Commando Tropas Especiales (Black Wasps): Cuba’s prime special operations unit

Eric Sof

Cuban special forces posing for photo during training

Commando Tropas Especiales (Black Wasps) is Cuba’s prime special operations unit. Cuba is an isolated country with a closed internal organization of the state. There is not much information about Cuban special forces and its special operations units, and what little is available is scanty mainly. However, one unit stands out in particular, Commando Tropas Especiales (also known as CTE, Black Wasps). They are under the direct control of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR).


Commando Tropas Especiales is part of Cuban special forces, specializing in jungle warfare (fighting in the jungle). So far is known that Commando Tropas Especiales under the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MIN FAR) was formed at the end of the 1970s. The Cuban special forces units took part in battles in Angola and other African countries.

The units involved in those actions were called “Tigers” and “Lions,” so it is considered that it was in 1977 when the MIN FAR decided to have its special forces, instead of relying on the special troops of the Ministry of Interior, MININT in the Battle of Quifangondo, Angola, in late 1975.

Black Wasps, Commando Tropas Especiales, Cuban special Forces, Insignia
The various insignia patches from the Cuban Special Forces (Photo: XY)

The Commando Tropas Especiales also have been involved in the conflicts in Central America, as in Nicaragua.

According to various sources, the operators from the Commando Tropas Especiales are highly skilled and trained for infiltration, sniper operations, working with biological warfare, and espionage. The unit consisted of teams trained to work in small groups that could locate high-value and strategically essential targets and finish the job.

Organizational structure

The Commando Tropas Especiales, or just Black Wasps, work in sub-groups consisting of 5 members, which can be male or female.


The Commando Tropas Especiales (CTE) was formed in the mid-1980 at the training center for Cuban special units in Los Palacios. The training center in Los Palacios is commonly known as Baragua school and is situated in a large valley near Pinar del Rio. The Cuban special forces training center is known for its large space, within which there are several artificial lakes with very modern training equipment suitable for various training topics.

Training and selection

The de la Guardia brothers established Training Center. The special operations training center can host up to 2500 soldiers for a single training. The Cuban advisers are backed up by instructors and specialists from China and Vietnam, who are assigned to Cuba to help and assist Cuban personnel during the training courses.

At the training center, future members of Cuban special forces are trained for direct action, special reconnaissance, and psychological operations. They also receive training in parachuting, underwater operations, target interceptions, strategic reconnaissance, and intelligence operations.

The selection process is unknown, but assuming China and Russia’s eastern influence, it is logical to conclude that it is modeled according to their special units, such as Spetsnaz.

Weaponry and gear


The money may buy everything, so the Cubans have created a good arsenal of various modern weapons. The members of Cuban special forces, Commando Tropas Especiales, were seen brandishing Stechkin pistols, Colt M1911 pistols, Springfield and M1 Garand rifles, FN FAL, newer FN CAL, assault rifles M16 (some with M203 grenade launchers and sniper sights), Spain’s Z84 machine guns or Barnett Commando bows.

Cuban Special Forces: Commando Tropas Especiales
Commando Tropas Especiales (Black Wasps) operators during the training armed with old SSSR-made weapons (Photo: XY)

They are also equipped with various Soviet (Russian) made weapons, including PM-63 RAK machine gun as their primary weapon and the old Soviet 5.45mm AKS-74U (AKR) assault rifle. They also have Polish WHO-84 in possession.


The Cuban Special Forces, including Black Wasps, have a series of vehicles of different types at their disposal to make this force as mobile as possible in case of an attack on the island, including:

  • Fiero: highly mobile and well-armed all-terrain vehicle with an AGS-17 grenade launcher on the roof and a PKM machine gun.
  • Iguana: a Cuban Hummer armed with a 12.7 mm NSV machine gun on the roof. The name of Iguana is unofficial since data on this vehicle is very scarce, and its exact title is unknown.
  • UAZ: is the all-terrain standard vehicle of the FAR. The Black Wasps have different versions of this vehicle, including a very well-armed PKM machine gun, an ASG-17 grenade launcher, and an SPG-9 recoilless cannon.
  • BRDM2 APC: they are used by the Black Wasps exploration bodies and have the standard armament such as the PKT machine gun and the KVPT heavy machine gun.
  • BTR-60: Also used with scan bodies in small quantities.

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