Everyone is familiar with the idea of a country’s military. A military consists of mentally and physically tough individuals who work together to protect and serve their country. How much do you know about special forces, though?
A special force is a specially trained military unit that carries out unique or special operations that can’t be completed by standard military forces. If you’ve ever watched an action movie, I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept. Basically, a special force consists of extraordinary individuals who go out and complete top-secret missions. Pretty much every country with a military has at least one form of special force. In this article, I’m going to be talking about some of the best special forces in the entire world.
Top 10 Special Forces In The World In 2024
Without further ado, let’s get right into this list of the top 10 best special forces in the world.
10. The Snow Leopard Commando Unit
The Snow Leopard Commando Unit (SWCU) is a police tactical unit of the People’s Republic of China. Since their inception, they have been tasked with riot control, counterterrorism hostage rescue, bomb disposal, crowd control, and counterinsurgency, among other high-risk tasks. Like all special forces, the unit is incredibly well-trained and can operate in all weather and terrain conditions.
While they’ve been active since 2002, their existence was only revealed in 2006. Two years later, the unit underwent a name change—from the Snow Wolf Commando Unit to the Snow Leopard Commando Unit (they were originally named after the cunning and brave snow wolf, who can survive even in the harshest conditions).
9. Britain’s Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service (SBS) is one of the UK’s most secretive and elite military units. The selection process for the team has a 90 percent failure rate and includes a taxing four-week endurance test—one that includes a 40km march.
Those who graduate will then undergo jungle training, weapons handling, complex fighting, and combat survival before being officially inducted into the unit.
Since its inception, the SBS has been deployed against the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda and has been on numerous rescue missions around the world, including in Libya and Sierra Leone.
8. The Polish GROM
JW GROM is a Polish special forces unit that was established in 1990 to help Soviet Jews enter Israel under Operation Bridge. Due to their extensive medical knowledge and training, the operators are often regarded as “The Surgeons”.
For several years, the operated in secret. It wasn’t until 1994, when they were deployed to Haiti for Operation Restore Democracy, that their existence came into light.
Nowadays, they perform counter-insurgency missions, in addition to rescue operations, including hostage recovery. Not only that but they’ve also mastered a number of disciplines including vehicle handling, diving, parachuting, and pyrotechnics.
7. Green Berets
We’re brought to our first United States special forces unit: the Green Berets. The Green Berets have been around since 1952, and they mostly work in missions related to unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, internal defense, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, hostage rescue, reconnaissance, and more. During their many decades of operations, the Green Berets have seen action in World War II, the Bosnian War, the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Salvadoran Civil War, the Somali Civil War, and even the Cold War. Due to the amount of work that a member of the Green Berets will perform in foreign countries, you are required to speak a foreign language in order to join this unit. Training typically lasts between 55 and 95 weeks, depending on which foreign language you chose. Once your basis training has been completed, you can train for advanced skills like parachuting, diving, and sniping.
6. Delta Force
The 1st Special Forces Operation Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force, is one of the most powerful special mission units under the United States Army. Their actions are highly classified, but we know that they have engaged in the Gulf War, the Somali Civil War, the Yugoslav War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War since the force’s founding in 1977. Delta Force was originally formed during the 1970’s in response to highly publicized terrorist attacks that seriously disturbed the American public. If you want to be a part of this elite counter-terrorist group, you have to put in a lot of work. Delta Force has a brutal selection process that tests applicants based on physicality and psychology, and only about 12 to 14 applicants out of 240 usually get through it. That’s before training has even officially begun!
5. Special Service Group
Next is the Special Service Group, which is probably the greatest special operations unit in the Pakistan Army. The Special Service Group, also known as SSG, was formed in 1956, and it’s about as big as 8 battalions, headed by Major-General Tahir Masood Bhutta. It’s base is located in the Tarbela Cantonment in Pakistan. During the early years of this unit, training was largely inspired by the training of special forces units in the United States. (During the Cold War, Pakistan worked very closely with the United States.) Today, they’re also known for their skillful use of Chinese training and tactics. The SSG is mostly an anti-terrorist group today, but they’ve also done extensive work in reconnaissance, sabotage, and raiding. The Special Service Group has seen engagements in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan, and more.
The word Spetsnaz is an abbreviation of a Russian term that roughly translates in English to Special Purpose Forces or Special Purpose Military Units. Spetsnaz is often used to refer to the special forces units belonging to Russia, but it can often be used to refer to special forces units belonging to former Soviet states. (When the Soviet Union dissolved, these countries kept their individual special forces.) There are several Spetsnaz units based out of Russia, with one related to combined arms, seven related to Russian Ground Forces, one related to Russian Airborne Troops, and four related to Naval Special Operations. The doings of all of these units are highly secretive, but we know that they’ve performed operations during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Second Chechen War, and during anti-terrorist operations conducted prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It has also been alleged that Spetsnaz forces are performing various operations in the Syrian Civil War.
MARCOS used to be known as MCF, which stood for Marine Commando Force. The new name, MARCOS, is derived from the words Marina Commandos. Although it’s undergone a name change, this is still known as the most elite special forces unit in the Indian Navy. MARCOS was established in 1987, and they perform a variety of different tasks related to direct action, counter-terrorism, personnel recovery, hostage rescue, reconnaissance, search and rescue, and unconventional warfare. Members of MARCOS are trained to use pretty much every kind of weapon, including sniper rifles, assault rifles, knives, crossbows, and handguns. Training typically takes between two to three years, and trainees learn all about skydiving, explosive disposal, insertion methods, demolitions, parachuting, and submarines. This highly professional special forces unit is greatly feared by terrorists, who are plenty aware of how deadly and effective they are in the field.
2. Navy SEALs
We’ve talked about two other special forces in the United States already, but the Navy SEALs are the very best of the best. SEAL stands for “Sea, Air, and Land”, which is what these operatives are trained to work in. The Navy SEALs have been around since 1962, and although its exact size is unknown, it’s capable of having up to 2,450 positions filled. This force has seen engagements in the Vietnam War, the Somali Civil War, Operation Desert Storm, the Yugoslav War, the War in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, the War in North-West Pakistan, and the War on ISIL. Their operations typically relate to coutner-terrorism, hostage rescue, raids, and reconnaissance. Probably the most recent, most well-known success of this unit was the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. These people are seen as heroes by those living in the United States, and they have have movies made about them, like Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty, Act of Valor, and American Sniper.
1. British SAS
I debated which of these two I should put on top, but I think it’s only fair to place the British Special Air Service over the Navy SEALs because, basically, the SEALs based a lot of their tactics and training on what the SAS has always been doing. They were originally founded in 1941, and they specialize in work related to counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, hostage rescue, and wartime operations. They have performed countless successful operations during the years, especially during World War II. In World War II, the Special Air Service suffered 330 casualties but they had killed or wounded 7,733 enemies and captured around 23,000 of them. This, obviously, is an incredible success. The team didn’t really acquire international recognition until 1980 when, on television, they rescued numerous hostages during the Iranian Embassy siege. They’re a seriously talented and efficient unit, and they have been saving lives before some of these other units were even an idea.