GK Quiz: Top 15 Special Forces in the World: Elite Warriors Defending Nations

  • 25 August, 2023
  • By GyanOK

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Top 15 Special Forces in the World

When it comes to the most challenging and perilous operations, countries around the world rely on their special forces units. These elite warriors are meticulously trained, highly skilled, and ready to face the most dangerous situations head-on. From counter-terrorism to hostage rescue, their capabilities extend beyond the ordinary, making them an essential asset to any nation's armed forces. Here, we delve into the top 15 special forces in the world, each with its unique history, expertise, and accomplishments.

15. Special Naval Warfare Force, Spain

The Special Naval Warfare Force, known as Fuerza de Guerra Naval Especial (FGNE) in Spanish, is Spain's elite naval special operations unit. Established in 2009, it is a part of the Spanish Navy and is responsible for conducting a variety of maritime special operations and unconventional warfare missions. The Special Naval Warfare Force's primary mission is to provide the Spanish Navy with specialized capabilities for maritime special operations. This includes conducting counter-terrorism operations, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, direct action, and sabotage in maritime and coastal environments. The unit is trained to operate in challenging conditions, such as amphibious assaults, beach reconnaissances, and ship boarding operations.

Members of the Special Naval Warfare Force undergo rigorous training that covers a wide range of skills. This includes combat diving, underwater demolitions, combat swimming, small boat operations, and close-quarters combat. Additionally, they receive training in navigation, survival, intelligence gathering, and advanced weaponry. The force operates with a variety of specialized equipment and weapons tailored for maritime operations. This includes underwater vehicles, diving gear, specialized firearms, and fast boats that enable them to carry out their missions effectively and efficiently.

The Special Naval Warfare Force works closely with other special operations units within the Spanish Armed Forces and collaborates with international counterparts. Their expertise is valuable in joint military exercises and multinational operations aimed at enhancing maritime security and stability. One of the notable achievements of the Special Naval Warfare Force is its involvement in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, where it played a crucial role in protecting commercial shipping from pirate attacks.

  • Country: Spain
  • Type: Special forces
  • Role: Special operations
  • Headquarters: La Algameca Naval Station, Cartagena, Murcia, Spain
  • Motto: "Serenity and boldness"

14. EKO Cobra, Austria

EKO Cobra, short for "Einsatzkommando Cobra," is Austria's elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit. Established in 1978, EKO Cobra operates under the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior and is tasked with responding to a wide range of crises, including counter-terrorism operations, hostage rescues, and high-risk law enforcement missions.EKO Cobra's primary mission is to combat terrorism and serious crime in Austria. The unit is trained and equipped to handle various scenarios, including hostage situations, armed confrontations, and other critical incidents that require a swift and precise response. EKO Cobra is known for its professionalism, high level of training, and ability to operate effectively in high-stress situations.

Members of EKO Cobra undergo extensive training that includes marksmanship, close-quarters combat, tactical manoeuvring, explosives handling, and medical skills. They are also trained in various methods of entry, such as dynamic entry techniques used in hostage rescue situations.EKO Cobra is equipped with specialized weapons, tactical gear, and vehicles that enable them to carry out their operations with precision. They work closely with other law enforcement agencies and special forces units both within Austria and internationally.

The unit's expertise extends beyond Austria's borders as well. EKO Cobra has been involved in international missions and collaborations, contributing to global efforts against terrorism and transnational crime. Their experience and capabilities make them a valuable asset in joint operations with other elite units.

  • Country: Austria
  • Type: Police tactical unit & special forces
  • Role: Counter-terrorism, Law enforcement
  • Headquarters: Wiener Neustadt, Austria
  • Common name: EKO Cobra

13. Joint Task Force 2 – Canada

Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is Canada's premier special operations force, specializing in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, and direct action missions. Established in 1993, JTF2 operates under the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) and is tasked with addressing a range of complex and high-risk scenarios both domestically and internationally. JTF2's primary focus is on counter-terrorism operations and hostage rescue missions. The unit is highly trained in precision marksmanship, close-quarters combat, and specialized tactics to neutralize threats in sensitive situations. JTF2 operators undergo rigorous training that includes parachute operations, combat diving, and advanced reconnaissance techniques.

The unit's capabilities extend beyond counter-terrorism. JTF2 is also involved in intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. They play a crucial role in providing valuable information to Canadian military and government decision-makers. JTF2 works closely with other Canadian special operations units, as well as international partners, to enhance their effectiveness and broaden their capabilities. They have participated in various multinational operations and collaborations, contributing to global efforts to combat terrorism and other threats.

  • Country: Canada
  • Type: Special operations force
  • Role: Counter-terrorism, Direct action, Reconnaissance
  • Headquarters: Ottawa, Ontario (Dwyer Hill)
  • Motto: ‘Deeds, not words’ & ‘Everywhere.’
  • Common Name: JTF2 

12.  Polish GROM, Poland

Poland's elite special forces unit, GROM (Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego), stands as a formidable example of specialized military prowess. Established in 1990, GROM excels in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, and unconventional warfare. Its operators undergo intense training in combat diving, marksmanship, survival, and airborne operations. This training equips them for diverse missions, from domestic counter-terrorism to international peacekeeping.

GROM's significance extends globally. Its adeptness in crisis response and counter-terrorism has led to participation in peacekeeping missions and combat operations worldwide. The unit's reputation for precision and professionalism positions it among the world's premier special forces. By showcasing their skills in various environments, GROM exemplifies Poland's commitment to national security and international stability. The unit's continual presence and achievements underscore its crucial role in safeguarding Poland and contributing to global peacekeeping endeavours.

  • Country: Poland
  • Type: Special forces
  • Role: Special operations
  • Headquarters: Warsaw, Poland
  • Motto: "Strength and Honor! For you, Fatherland!"

11. Spetsnaz, Russia

Spetsnaz, Russia's renowned special forces, bears a legacy of unparalleled training and expertise. Derived from "spetsialnogo naznacheniya," meaning "special purpose," Spetsnaz units excel in covert operations, intelligence gathering, and unconventional warfare. Established during the Soviet era, Spetsnaz has evolved into a formidable force that undergoes rigorous training in marksmanship, survival, and combat skills.

Distinctively versatile, Spetsnaz units encompass divisions tailored for specific tasks. From counter-terrorism and sabotage to reconnaissance and direct action, their skill set covers an extensive spectrum of military operations. Their expertise is showcased in both domestic and international scenarios, reflecting Russia's commitment to security and stability.

Spetsnaz's impact reaches beyond Russia's borders, participating in various global peacekeeping and anti-terrorism efforts. Their training and ethos emphasize adaptability and resilience, making them a force to be reckoned with. Spetsnaz epitomizes Russia's dedication to maintaining its national security and contributing to global peace and stability through its remarkable skills and unwavering commitment.

  • Country: Russia
  • Type: Special forces
  • Role: Special operations, Direct action, Special reconnaissance
  • Headquarters: Kubinka-2, Moscow region
  • Motto: "Only stars are above us!"


10. Snow Leopard Commando Unit, China

The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is China's elite special forces group, characterized by its exceptional training and specialized skills. Named after the elusive snow leopard, these commandos are known for their agility, stealth, and precision. Trained to excel in various terrains and environments, from mountains to urban settings, the Snow Leopard Commandos are a versatile force.

Formed under the People's Liberation Army (PLA), their training focuses on marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, and survival skills. Their responsibilities range from counter-terrorism operations to hostage rescues, making them a crucial asset in maintaining China's national security.

The Snow Leopard Commandos have demonstrated their capabilities in various international exercises and operations, showcasing China's commitment to global peace and security. With their distinctive blue camouflage uniforms, these commandos embody China's dedication to excellence and preparedness in facing modern security challenges. The Snow Leopard Commando Unit stands as a testament to China's efforts in developing a highly skilled and efficient special forces group to ensure the safety of its citizens and contribute to global stability

  • Country: China
  • Type: Police tactical unit & special forces
  • Role: Air Assault, Bomb disposal, CBRN defence, and more
  • Headquarters: Beijing
  • Motto: "Dare to Win"

9. Special Air Service (SAS), British

The Special Air Service (SAS) holds an iconic status among elite special forces worldwide. Originating during World War II, the SAS is the United Kingdom's renowned special operations force. Renowned for its motto "Who Dares Wins," the SAS is synonymous with courage and excellence.

SAS operatives undergo an intense selection process, which is one of the most gruelling in the world. Known for their exceptional combat skills, the SAS excels in reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, and direct-action missions. They are experts in operating behind enemy lines, often in hostile environments.

The SAS played a pivotal role during the Falklands War, the Gulf War, and subsequent conflicts. Their successes are attributed to rigorous training in marksmanship, evasion, survival, and tactical skills. The SAS has inspired similar units worldwide.

  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Type: Special forces
  • Role: Special operations
  • Headquarters: Stirling Lines, Herefordshire, England
  • Motto: "Who Dares Wins"


8. Gruppo di intervento speciale (GIS), Italy

The Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS) is Italy's elite counter-terrorism and special operations force. Established in 1978, GIS is known for its exceptional skills in high-risk operations and hostage rescues.GIS operatives undergo rigorous training, which includes marksmanship, close-quarters combat, and specialized tactics. With a primary focus on counter-terrorism, their expertise also extends to reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and unconventional warfare.

The GIS has been involved in numerous critical operations, both domestically and internationally. Their successful missions include hostage rescues and counter-terrorism efforts. The unit's professionalism and efficiency have earned them respect globally. The GIS's commitment to excellence is mirrored in their motto "Virtute Siderum Tenus" (With Valor to the Stars). Their contributions to national security and international peacekeeping underline their significance in Italy's defence strategy and exemplify their dedication to upholding peace and safety.

  • Country: Italy
  • Type: Special forces
  • Role: Special operations
  • Headquarters: Livorno
  • Motto: "Faithful through the centuries" & "As silent as the night, as fast as the lightning."

7. Alpha Group, Russia

The Alpha Group is a renowned Russian special forces unit established in 1974 under the KGB's Fifth Chief Directorate. Known for its clandestine operations, anti-terrorism efforts, and hostage rescues, Alpha Group has operated under the Federal Security Service (FSB) since the dissolution of the KGB. Alpha Group operatives undergo extensive training in combat, intelligence gathering, marksmanship, and tactical operations. They are recognized for their swift and effective responses to high-risk situations, including counter-terrorism operations both within Russia and abroad.

One of Alpha Group's notable achievements was its involvement in the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis, where it successfully neutralized terrorists who had taken over 700 hostages. The operation, however, came at the cost of some hostages' lives due to the use of a chemical agent. Alpha Group's reputation for professionalism, precision, and secrecy has solidified its status as one of the world's premier special forces units. Their contributions to national security and counter-terrorism efforts highlight their essential role in safeguarding Russia's interests and maintaining stability.

  • Country: Soviet Union(1974–1991) & Russia(1991–present)
  • Type: Spetsnaz
  • Role: Special operations, Hostage rescue, Law enforcement, and more
  • Headquarters: Moscow
  • Motto: "To win and return."

6. Joint Force Task 2 (JTF2), Canada

Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is Canada's elite special operations force specializing in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, and direct action missions. Established in 1993, JTF2 operates under the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM).JTF2's members undergo rigorous and extensive training, including specialized courses in parachuting, diving, marksmanship, and urban warfare. Their skills are honed to execute high-risk operations with precision and efficiency. The unit's primary focus is on counter-terrorism, both domestically and internationally, as well as assisting in hostage rescue and intelligence gathering.

Despite its relatively low-profile status, JTF2's capabilities are highly regarded in the global special forces community. Its expertise in urban combat and counter-terrorism operations has made it an essential asset in safeguarding Canadian national security and contributing to international coalition efforts.JTF2's commitment to excellence, operational secrecy, and ability to respond rapidly to emergent threats underscores its vital role in ensuring the safety and security of Canada and its allies.

  • Country: Canada
  • Type: Special operations force
  • Role: Special operations
  • Headquarters: Ottawa, Ontario (Dwyer Hill)
  • Motto: ‘Deeds, not words’ & ‘Everywhere.’

5. The Special Services Group (SSG), Pakistan

The Special Services Group (SSG) is Pakistan's premier special operations force, renowned for its elite training and versatile capabilities. Established in 1956, the SSG is a part of the Pakistan Army and specializes in a wide range of operations including counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, unconventional warfare, and special reconnaissance.SSG training is known for its intensity and demanding nature, encompassing a variety of skills such as airborne operations, combat diving, sniper training, and close-quarters combat.

SSG operatives are also trained to operate in various terrains, from mountains to urban environments, making them highly adaptable to different scenarios. The SSG has been actively involved in both domestic and international operations, including supporting UN peacekeeping missions and contributing to multinational efforts against terrorism. Their role in combating terrorism within Pakistan and assisting allied forces in neighbouring countries has garnered international recognition.

  • Country: Pakistan
  • Type: Special Forces
  • Role: Special operations, Unconventional warfare, and more
  • Headquarters: Ghazi Base, Tarbela, Attock-Punjab
  • Motto: "I am valiant."

4. National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, France

The National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale or GIGN) is a renowned elite special operations unit of the French Gendarmerie. Established in 1973, GIGN specializes in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and other high-risk law enforcement operations. GIGN is highly regarded for its rigorous selection process and demanding training, which includes marksmanship, close-quarters combat, parachuting, and specialized medical skills. The unit is known for its ability to handle complex and dangerous situations with precision and professionalism.

GIGN has been involved in numerous high-profile operations both within France and internationally. They played a crucial role in rescuing hostages during the 1994 Air France Flight 8969 hijacking and have successfully neutralized threats in various domestic and overseas scenarios. With its emphasis on adaptability and expertise, GIGN stands as a symbol of France's commitment to maintaining security and responding effectively to crises. The unit's collaboration with other elite special forces around the world underscores its reputation as a capable and respected entity in the realm of global counter-terrorism and law enforcement.

  • Country: France
  • Type: Police tactical unit & Special Forces
  • Role: Hostage rescue, Protection of VIPs and important sites
  • Headquarters: Satory, Yvelines, France
  • Motto: "Commitment for life"

3. The Sayeret Matkal, Israel

The Sayeret Matkal is an elite special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), renowned for its intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism operations, and covert missions. Founded in 1957, Sayeret Matkal is often referred to as one of the most secretive and prestigious units in the Israeli military. Sayeret Matkal's members undergo rigorous training in various fields, including combat, intelligence, survival, and advanced weaponry. Their ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations and carry out highly sensitive operations is a hallmark of their training.

The unit's operational scope includes deep reconnaissance, hostage rescue, and intelligence collection. Sayeret Matkal is known for its successful rescue of hostages at Entebbe Airport in 1976, a mission that showcased their exceptional skill and determination on an international scale. Operating under the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Sayeret Matkal works closely with other Israeli intelligence agencies and special forces units. Their involvement in both classified and high-risk assignments underscores their importance in maintaining Israel's security.

Sayeret Matkal's precise techniques, dedication to preparation, and unwavering commitment to their nation's safety have earned them a reputation as one of the most capable and respected special forces units in the world.

  • Country: Israel
  • Type: Sayeret, Commando
  • Role: Special operations, Special reconnaissance, Direct action, and more
  • Headquarters: Southern Israel
  • Motto: "Who Dares Wins"

2. MARCOS, India

The MARCOS (Marine Commandos) is an elite special forces unit of the Indian Navy, specializing in maritime warfare, counter-terrorism, and special reconnaissance operations. Established in 1987, MARCOS is renowned for its rigorous training and exceptional operational capabilities.MARCOS undergoes extensive training in various combat skills, including diving, combat swimming, underwater demolitions, and close-quarters combat. Their training also encompasses survival skills, intelligence gathering, and proficiency in handling a wide range of weaponry.

The primary role of MARCOS is to conduct special operations in maritime environments, such as coastal and offshore areas. They are trained to carry out underwater sabotage, anti-piracy operations, and counter-insurgency missions in challenging maritime conditions. One of MARCOS' most notable achievements was their involvement in Operation Talwar during the Kargil War in 1999. They played a crucial role in securing key coastal areas and neutralizing threats during the conflict. MARCOS operates under the Naval Special Warfare Division and works closely with other Indian special forces units and intelligence agencies.

Their ability to swiftly adapt to evolving situations and execute complex missions has earned them a reputation as one of the most skilled and effective special forces units in the world. The dedication, training, and unwavering commitment of MARCOS personnel contribute significantly to enhancing India's maritime security and safeguarding its national interests.

  • Country: India
  • Type: Special Operations Forces
  • Role: Air assault, Amphibious warfare, Close protection, and more
  • Headquarters: INS Karna, Vishakapatnam, India
  • Motto: "The Few, The Fearless"

1. Special Forces, USA

The United States Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets, is a renowned special operations force within the U.S. military. Established in 1952, the Green Berets are part of the larger United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and are recognized for their exceptional combat skills and specialized training. Green Berets are highly versatile and can perform a wide range of missions, including unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, direct action, special reconnaissance, and foreign internal defence. They are often deployed to remote and hostile environments where their adaptability and expertise make a significant impact.

The rigorous selection process for becoming a Green Beret ensures that only the most capable soldiers are cut. The training includes physical fitness, marksmanship, language proficiency, and cultural awareness, as well as specialized skills such as combat diving, airborne operations, and medical training. One of the most distinctive features of Green Berets is their focus on working with local populations and training foreign military forces. This approach enhances the capabilities of partner nations and promotes stability in regions of interest.

Green Berets also maintain close partnerships with other U.S. special operations units, intelligence agencies, and international counterparts. Their ability to work seamlessly with different organizations and adapt to various roles is a testament to their professionalism and versatility. Over the years, Green Berets have been involved in numerous high-profile operations, including the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, as well as counter-terrorism operations around the world. Their iconic headgear, the green beret, symbolizes their elite status and reflects their motto "De Oppresso Liber," which means "To Free the Oppressed." The Green Berets' dedication, expertise and unwavering commitment to duty continue to make them an integral part of U.S. special operations and global security efforts.

  • Country: United States
  • Type: Special operations force
  • Role: Unconventional warfare, Counter-terrorism, Direct action, Special reconnaissance, Foreign internal defence. 
  • Headquarters: Part of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)
  • Motto: "De Oppresso Liber" which means "To Free the Oppressed"
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