Compiling a list featuring the most elite special forces in the United States military (Army, Navy, and Air Force) was a complex process requiring consideration of various elements. We evaluated their publicly known missions, primary objectives, the unit’s capabilities in firepower and mobility, and the number of prestigious awards they have received, particularly awards for acts of bravery. This article showcases the US military’s top 10 elite special operations units that exhibit exceptional agility and lethality. These units represent the cream of the crop in terms of training, skill, and experience, making them some of the most formidable forces in the world.
The units included in this list are among the world’s finest. We have ranked them based on various factors to provide a comprehensive overview.
The brief descriptions for each of these highly specialized units merely offer a glimpse into their secretive and profound nature. These units are considered the top ten most elite special operations units in the US military and can adapt to various environments and conditions. American military special forces are widely regarded as some of the best in the world, and among them are some of the bravest and most accomplished heroes.
Please note that this list is not official and does not represent any official statement. It reflects our understanding and interpretation of US special forces. If you disagree with our ranking, you may choose not to continue reading.
USMC Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team
Also known as FAST, it is ready for rapid deployment when US Government installations worldwide require additional security. They are stationed at different naval command posts across the globe. This unit of close to 500 Marines is specially trained using state-of-the-art weapons.
USAF Pararescuemen, PJ
The primary mission of the US Air Force’s Pararescuemen is to recover aircrew members who are either downed or injured in harsh environments. They also provide on-the-scene emergency medical treatment to stabilize the wounded while evacuating them. The conditions sometimes warrant them to act as aircrew gunners and scanners, as some missions require enemy evasion.
75th Ranger Regiment
The Rangers, a highly trained infantry unit, serve as a special operations unit headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. This elite unit consists of a single Special Troops Battalion and three special operations battalions trained in various specialized skills to carry out various missions. These three light infantry battalions can be swiftly deployed and take turns being designated as the “Ranger Ready Forces,” ensuring they are always prepared to respond to any crisis anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
The US Marine Corps Special Forces, also known as ANGLICO, are recognized for their expertise in controlling Close Air Support (CAS). In addition, they receive training in ground-based fire support, such as cannon and rocket artillery, as well as precision-guided munitions. This comprehensive training makes ANGLICO the only firepower control team within the US Department of Defense that operates full-time and is fully equipped to coordinate fire support from the air, on land, and at sea.
MARSOC, a specially trained Marine Corps group, was established in February 2006 as a component of the US Special Operations Command, representing the USMC’s contribution to SOCOM. Their primary capabilities encompass direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counter-terrorism, information operations, and unconventional warfare. These highly specialized individuals must possess the functional ability to operate effectively in fast-paced and often remote and complex environments.
Army Intelligence Support Activity
The primary purpose of this highly secretive US Army intelligence unit is to gather intelligence that serves as the basis for action plans. The unit obtains this information from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to, local covert operatives and monitoring and tracking of radio communications.
USMC Force Reconnaissance
The USMC Force Reconnaissance, established in June of 1957, is a highly specialized unit known for its exceptional capabilities in deep reconnaissance and direct action missions. This elite task force is trained to operate autonomously in hostile territories and execute unconventional operations supporting conventional warfare. Their central mission is to provide support to Marine expeditionary and amphibious operations.
Army Special Forces (Green Berets)
The United States Army Special Forces, commonly called the Green Berets, are often considered one of the world’s most elite special forces units. Known for their unconventional warfare skills, they are trained to operate in various environments and execute missions such as unconventional warfare, counter-insurgency, direct action, and special reconnaissance. The Green Berets are highly selective and undergo intense training, including the Special Forces Qualification Course, considered one of the toughest military training programs in the world.
They are also equipped with advanced weapons and technology, allowing them to carry out missions with a high degree of stealth and precision. Their reputation for excellence has earned them a place among the top tier of special forces units. They are often called upon to execute some of the most challenging and high-stakes missions to support US national security interests.
The US Navy Seals, one of the most recognizable Special Operations groups, are a highly specialized and multi-faceted force trained to operate in various environments, including air, land, and sea. The roots of the Navy Seals can be traced back to World War II when the US Navy recognized the need for covert reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses. In response to this need, the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942.
US Army Delta Force
The US Army Delta Force is a unit comprised of highly skilled and discreet professionals. They are involved in various missions, including unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, and more. Delta Force operators refer to themselves as “The Unit,” reflecting their strong sense of unity and cohesiveness. The unit was first established in November 1977 and is recognized for its versatility and expertise in conducting covert operations, such as hostage rescues and raids.
This versatility has earned Delta Force a reputation as one of the top 10 elite special operations units in the US Military, and it is considered a highly classified Tier 1 unit. The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) is known for its commitment to mission success and its ability to execute complex and high-stakes operations with precision and stealth.
SEAL Team 6
The US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU, is a highly classified unit with several teams deployed across the globe. The original Team 6 was disbanded in 1987 but later re-established by the US Navy as the Special Warfare Development Group – DEVGRU. The exact number of teams and details of their operations are highly confidential and are not disclosed by the White House or the Department of Defense.
Information about DEVGRU remains shrouded in secrecy, making it one of the world’s most enigmatic and mysterious special forces units. Despite the lack of publicly available information, the unit is widely regarded as one of the most elite and highly skilled special operations forces, with a reputation for executing complex and sensitive missions with unparalleled precision and stealth.