11 Nations with the Highest Number of Special Forces

Special forces, a type of military unit, have gained prominence in the United States due to their rigorous training and strong personality traits. These elite units are recruited from across the country to perform special operations, with a significant budget spike from $2.3 billion to $13.7 billion during the global war on terror.

The US military is equipping its special forces operators with sophisticated equipment to overcome complex challenges.

Lockheed Martin’s Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) has achieved operational capability, enabling Navy SEALs to travel underwater without wetsuits and enter and exit vehicles undetected.

The US Navy is also ramping up its seabed capabilities, commissioned a next-generation attack submarine by General Dynamics Corporation. The submarine will be used for covert operations along the floor of operations, tapping deep sea communication cables, and retrieving parts of missiles and rockets tested underwater.

Special forces have become increasingly important in the global war on terror, with the US military equipping its operators with advanced equipment to navigate complex scenarios.

SOCOM is upgrading its MH-47G Chinook fleet as part of its modernization efforts. The Boeing Company received a $271 million modification contract in December 2023 to procure the rotary wing renewal build aircraft for SOCOM, with the project expected to complete by May 2027. The MH-47G Chinook, first introduced in 1962 by The Boeing Company, continues to be widely used in American special operations despite aging.

General Dynamics Corporation provided professional services to US special forces in their global operations between 2016 and 2021 under a five-year contract with a maximum ceiling of $900 million.

ARMA Global, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation, provided technical and engineering services for major weapon systems and production and program control decision-making.

Several credible publications and news reports have been consolidated to identify countries with the highest number of military special forces in the world. Countries are sorted in ascending order of the number of special military forces they operate. Insider Monkey, an investing website, uses a consensus approach to identify the best stock picks of over 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 stock index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years.

Germany has two prominent military special forces, the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) and Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM). The KSK is the elite special force of the German military, specializing in search and rescue, commando warfare, and anti-terrorism.

It has carried out successful operations in Afghanistan and is considered one of the most well-equipped special forces in the world. The KSM is responsible for amphibious warfare and requires authorization from the German parliament before undertaking any operation.

Spain has three major special operations groups: Fuerza de Guerra Naval Especial, Escuadrón de Zapadores Paracaidistas (EZAPAC), and Caballero Legionario Maderal Oleaga. The former consists of the Spanish Navy’s Marines and specializes in operations in land, sea, and air. The latter is merged with the former’s reputation.

Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG), also known as the Black Storks, is among the best military special forces in the world. The group has undertaken several successful operations, particularly in the tribal north against militant groups along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Navy Special Service Group, also known as Navy SEALs and Navy SSG, possesses extensive expertise in search and rescue, hostage rescue, psychological operations, direct action, reconnaissance, and high-value target removal.

The Pakistan Air Force’s Special Services Wing, trained for reconnaissance, combat control, pararescue, and direct action, is primarily responsible for air traffic control in hostile environments.

The Special Operations Command (COS) in France, equivalent to the USSOCOM and UKSF, oversees the operations of various special forces of the French military. The National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) is the most prominent special operations unit in France, responsible for counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and VIP protection.

The French Navy’s Commandos Marine and Air Parachute Commando No. 10 are equipped with advanced skills for maritime, air, and air defense against internal and external threats.

Canada’s Special Operations Forces Command is responsible for all special operations conducted by the country to respond to terrorism and threats to Canada. There are four main special forces working under the command: the Joint Task Force 2 (JST2), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, and the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit. The JST2 is regarded among the best in the world, having worked on several counter-terrorism operations at home and abroad.

Russia has the highest number of military special forces globally, including the elite Alpha Group, Spetsnaz, 45th Guards Independent Reconnaissance Regiment, and Vympel. Alpha Group, founded in 1974 by the KGB, specializes in counter-terrorism and operates under the FSB. Spetsnaz is part of Russia’s foreign military intelligence unit, GRU, and has participated in covert operations in Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, and Czechoslovakia.

The 45th Guards Independent Reconnaissance Regiment, under the Russian Airborne Troops, focuses on reconnaissance, kinetic operations against command and control posts, and eliminating leadership. Vympel special forces protect strategic installations in Russia.

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