Military Special Forces units are the best of the best, the cream of the crop. These soldiers are the kind of fighters they make movies about, even though the actual stories are classified (and probably even more awesome).
Every nation with a formidable military has some form of Special Forces, but these are the most elite.
The COS (France)
The French COS, properly known as the Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, was formed in 1992 after the Persian Gulf War. Specializing in preparedness, these troops can mobilize at a moment’s notice, and they’ve been seen operating in Paris, responding to the terror attacks.
The British do Special Forces a little differently.
The SAS (England)
The British Special Air Service (SAS) is an elite unit of the British Army. It was founded as a single regiment in 1941, during WWII. The SAS originally specialized in operating behind enemy lines and has grown to provide services in reconnaissance, counterterrorism, direct action and hostage rescue.
But Europe isn’t the only place to find Special Forces.
Shayetet 13 (Israel)
The Shayetet 13 is an elite combat group in the Israeli Navy, and one of the main Special Forces units of the Israeli Defense Forces. Formed in 1948, the Shayetet 13 has been involved in more than a dozen engagements, including most of Israel’s major wars.
Russia has elite troops as well.
Spetsnaz is a general term for Special Forces units under control of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, the GRU. Many former Soviet states refer to their Special Forces groups as Spetsnaz as well. Russian Naval Spetsnaz, commonly called “frogmen,” have been active since 1941.
The former Soviet Union’s Cold War opponents also have their own brand of Special Forces.
Navy SEALs (United States)
The Navy SEALs are the most well-known of the American Special Forces and for good reason. SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land; these guys are ready to go anywhere for any operation at a moment’s notice. They’re the unit responsible for the capture of Osama bin Laden.
But what about their neighbors to the North?
Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 is an elite unit inspired by its former colonizers, Great Britain. JTF2 is modeled after the British SAS and is trained to respond to a number of operational situations, although they focus on counterterrorism.
You haven’t seen all of the Special Forces units in Europe.
The KSK (Germany)
Germany’s KSK (Kommando Spezialkräfte) is comprised of the best of the German military’s Rapid Forces Division (Division Schnelle Kräfte). Well respected by their counterparts in other nations, the KSK is often asked to participate in joint anti-terror operations.
Some Special Forces units trace their origins back centuries.
Jaeger Corps (Denmark)
The Jaeger Corps (Jægerkorpset) is an elite Special Forces Unit of the Danish Defence, under Special Operations Command. The Jaeger Corps has a storied history and its origins lie as far back as a light infantry force created in 1785, designed to engage with emerging threats.