General Military Questions

18 Most Elite Special Forces Units in the World

What are the most elite Special Forces in the world?

The answer to that question frequently depends on who you ask and where they are located on the globe.

Be that as it may, most experts agree that some Special Forces are more influential and dominant compared to others.

Discover the 18 Most Elite Special Operations Forces (SOF) In The World.

Related ArticleTier 1 Vs. Tier 2: Difference Between Special Forces

18 Most Elite Special Forces Units in the World

What nation has the most elite Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the world?

It’s extremely difficult to separate the best from the best.

Special Operations Forces provide the manpower and strategic abilities to enter the most hostile places on the globe.

For this reason, Special Forces are often delegated with the most dangerous, top-secret military operations.

Furthermore, they are considered the strongest counter-terrorism measures for high-risk rescue and hostage situations.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) consist of the best-trained and most formidable military units in the world.

As such, many experts agree that some of the most respected and elite Special Forces originate from the following nations:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Australia

While it’s very difficult to rank these elite Special Forces against each other, some have garnered such a reputation that it’s difficult to ignore.

Learn more about the 18 Most Elite Special Forces In The World:

United States Elite Special Forces

most elite special forces in the united states

The United States arguably has the most elite Special Forces in the world.

Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and DELTA Force are all considered some of the finest special operatives witnessed around the globe.

Here are some more details about these premiere Special Forces:

#1. Navy SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU)

seal team 6 or devgru is one of the most elite special forces units in the world

U.S. Navy SEALs are world-famous.

Generally, when people think of special operatives, they envision Navy SEAL Team 6.

The training of Navy SEALs is notoriously hard and demanding.

These elite warriors undergo Navy Basic Underwater Demolition (BUD/S) training.

The Navy BUD/S program covers all aspects of unconventional warfare, including training for air, sea, and land operations.

Candidates face a grueling selection process both in terms of physical and mental challenges.

The obstacle courses are rigorous, and underwater training is some of the most intense in the world.

Meanwhile, Navy SEALs also are tasked with arduous land navigation challenges that teach resilience, teamwork, and mental fortitude.

The training doesn’t end with Navy SEAL BUD/S, as operatives receive additional specialized training based on their role in the Special Forces unit.

Navy SEALs have been upholding peace throughout the world for the last half-century since its inception in 1962.

Today, many other elite Special Forces model their training regime and approach based on the culture of the Navy SEALs.

#2. Army Green Berets

army green berets

Next, Army Green Berets rival Navy SEALs in many regards.

First, the two elite Special Forces compete for some of the most dangerous, and risky military operations around the globe.

Military training is just as intense for Green Berets as it is for Navy SEALs.

In fact, the failure rate for candidates seeking to become Green Berets is extremely high (70% to 75%).

And, even more noteworthy, it’s not uncommon for a group of new recruits not to have a single individual qualify as a Green Beret.

Green Berets military training includes the Special Forces Assessment (24-day test), Special Forces Qualification Course, and legendary SERE training.

Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training teaches candidates how to survive capture as well as resist enemy forces following imprisonment.

#3. Delta Force (SFOD-D)

delta force is a premier counterterrorist unit for the us army

There is no question that the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) is among the most elite Special Forces.

In fact, Delta Force (SFOD-D) rivals Army Green Berets (and Navy SEALs) in many regards.

Delta Force units operate under Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Accordingly, “The Unit” is assigned to highly classified operations, which is why most civilians never learn much about them.

Even today, much of the military training that elite Special Forces like Delta Force endure is classified.

Still, what is known is that Delta Force is composed of operatives who previously served on other Special Forces.

As such, many of these operatives were already very highly trained before they advanced to Delta Force (SFOD-D).

Delta Force has been behind several high-profile military operations, including the 2019 death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

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United Kingdom Elite Special Forces

uk special forces units

Great Britain also has a phenomenal history of producing the best Special Forces in the world.

In fact, most acknowledge that the British Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) rank among the most elite Special Forces.

#1. British Special Air Service (SAS)

British Special Air Service or SAS is one of the most elite special forces in the world

Great Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) is world-renowned.

For starters, it’s one of the oldest and most iconic Special Forces in the history of warfare.

British Special Air Service first appeared as an infantry regiment in 1941 and was officially declared a military corps in 1950.

Since then, British SAS has solidified its position among the most elite Special Forces units in the world.

SAS operatives are considered experts in counterterrorism, intelligence gathering, and hostage rescue.

British SAS training is notoriously hard and demanding, with only a small percentage of candidates graduating from the program.

In the past, the British SAS was attributed with numerous accomplishments behind enemy lines during World War II, like Operation Squatter.

British SAS perform unconventional warfare under the motto “Who dares wins.”

Recently, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal remarked that the U.S. couldn’t have survived Iraq and Afghanistan without their support.

#2. British Special Boat Service (SBS)

the special boat service is britains equivalent to us navy seal teams

The British Special Boat Service (SBS) is the naval equivalent of the British SAS.

Moreover, they are often compared to Navy SEALs and other elite Special Forces that excel in the open water.

The British SBS is proficient in conducting covert operations in marine environments.

Often, these military exercises involve intelligence gathering or direct sabotage of enemy forces.

In the past, British SBS played a crucial role in conflicts such as the Falklands War and Gulf War.

And, like the British SAS, also has assisted during the ongoing war against global terrorism.

British SBS, like Navy SEALs, thrive in water environments but are not simply restricted to it.

In fact, British SBS training is grueling and features combat survival training deep in the jungle of Belize.

Furthermore, candidates must endure intense negotiation and interrogation exercises.

#3.  Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR)

Special Reconnaissance Regiment

The United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) recently established the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR).

The regiment is rising among Special Forces in terms of reputation despite recently being created in 2005.

The purpose of the regiment is to conduct a wide range of classified activities.

Recently, British SRR has been linked to several counter-terrorism (CT) activities including providing support in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings.

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Germany Elite Special Forces

german special forces units

Germany has a long history of military dominance.

Today, the military ally of the United States continues to feature some of the most advanced Special Forces in the world.

#1. German Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK)

German Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) is germany's premier special operations force

The Kommando Spezialkräfte, or German KSK, ranks as the nation’s premiere Special Forces unit.

Additionally, the German KSK has a tremendous reputation worldwide due to its activities in counterterrorism and unconventional warfare.

German KSK is renowned for producing operatives that work with precision and expertise.

As such, German KSK training is demanding and rigorous.

German KSK operatives undergo an intense selection process that features multiple endurance tests and mental assessments.

Those who survive the initial round of training progress to a second round of more advanced, specialized military training.

The elite Special Forces operatives have been deployed on numerous international peacekeeping missions.

Recently, the German KSK was involved in a successful 2003 terrorist hostage rescue operation in the Sahara Desert.

#2. German Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM)

Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine

German Naval Special Forces, or Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM), also plays a pivotal role in international peacekeeping efforts.

The elite Special Forces unit produces combat swimmers highly trained in multiple forms of amphibious warfare.

These “fight swimmers” (SEK-M) are the only special-purpose force of the German Navy.

German frogmen have existed since World War II and continue to rank among the most elite military units.

German KSM missions are extremely classified yet the forces were prominent during the Gulf War.

Additionally, these naval commandos were active during the NATO conflict with the former Yugoslavia.

#3. German Kamfretter

German Kamfretter

German Kampfretters, or “combat rescuemen,” are another top special operations force.

These combat rescuemen perform operations under the command of the German Air Force.

Thus, they are regularly involved in combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions among other directives.

German Kampfretters are not your typical rescue crew because they often enter hazardous or dangerous environments.

Often, this may include entering hostile nations or other parts of the world that are behind enemy lines.

Candidates for the Kampfretter are recruited from the German Air Force Regiment.

Those seeking to apply for the training program compete under a selective entry process.

The completion of the training program (including SERE training) usually takes 2 years or longer.

Related ArticleUS Military Bases In Germany

France Elite Special Forces

french special operations units

France is another world power when it comes to Special Forces.

The nation is known for its military excellence including producing the famous GIGN Special Forces.

#1. National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN)

the french gign is one of the most elite special forces units in the world

The National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) exists in a class all its own.

There are many who consider it one of the best counter-terrorism units in the world.

France GIGN is among the most sophisticated and advanced Special Forces related to law enforcement.

Accordingly, the group consists of 200 men specifically trained to handle hostage situations and barricaded suspects.

French GIGN claims to have freed more than 600 people since its inception in 1973.

For this reason, many consider it the top Special Forces unit for extracting high-profile hostage subjects and situations.

Today, the identities of France National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) members remain top-secret.

In fact, French law forbids the publication of images or identities related to GIGN members.

The elite police tactical unit was established in response to the devastating consequences of the 1972 Munich Olympic terrorist massacre.

GIGN operatives utilize some of the most advanced and cutting-edge technology and weapons.

Recently, France GIGN rescued passengers on the 1994 Air France Flight 8969 hijacking and spoiled 2015 planned Paris terrorist attacks.

These operations (and more) have solidified GIGN as one of the most elite Special Forces in the world.

#2. French Commando Marine

French Commando Marine

France Commandos Marines are also noteworthy among Special Operations Forces (SOF).

The military component of the French Navy is nicknamed “Bérets Verts,” or “Green Berets.”

Therefore, there is not much else to say about these legendary special operatives.

French Green Berets were established during World War II and have garnered a terrific reputation.

Candidates must survive Stage Commando (commando training), which some consider the hardest training program among NATO Special Operation Forces.

In fact, the traditional dropout rate among those attempting to graduate from the program is above 80%.

All training activities are timed and scored, including an infamous march loaded with equipment and weapons that leads through miles of obstacles.

During many portions of the training program, one mistake leads to disqualification.

Related Article – 5-Tier 1 Operators / Special Mission Units Explained

#3. France Special Operations Command

France Special Operations Command

The Army (Commandement des Opérations Spéciales) supervises more Special Forces units compared to other military branches of the French Armed Forces.

It includes many other Special Forces units like the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment and the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment.

Additionally, the French Air and Space Force offers assistance thanks to its Air Parachute Commandos and Special Operations Division.

Italy Elite Special Forces

italian elite special forces units

Special Operations Forces are considered elite warriors.

In the past, Italy has contributed by producing top Special Forces such as Gruppo di Intervento Speciale.

#1. Gruppo di Intervento Speciale

Gruppo di Intervento Speciale is italys premier special operations force

Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (or Special Intervention Group), also known as GIS, ranks among the best Special Forces found across the globe.

Italy GIS functions as a special forces unit of the Italian Carabinieri.

The purpose of the Carabinieri is dual function hence they offer both military and civil / law enforcement support.

Originally, the Carabinieri was established as a police tactical unit in 1978.

However, it has since evolved to offer special operations support around the globe.

Italian Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS) is involved in counter-terrorism operations along with protecting executive and VIP personnel.

Today, Italy’s GIS has a quality reputation for both protecting the nation as well as being involved in multiple theaters of war.

Recently, The Italian GIS was involved in the international conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It primarily assisted with high-profile hostage rescue operations and prominent hijackings.

#2. 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment (Col Moschin)

9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment Col Moschin are one of the scariest special forces in the world

Col Moschin, or the Italian 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment, is assigned to the Army Special Forces Command.

The Special Forces unit has a long history that originates with World War I.

During that time period, the Royal Italian Army developed trained assassins modeled after German Stormtroopers.

Later, in World War II, the Italian Paratrooper Assault Regiment assisted with many successful campaigns.

#3. Italy Folgore Reconnaissance Paratroopers

Italy Folgore Reconnaissance Paratroopers

The Italian 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment is another noteworthy Special Forces unit.

Also known as Folgore (Italian for “Lightning”), the Special Operations Force has served as part of the Italian Army’s Infantry division.

It’s worth mentioning that Italy Folgore was among the first paratroopers regiments ever created.

The Italian Folgore also played a huge role in many campaigns, including the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan. 

Today, the paratroopers and infantry unit continue to provide special reconnaissance for the Italian government.

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Australia Elite Special Forces

australian elite special ops units

Australia has been a friendly and faithful nation to the United States for decades.

Today, the country also develops several elite Special Forces, including the Australian SASR.

#1. Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR)

Australian Special Air Service Regiment is one of the most feared special forces in the world

Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) consists of highly trained and skilled operatives.

It exists within the Australian Defence Force, which specializes in counterterrorism and reconnaissance activities.

Thus, Australian SASR operatives are very well-trained and prepared to handle numerous dangerous conditions.

Australia’s SASR is capable of meeting objectives in both urban environments and remote, harsh terrains.

The elite Special Forces unit, like the others on the list, is renowned for having an intense training program.

As a result, the Australian SASR usually consists of the very best the nation has to offer in terms of special operatives.

Australia’s SASR provided tremendous relief during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, they continue to play a prominent role in guaranteeing national and global security.

#2. Australian Special Forces Group (SFG)

Australian Special Forces Group SFG

The Australian Special Forces Group (SFG) operates under the Army Special Forces Command.

The purpose of SFG is to supervise multiple Special Forces units under its command.

These include the 1st and 2nd Australia Commando Regiment.

Furthermore, the previously mentioned Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and Special Operations Engineer Regiment.

Moreover, the Australian 6th Aviation Regiment (more details, below) is under the supervision of Special Forces Command.

The Royal Australian Air Force includes noteworthy special units like the 171st Special Operations Aviation Squadron and No. 4 Squadron.

#3. Australia 6th Aviation Regiment

Australia 6th Aviation Regiment is one of the most feared military aviation units in the world

The Australian 6th Aviation Regiment was recently established to improve the air mobility of the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command.

For this reason, the 6th Aviation Regiment produces some of the finest aircraft and helicopter pilots in the world.

The purpose of the aviation Special Forces unit is to assist with a diverse range of joint operations.

The Australian 6th Aviation Regiment has performed worldwide search and rescue operations along with providing assistance during natural disasters.

Most Elite Special Forces: Honorable Mention

These nations are also known for producing high-quality Special Forces:

  • Israeli Sayeret Matkal (Israel)
  • Korps Commandotroepen (The Netherlands)
  • Russian Alpha Group (Russia)
  • Unidad de Operaciones Especiales (Spain)
  • Special Services Group (SSG) “Black Storks” (Pakistan)

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What are the most elite Special Forces in the world?

There are many that consider the best existing in advanced, developed allied nations like the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, countries like Spain and Pakistan also produce some of the best Special Forces the world has ever witnessed.

It’s difficult to rank Special Forces in order of importance, yet these groups are world famous and renowned.

Rob V.
Most Feared Special Forces

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What are the most elite special forces in the world? Discover the best from the United States, Germany, France, Australia and more.
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