When it comes to protecting their countries and carrying out high-risk missions, elite special forces are some of the most highly trained and skilled warriors on the planet.
From the legendary US Navy Seals to the fiercely disciplined French Foreign Legion, these specialized units operate at the highest levels of secrecy and precision.
So join me for today’s post. We’re going to count down the top 15 most elite special forces in the world.
Number 15, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Special Operations forces
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Special Operations Forces is a highly trained and specialized unit within the Chinese military. Established in the late 1980s, the PLA SOF is responsible for carrying out a range of missions, including reconnaissance, sabotage, counterterrorism, and hostage rescue.
It’s been involved in a number of high-profile operations, including the rescue of Chinese hostages in Sudan and the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya during the 2011 Civil War.
Made up of soldiers who have undergone rigorous physical and mental training and who possess a high level of skill in areas such as marksmanship, close quarters combat, and navigation. The unit is also known for its use of advanced technology and equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles and specialized weapons.
The group is divided into several subunits, each with its own specialized focus. These include a reconnaissance unit, which is responsible for gathering intelligence behind enemy lines, and the counterterrorism unit, which is tasked with responding to terrorist threats within China.
The unit also has a special operations aviation unit, which provides air support for ground operations. The role of the PLA SOF has become increasingly important in recent years as China seeks to expand its global influence and protect its interests abroad and has been involved in operations in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, and is certain to play a fundamental role in China’s military strategy in the future.
Number 14, the Turkish Special Forces Command.
The Turkish Special Forces Command, also known as the Ozal Cult Vertil Cultant Anglur, is a specialized and secretive unit within the Turkish armed forces. It was established in 1952 and has been responsible for carrying out the most sensitive and dangerous missions that Turkey has to deal with.
The OKK is made up of soldiers who have excelled in the regular military and have undergone further rigorous physical and mental training. Possessing a high level of skill in areas such as marksmanship, close quarters combat, and covert operations, operators within the unit have access to the latest technology and equipment, making them a force to be reckoned with.
The OKK is divided into several subunits, each of which trains and specializes in a certain area. These include, for example, the special operations unit, which is responsible for carrying out a range of missions, including direct action, reconnaissance, and sabotage, and the special forces underwater operations unit, which, of course, specializes in underwater operations such as amphibious assaults and coastal reconnaissance.
While they’re mainly deployed on domestic missions, the OKK has been involved in a number of international operations, including peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Due to Turkey’s location in the world, the unit also played a vital role in the fight against Isis in Syria and Iraq, conducting cross-border operations and providing support to local and international forces, and continues to be the last line of defense between the Turkish public and threats from the other side of the border.
Number 13, the Indian National Security Guard.
The Indian National Security Guard is the special forces unit that’s tasked with counterterrorism operations and protection of high-value targets in India. It was initially formed in 1984, following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to counter the growing threat of terrorism in the country, and since then has carried out a number of high-profile operations, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2016 Pathankot attack.
The organization is based in New Delhi, and it has two main operational units. The first is a special action group which is responsible for conducting counterterrorism operations, and the second is the special ranger group that’s tasked with providing security to high-value targets such as VIPs and critical infrastructure.
The NSG is considered one of the most elite special forces of all with rigorous selection and training processes that ensure only the most elite soldiers make it through. The selection process includes physical fitness tests, psychological evaluations, and interviews. And even once they’re selected, NSG commandos undergo a grueling nine-month training program that includes marksmanship, close quarter battle, explosives handling, and other specialized skills.
As well as their primary role in counterterrorism and security duties, the NSG also assists in disaster response and hostage rescue operations across India. Now recruiting from regions throughout the country to ensure all groups are represented in the unit. The NSG has an unusually broad range of responsibilities, which means it’s involved in all aspects of Indian security and safety.
Number 12, the South Korean Special Warfare Command.
With continual threats being posed by North Korea, the South Korean Special Warfare Command is a highly specialized unit of the Republic of Korean Army that engages in combat missions more often than most. It was established in 1969 with the mission of carrying out special operations in support of national security. And it’s become known for its highly skilled soldiers who undergo extensive training in various disciplines such as hand-to-hand combat, weapons handling, explosives, and shooting.
The organization is composed of several teams, each specializing in a different area of expertise. These teams include the special forces, special reconnaissance, and special warfare development, with the special forces team being responsible for conducting unconventional warfare, direct action, and counterterrorism operations.
The special reconnaissance team, which conducts reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations in support of other units, and the special warfare development team being responsible for the development and testing of new equipment and tactics.
Since its incorporation, the SWC has been involved in countless missions in support of South Korea’s national security, both domestically and internationally. One of its most high-profile tasks was providing security for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, but they were also deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the International Security Assistance Force and carried out various missions against Taliban and Al Qaida forces.
North Korean threats are, of course, their main focus, and it’s this group that is first to respond to anything across the border. In 1968, for example, the SWC was deployed to repel a North Korean commando unit attempting to infiltrate South Korea by sea. And in 2010, the unit was involved in the response to the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, which was believed to have been attacked by North Korea, taking on the search and recovery operation as well as the subsequent investigation.
Number 11, the Polish GROM.
First established in 1990, the Polish GROM is a special forces unit of the Polish armed forces whose stated primary mission is to conduct special operations in support of national security, including direct action, unconventional warfare, reconnaissance, and counterterrorism.
GROM’s selection process is rigorous and demanding, and only a small percentage of applicants even get close to being accepted into the unit. Candidates undergo intense physical and psychological testing, as well as advanced weapons and tactics training, and they’re required to pass language proficiency tests in English and at least one other foreign language.
As the go-to group for the Polish authorities, GROM has been involved in numerous missions in support of national security around the world.
In 1991, the unit was deployed to the Gulf War as part of the International Coalition forces.
In 1993, GROM was involved in the evacuation of UN peacekeepers from Somalia during Operation Gothic Serpent.
And the unit has also been involved in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
GROM’s operatives are equipped with the latest technology and weaponry and have access to advanced training facilities.
GROM is also known for its close collaboration with other special forces units that are as good as any other country the world has to offer.
This training has led to the unit becoming one of the most capable anti-terrorist units of all and being able to assist other countries with issues beyond the Polish borders.
GROM was called in, for example, to help with the capture of a group of terrorists in 1994 who had taken hostages on a ferry in the Baltic Sea.
Then in 2004, the unit was involved in the rescue of a group of hostages held by terrorists in Iraq, and in 2013 was involved in the rescue of a Polish citizen who had been kidnapped in Pakistan.
Number 10, the Swedish Special Operations Group.
The Swedish Special Operations Group is an elite unit within Swedish armed forces that specializes in conducting covert ops and executing high-risk missions.
Originally set up in 1981, the SOG is composed of highly trained soldiers from the Swedish Army, Navy, and Air Force who undergo rigorous selection and training processes to become members of the unit.
The group is divided into subunits, each with a specific responsibility, with the two prominent units being the special protection group, which provides security for high-level Swedish government officials, and the special reconnaissance group, which conducts intelligence-gathering missions.
The SOG also has a dedicated hostage rescue team and a maritime interdiction team.
This unit is renowned for its professionalism and expertise in operating in unpredictable environments.
In 2004, the SOG successfully executed Operation Garbo, where they rescued two Swedish engineers who had been kidnapped in Iraq by insurgents in a mission that was highly complex and risky.
But the SOG team was able to locate and rescue the hostages, bringing them back safely to Sweden.
The SOG’s success can be attributed to the rigorous selection and training processes its members undergo, as well as their continual training.
The soldiers are chosen based on their physical fitness, mental toughness, and specialized skills such as marksmanship, close quarters combat, and tactical operations.
Meaning, with the best of the best that the Swedish military has, they were able to execute missions with precision and efficiency.
Number nine, the Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando.
The Forsvarets Spesialkommando, also known as the FSK, is Norway’s elite special forces unit.
They’re highly trained and highly skilled in executing a range of specialized military operations, including direct action missions, counterterrorism, and reconnaissance.
The FSK is considered to be one of the most capable special forces units in the world due to its rigorous selection process and intense training regime, all of which take place in freezing conditions to add an extra element of endurance.
The selection process is designed to identify individuals who possess the necessary physical and mental attributes required to operate in high-stress and complex environments.
Once selected, candidates undergo an extensive training program that lasts for several months.
The training is divided into different phases, including basic infantry training, advanced infantry training, and specialized training in areas such as marksmanship, demolitions, and communications.
Because of this training, the FSK is known for its proficiency in cold weather and mountain warfare as Norway’s environment presents significant challenges for military operations.
As a result, the unit is highly adaptable and able to operate in a variety of conditions, whether on land, sea, or air.
This expertise has proved invaluable on deployment, with the FSK often called in for particularly tricky missions.
These have, in recent years, included operations in Afghanistan, where they provided support to Norwegian forces, and in Iraq, where they were deployed to secure the Norwegian embassy.
In addition to its operational capabilities, the FSK also places a significant emphasis on maintaining a high level of readiness and preparedness.
The unit also regularly conducts exercises and training scenarios to ensure they’re always prepared to respond to any potential threats or crises and are ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
The Forsvarets Spesialkommando remains a relatively small unit, though, with only several hundred members, but it’s believed that with increasing security concerns, the group is being significantly expanded.
Number 8, the Australian SASR.
The Australian Special Air Service Regiment is a highly elite and secretive military unit within the Australian defense force that specializes in special operations, counterterrorism, and reconnaissance missions.
It was founded in 1957 and has a long and distinguished history of serving Australia in some of the most challenging and dangerous situations around the world.
One of the highest-profile missions in which the SASR has played a critical role was during the war in Afghanistan, where they were tasked with hunting down and capturing high-value targets such as Taliban leaders and Al Qaeda operatives.
The SASR was instrumental in the success of the mission, and their actions were praised by military leaders and politicians alike.
In addition to their work overseas, the SASR also is responsible for protecting Australia from internal threats.
They work closely with other law enforcement agencies and are often called upon to provide assistance during major events such as the Sydney Olympics or the Commonwealth Games.
The SASR is known for its rigorous training program, which is considered to be one of the most challenging in the world.
Candidates must undergo a grueling selection process that tests their physical and mental abilities, as well as their ability to work as part of a team.
Those who make it through the selection process then undergo months of specialized training to prepare them for the challenges they’ll face in the field.
Number 7, the Canadian Joint Task Force Two.
The Canadian Joint Task Force Two is a highly respected and elite military unit that has had many successful missions in support of Canadian national security objectives.
It was first formed in 1993. The JTF2 has a long and distinguished history of performing high-risk military operations, counterterrorism activities, and other specialized missions, both at home and abroad, and has worked closely with elite groups of their allies to be one of the most effective forces in the world.
One of the most notable successes of JTF2 was during the war in Afghanistan, where they played a critical role in supporting Canadian military operations. They’ve conducted reconnaissance missions to gather intelligence on enemy positions and were involved in several high-risk direct action raids to eliminate key targets.
Their efforts were instrumental in helping to weaken the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in the region they were operating in.
JTF2 also specializes in peacekeeping missions and has been deployed on several missions around the world, including in the Balkans and in Haiti, where they worked to restore order and stability in the conflict and disaster-affected regions.
Number 6, the German GSG9.
The German GSG9 or Grenzschutzgruppe 9 der Bundespolizei, is one of the world’s most effective, forward-thinking, and secretive special forces units in the world.
Founded in 1972, the GSG9 was created in response to the increasing threat of terrorism and was tasked with protecting Germany from domestic and international terrorist threats.
The GSG9 is known for its expertise in counterterrorism and hostage rescue operations, and over the years they have been involved in a number of missions, including the rescue of passengers onboard a Lufthansa flight that had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in 1977.
The mission was a resounding success, and the GSG9’s ability to neutralize the terrorists and rescue the hostages without any loss of life made headlines around the world.
They were able to do this so well because of their rigorous training and selection processes. Candidates must prove their physical and mental capabilities as well as their ability to work as part of a team.
Once chosen, recruits undergo a grueling program that lasts for over a year. It covers everything from marksmanship in close quarters combat to hostage rescue and intelligence gathering.
And only then are they ready for deployment.
The GSG9 is known by other militaries for its use of cutting-edge equipment and technology as they have access to the latest weapons and surveillance equipment, which helps them to gather intelligence and carry out missions with precision and efficiency.
They don’t just focus on counterterrorism and hostage rescue either as the GSG9 also supports other law enforcement agencies in Germany and are often called upon to provide assistance during major events such as political summits and sports tournaments and are involved in combating organized crime and human trafficking.
Number 5, the French GIGN.
The French Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale is a highly skilled and respected special forces unit, known for their expertise in counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and high-risk law enforcement operations.
Founded in 1974, the GIGN has a long and successful history of carrying out missions with surgical precision.
One of their most impressive achievements was the successful 1994 operation to rescue 227 passengers onboard an Air France flight that had been hijacked by terrorists.
The GIGN was able to neutralize the hijackers and rescue all of the passengers and crew with minimal loss of life, demonstrating their exceptional training, skill, and bravery.
Traits then are the result of rigorous and demanding selection processes that are designed to ensure that only the most capable and dedicated individuals are chosen.
Candidates undergo a series of physical and mental tests, including marksmanship in close quarters combat, hostage negotiation, and psychological profiling.
And once selected, they undergo an extensive training program that lasts for over a year and covers a wide range of skills and knowledge.
With access to the latest weapons, surveillance equipment, and explosives that the French military has developed, the GIGN also puts a strong focus on teamwork and communication, enabling them to work together effectively in high-pressure situations.
Number 4, the Israeli Sayeret Matkal.
Sayeret Matkal is a secretive special forces unit within the Israeli Defense Forces that’s revered for its exceptional training, discipline, and effectiveness in carrying out complex missions.
Made official in the 1950s, the unit has been at the forefront of many Israeli military operations that have taken place since then.
One of Sayeret Matkal’s most impressive successes, for example, was the 1976 Entebbe operation known as Operation Thunderbolt.
In this operation, the unit successfully rescued over 100 hostages who had been taken captive by terrorists during an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris.
The mission, which required incredible precision and planning, has since been hailed as one of the most daring and successful hostage rescue missions in the world.
The unit’s success is also due to a combination of one of the most brutal selection processes of all and its use of advanced technology and equipment, which enables them to carry out operations with precision and efficiency.
Sayeret Matkal is known for its innovative use of drones, robotics, and other cutting-edge technologies that provide real-time situational awareness and intelligence.
Continuing to be involved in a range of operations, including counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and intelligence gathering, the unit’s work remains as critical to Israel’s national security as when it was first established.
Number 3, the Russian Spetsnaz.
The Russian Spetsnaz is a term used to describe the various special operation forces units of the Russian Military and Security Services.
These units are highly trained and well-equipped soldiers who specialize in unconventional warfare, reconnaissance, and counterterrorism operations.
With the term Spetsnaz being derived from the Russian words ‘Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya’, which means special purpose.
The history of the Russian Spetsnaz dates back to the Soviet era, where they were used extensively in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and other conflicts.
The Spetsnaz also played a significant role in the Soviet Union’s maneuvers in Afghanistan and were responsible for many high-profile operations during the Cold War.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Spetsnaz units have undergone significant changes, but their primary mission remains the same.
Operatives are trained in all types of environments and conditions, from urban warfare to mountainous terrain, and undergo rigorous physical and mental training that includes hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, explosives, and parachute training.
They also receive specialized training in intelligence gathering, sabotage, and counterterrorism operations, so they’re ready to act in any way that’s needed.
Each of the Spetsnaz units is typically composed of highly experienced soldiers who have undergone years of training and have extensive combat experience and who are equipped with some of the most advanced weapons and equipment available, including assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Number 2, the British SAS.
The British SAS or Special Air Service is a highly specialized special operations force of the British armed forces.
It’s renowned for its role in some of the most high-profile military operations in history and has a reputation for being one of the most elite and skilled special forces units in the world.
The organization was formed during World War II as a response to the need for a highly trained and specialized unit capable of carrying out covert operations behind enemy lines.
Its initial mission was to conduct reconnaissance and sabotage operations, but it quickly became involved in direct action missions.
The SAS is known for its rigorous training program, which is designed to produce soldiers who are physically and mentally tough, highly skilled, and capable of working in extreme environments.
The program is divided into several phases, including selection, basic training, and specialized training in areas such as survival, evasion, resistance, escape, marksmanship, and combat, as well as plenty more.
The SAS is composed of several different units, each with its own specialized role.
These include the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, the SAS Reserve, and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with each having a unique mission but with all the same dedication to serving their country.
They have been involved in many of the most high-profile military operations in recent history, including the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraq War in 2003, and the war in Afghanistan, as well as involved in counterterrorism operations both at home and abroad and being instrumental in disrupting numerous terrorist plots.
Number 1, the United States Navy SEALs.
The United States Navy SEALs or Sea, Air, and Land Teams are the top-tier special operations forces of the United States Navy.
They are highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who specialize in unconventional warfare, reconnaissance, and counterterrorism operations.
The SEALs were formed in 1962 as a response to the need for a highly specialized unit capable of carrying out operations in any environment, whether it be sea, air, or land.
Since then, they’ve been involved in many high-profile military operations, including the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali Pirates.
The training required to become a SEAL is among the most rigorous of any special operation force in the world.
Candidates must complete grueling selection processes that include physical fitness tests, psychological evaluations, and leadership assessments.
Once selected, they undergo Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, which lasts for six months and is one of the toughest military training programs in existence.
SEALs are trained to operate in any environment and carry out a wide range of missions, which can include direct action, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism ops.
Due to their training, expertise, and the backing of the might of the US military, the SEALs are the most highly regarded special forces in the world.
And as the ones who are tasked with the most difficult and important missions of all, they’re one of the reasons the United States armed forces are the envy of other nations.