In the world of special operations forces, one unit is considered as one of the most lethal and most capable. At the first, you’ll think about Navy SEALs, Delta Force, SAS but these bunch of warriors are publicly relatively unknown. They are known as Special Boat Service or just SBS. SBS operating under United Kingdom Special Forces alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and the Special Forces Support Group. The United Kingdom Special Forces are under control of Directorate of Special Forces (DSF).
Through history, they were relatively unknown to the public. They were formed in 1940, and for long they have operated under 22nd SAS as their amphibious troop also referred as Boat Troop. Then they were ‘adopted’ by Royal Navy where they had become a Special Boat Section and later Special Boat Squadron.
Despite their similarity with Special Air Service, it is completely different and independent unit described as the naval special forces of the United Kingdom and the sister unit of the already mentioned SAS. The operational capabilities of both units are broadly similar, however, the SBS (being the principal Royal Navy contribution to UKSF) has the additional training and equipment to lead in the maritime, amphibious and riverine environments. Both units come under the operational command of HQ Directorate of Special Forces (DSF) and undergo an identical selection process, enjoy significant interoperability in training and on operations.
So far, they have operated under same acronym but with different names, from 1940 until 1977 they were known as Special Boat Section. In 1977, their name was changed to the Special Boat Squadron. In 1987, they were renamed Special Boat Service and became part of the United Kingdom Special Forces Group alongside the Special Air Service and 14 Intelligence Company.
The unit is responsible for operating in small parties in the enemy-controlled territory in case of armed conflict and war. Usually, these types of missions require an excellent training, tactical awareness and of course courage and high moral of the operators.
They are tasked with various operations and missions which include:
- Surveillance Reconnaissance (SR)
- Offensive Action (OA)
- Support and Influence (SI)
- Military Counter Terrorism (CT)
- Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT)
Engagements in armed conflicts
Through history, the unit was involved in every conflict where United Kingdom had its influence, from World War II up to the latest War on Terror. Today, they are engaged in War in Afghanistan, Iraqi War and unofficially in Syria and Libya where they are tasked with various operations.
Motto and headquarters
The unit’s motto is ‘Not By Strength, by Guile’ which literally describes their personality. The unit headquarters is located in Poole, Dorset. One of their most publicly known members was a British hero, Major Anders Lassen, VC, MC and two bars, who served as an SBS commander during the Second World War.
Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces
In Portuguese, it is called Centro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (CTOE), and you can translate it to Special Operations Forces Center, they are the Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) and are part of the Army Rapid Reaction Brigade. They are based in Lamego, a city in the North of Portugal surround by mountains and very close to the Douro River. The very cold environment in the winter mixed very hot in the summer, the mountain terrain together with the harsh training the men receive is a great recipe to create very tuff Men.
Organized in Special Operations Platoons and Task Units (TU), but together with support and logistics, they have a Battalion size unit. The CTOE is composed of a specially selected man, which are organized, trained, equipped and use techniques, tactics and procedures that are nonstandard to regular forces. They are able to conduct activities in all spectrum of warfare, independently or integrated with other regular or irregular forces in a way to achieve victory. In case of Political need they are also able to conduct descript or even covert operations. Special Operations can be conducted directly against an enemy, or indirectly by training and supporting local foreign military or even create militia from populations.
Portuguese SOF TU can be infiltrated by air, land or water and coordination with Air, Land and Naval Firepower support is common in any Joint Operations Area as it augments Special Operations capacities.
The regular TASK UNIT is composed of Commander (Captain), Operations and Intelligence Officer (Lieutenant), Operations and Intelligence Sargent, Team and Logistics Master Sargent, one support section, one maintenance section, one medical section, one communications section and a Platoon of Special Operations soldiers. Sometimes, if needed, it can be augmented with Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) personnel.
Portuguese SOF missions include:
- Perform studies and experiments with new tactics and gear,
- Organize, train and maintain Special Operations Forces,
- Organize, train and mentor irregular/civilian forces,
- Organize and perform Subversive Warfare in case of homeland invasion by foreign forces,
- Unconventional warfare,
- Psychological warfare
- Direct and indirect actions,
- Raids and Sabotage against high-value targets,
- Long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP),
- Locating enemy command and control centers,
- Targeting and destruction of enemy air defenses and radar systems,
- Hostages, POW and other personnel rescue operations,
- Many other that it´s commander find suitable.
Portuguese Army SOF has been deployed worldwide. Some of the known countries are Angola, Mozambique, Guinee-Bissau, Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, East-Timor, Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic. They have been a part of NATO Immediate Reaction Forces since its creation.
Working in other countries for long time period missions demands that the unit acquires knowledge of the local language and cultural costumes. English and French are common languages taught to the unit. Portugal has a long military tradition in Africa so this is one area of operations where the unit feels very comfortable
Some of the foreign qualifications that the Officers and Non-Commission Officers take are:
- Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Germany
- Sniper in the United Kingdom,
- Special Forces in the United States,
- Airborne in the United States,
- Ranger in the United States,
- Special Operations Military Free-Fall in the United States,
- Jungle warfare in Brazil,
- Artic Warfare in Norway,
- Enemy vehicles recognition in Germany,
- Long range reconnaissance patrol in Germany
Portuguese Army SOF has been modernizing itself for the last years. Especially in what concerns the individual soldier equipment. New weaponry like assault rifles, silencers, light and medium machine guns, Trijicon and Schmidt & Bender scopes, AN PEQ-16B laser/illuminator modules, AN PVS-21 night vision goggles, but also protection equipment like the Ops core Helmets, Warrior assault systems Tactical Vests and some day by day items like the mystery ranch backpacks, Harris Radios and Peltor Headsets.
Portuguese Army SOF is a modern force with experience in many theatres. With participation in United Nations, European Union and NATO operations, it is a strong asset to these Organizations and its partners.
Their motto is: “Que os muitos por sermos poucos não temamos” – Don´t fear the many just because we are few.
German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos
The elite detachment of combat divers, Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) is a special unit of commandos of the German Navy that may serve as Berlin’s response the US Navy SEALs. Against the background of the current situation in the world (cold wars, sea piracy, etc.), KSM acts as an important tool of Germany’s foreign policy. KSM was established for special operations under the water.
Special forces in the naval forces of Germany appeared relatively recently. First-ever German military divers were trained in France in 1959. The task of the German battalion “Specialized operational marine forces” (Spezialisierten Einsatzkräften der Marine) included special operations on land and under the water. From 2003 to 2014, the battalion was one of the most sought-after units of the German army.
Special operations were conducted in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kosovo and Somalia. In the process of the recent reorganization of the German Navy, the battalion was divided into several groups. In April 2014, a fundamentally new military organization was created – special forces of commando divers – Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine, or KSM.
The Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine is based in the German city of Eckernförd, where the entire fleet of German submarines is deployed. “The new military structure has a narrow specialization, this allows us to better perform the tasks set. Guys do their work professionally, and it is the most important thing for me,” the commander of KSM, Jorg Buddenbaum, said.
The tasks of Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) special forces include reconnaissance and sabotage activities on the water, under the water, and in the coastal zone. Missions can also be life-saving, peacekeeping, aimed at protecting and ensuring security of any objects (ships, oil and gas offshore platforms). The work of the unit is often conducted under the aegis of NATO or the UN.
Each mission usually involves four or five military divers – a commander, a sniper, a medic, a radio operator and an observer. Their diving equipment includes German rebreather Dräger LAR-V, dry and wet suits from 5 to 7 mm, fins and masks, navigation gadgets, knives, underwater watch and underwater pistol P11 Heckler&Koch (silently fires steel arrows). KSM divers use submarine scooters to move underwater, while air cushions, speedboats, kayaks, etc. are used on the water surface.
The German Armed Forces do not disclose any information on the number of KSM soldiers. According to various reports, it goes about 130 men (only men can serve in KSM).
KSM candidates have to undergo an exceptionally intense 3-year training course. In the process of training, candidates master the knowledge and skills necessary for naval commandos: diving, parachute jumping, rock climbing, counter-terrorism training, boat and ship navigation. As a rule, only 30 percent of candidates join the rank of KSM servicemen. To date, KSM is considered one of the most highly trained special units of the German army.
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