media coverage has become so heavy on these events that the public now often addresses the units by name.  The OMON unit alone – under the Interior Ministry – is so heavily involved in assisting the riot police and SWAT, that they are losing their connection to the word “Spetsnaz”.

Despite how the views for this Russian special op forces have changed, they still remain Russian’s top trained and experienced military – this includes the Spetsnaz GRU.

Operation Neptune Spear – the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Scheduled to be released on December 19, 2012 is the movie “Zero Dark Thirty”, a film recounting DEVGRUs Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

View brief video on Operation Neptune Spear and the movie – Zero Dark Thirty

Osama bin Laden was initially located after US intelligence officials tracked one of his couriers.   After the Pakistan compound was located, President Obama met with national security advisers to formulate a plan of action.  During the next six weeks, President Obama and the advisors met four times – one visit involved Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command.

Initially, a news source released details of a rejected plan to release (up to) 32 2,000 lb. bombs on the compound using B-2 Stealth bombers.  President Obama however felt a raid would provide the proof needed to know definitively that bin Laden was located.  A raid also would minimize civilian casualties.

Training for the Mission

Actual view of the Waziristan Mansion

Training for DEVGRU began following the March 22nd national security meeting.  Training facilities resembling the compound were set up on both coasts.  In April, the plans progressed and the teams began specific training using various tactical approaches on a replica of the “Waziristan Mansion” compound.  Some news sources reported DEVGRU made two initial practice runs – one on April 7th and one on April 13th.

John Brennon, a White House counter-terrorism advisor, identified the initial point of the mission was to capture bin Laden if he posed no threat.  An unnamed US national security official, however, informed Reuters that the operation was, in fact, a kill mission.

The Mission

After a 24-hour delay due to cloudy conditions, the President Barack Obama gave the order to proceed with the mission on May 1, 2011 to kill or capture bin Laden.  The raid ensued using 20-25 helicopters carrying DEVGRU members – 79 commandos and one dog.  Multiple backup helicopters – including two Black Hawks and two Chinooks and a number of search-and-rescue helicopters – were available for backup.

On May 1, 2011, the DEVGRU team used explosives to breach the walls of the compound and proceeded to attack its structures.  Despite receiving open fire, the SEALs were able to neutralize the guards and then proceeded in clearing various structures throughout the compound.  Couriers on the first floor were killed and additional personnel and women and children encountered on the second and third floors were captured and secured in place with zip ties.  Once the raid was over, they were moved outside.

The team located and confronted bin Laden on the third floor.  Bin Laden resisted leaving the DEVGRU team no choice but to shoot.  As a result, the SEAL Team 6 mission – Operation Neptune Spear – ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Austria’s Special Operations – EKO Cobra

Austria’s Special Operations Tactical Unit – EKO Cobra – has been active since 1978.  The major role for EKO Cobra, which has become one of the top Special Forces in the world, is with Domestic Law Enforcement and Counter-Terrorism.  This tactical unit operates at a national and an international level – where it is formally recognized as an antiterrorist unit.

Initially, the unit was formed under the name GEK (Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando) but in 2002 was changed by the Federal Ministry of Interior to EKO Cobra.  A need for this type of tactical unit became apparent during the 1972 Munich Olympics when the Israeli athletes were attacked.  EKO cobra units are set up throughout Austria at strategic points so the entire country can be accessed by at least one of these troops within 70 minutes.

EKO Cobra Training

Recruits for EKO Cobra are taken from applicants from the Austrian Federal Police.  Those who apply first receive a medical evaluation, followed by several psychological assessments followed by a series of intense physical challenges.  Once these are all successfully completed, the recruits will spend six months in a specialized training course mastering marksmanship, tactical training exercises, driving courses, hand-to-hand combat and a variety of other pertinent skills.  Depending on the field to which they are assigned, additional training may be required in areas such as sniping, blasting techniques (explosives), parachuting and/or diving.

EKO Cobra Weapons

Austria produces the majority of weapons used by EKO Cobra including assault rifles and pistols.   The units are also issued special equipment such as specifically designed gear, camouflage suits, bavaclavas (ski-type masks), tonfa batons and pepper (oc) sprays.

Summary

Overall, EKO Cobra’s success lies not only in each member’s dedication for continual improvement in their skills and performance, but also in Cobra’s highly motivated officers.  It is a combination of this dedication and motivation that makes Austria’s Special Operations – EKO Cobra – a swift and effective task force.

British Special Forces – Special Air Service (SAS)

The British Special Forces – Special Air Service – or SAS – was first activated during World War II in July of 1941.  They are a branch of the British Army and part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and are comprised of one regular unit and two reserve Territorial Army units.

Recruit and Training for the Regular Unit

Any member of the UKs armed forces can request consideration for Special Forces selection, but most of the applicants have airborne forces background.  The selection process lasts five weeks and takes place twice a year.  Potential recruits must first pass both a personal and combat fitness test.  Next they must march cross country in a specified time.  Each day the distance for this march increases.  The final full equipment march is a grueling 40 miles that includes scaling and descending.  Once this phase is completed, an additional 4 mile run and two mile swim (in 90 minutes) is required.

The next phase they undergo is known as the “jungle phase”.  This phase takes place outside of the UK either in Belize, Brunei or Malaysia.  This phase includes courses on navigating and patrol formation and movement.  Recruits are also taught jungle survival skills during this phase.  Once they are finished with this portion, candidates return to the UK and complete their training in battle plans and foreign weapons.  They also participate in combat survival exercises.

At the end of this phase are escape and evasion exercises that will last for one week.  Those still in the program at this point, are dressed in WWII uniforms, given only a tin can filled with survival supplies along and the coordinate for their goal.  But the most intense part of the final phase is what is called the “resistance to interrogation”.  During this phase, candidates will undergo 36 hours of grueling interrogation.

At the end of the escape and evasion phase, only about 15 – 20% of the recruits left in the program will survive, though the majority of the initial candidates drop out much earlier.  In the end, only 30 or so of the original 200 will successfully complete every phase.  As a reward, they are then transferred to an operational squadron.

Recruit and Training for the Reserve Regiments

The two Territorial Army reserve selection differs from that of the Regular Unit.  Theirs is a part-time program which takes place over a longer period of time.  Volunteers with certain qualities are selected and are required to be physically fit to even begin the course.  Along with both physical and mental stamina, they must also exude self-confidence and self-discipline.  They must be able to work alone and easily assimilate information and new skills.

After this portion of the program is completed, the individuals receive training on Special Operations Procedures.  They are schooled in tactics, techniques and procedures.  As the class progresses, an emphasis is placed on the individual’s ability to assimilate the skills being taught even when physically and mentally exhausted.

Once the course is completed, their group is considered operationally deployable and enter into a trial period, during which time they must complete two final training programs – the Basic Parachute Course and the Communications Course.  After successful completion, they are now considered to be fit for mobilization.

Motto

Those who successfully complete either of these training courses and become a member of the British Special Forces – Special Air Service (SAS), will live by the motto – “Who Dares Wins!”

Germany’s Special Forces – GSG 9

Germany’s Special Forces – the GSG 9 – were first formed in April of 1973 and have since become one of the top special forces in the world.  The need for this type of special operations surfaced during the 1972 Olympics which were hosted by Germany.  During these games, 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped (two killed in the initial assault).  German police were neither trained nor prepared for such an assault or rescue mission.  As a result, their attempts to rescue the remaining Israeli hostages failed.  The remaining nine hostages were killed along with five of the eight kidnappers and one police officer.

Training for the GSG 9

Only Bundespolizei or other German police who’ve completed two years’ service are qualified to apply.  Once accepted, the recruits undergo initial medical testing and are given a basic series of physical tests.  Once the physical testing is completed, they undergo a series of psychological evaluations to test their mental fitness.  In addition, they are required to pass a marksmanship test and then a final interview.

Once the basic application process is completed, each recruit accepted into the training course will undergo 16 weeks of basic training followed by specialized training for nine weeks.  Once completed, they will further train with other allied countries and their counter-terrorism units.  On average only one in five recruits will complete the entire training course.  The identities of those who pass are kept top secret.

Missions

Germany’s Special Forces GSG 9 units are deployed for hostage situations, kidnapping, terrorism and extortion.  Other missions may involve securing locations, neutralizing targets, tracking down fugitives and conducting sniper operations.  They also test new methods and tactics they develop for these various missions.

It is estimated that since their inception in 1973, the GSG 9 have completed more than 1,500 missions, only firing their weapons five times – a true reflection of the complete dedication and excellent training of Germany’s Special Forces – GSG 9.