French Army Special Forces Brigade

Eric Sof

The elite French Army Special Forces Brigade - Brigade des Forces Speciales Terre (BSFT)

The French Army Special Forces Brigade, relatively unknown to the wide public is one of the top special forces in the world. They are based in Pau, Pyrenees-Atlantiques France and they were first activated in July of 2002 and they are still present. Their main tasks are related to various missions worldwide, whenever or wherever they are needed by French government.  They are one of three elite French units which train together annually in a military exercise known as Gorgones a name meaning ‘three mythological figures’.  The purpose of French Army Special Forces Brigade (Brigade des Forces Speciales Terre, BFST) is to support peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Afghanistan.

The French Army Special Forces Brigade is composed of the following three independent units:

1)      1er RPIMa is highly skilled and trained unit, specializing in areas such as counter-terrorism and patrol operations (amphibious, jungle, mountain or motorized).  They are often recognized among Europe’s most highly trained Special Forces, partly due to their continued operational deployments over the past thirty years in the hostile environment.  Their base is located in Bayonne.

2)      13e RDP, the French Army’s Long Range Recon Patrol, is comprised of seven squadrons.  Three of these squadrons are dedicated to intelligence, two to head up long-range communications and the final two are training squadrons.  This unit is located in Martignas-sur-Jalle.

3)      4e RHFS is the last one and it is responsible for providing air transportation and support anywhere in the world to France’s Special Forces.

Not much information is available on the selection and training process for the Brigade des Forces Speciales Terre – BFST.  However, this lack of information, in no way, implies a less elite or less experienced group of individuals. They are under constant training for sure, by highest standards in the world like other world’s elite units for special operations. That means also that they are equipped with weapons and equipment as any other elite unit in the world. French Army Special Forces Brigade also conducting training with French Foreign Legion (FFL) and other French army military units.

members of Brigade des Forces Speciales Terre (BSFT) during training - French Army Special Forces Brigade training

The some information suggest that their training is specific between the 1er RPIMa and the 13eme RDP. Both units have similarities with the British Special Air Service (SAS) training, more intelligence-sided for the second (this unit actually performs a unique work in the world as an intelligence unit), the first being a special action unit highly skilled, comparable to the SAS or German KSK.

The French Army Special Forces Brigade is still considered as one of the top Special Forces units worldwide. They are ready to withstand with all type of enemies any time and anywhere to defend French interests abroad.

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