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Special operations

Special operations

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Special operations are military operations that are considered "special" (that is, unconventional).

Special operations (SO) are typically performed independently or in conjunction with conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does not exist or might affect the overall strategic outcome. Special operations are usually conducted in a low-profile manner that typically aim to achieve the advantage of speed, surprise, and violence of action against an unsuspecting target. Special ops are typically carried out with limited numbers of highly trained personnel that are able to operate in all environments, utilize self-reliance, are able to easily adapt and overcome obstacles, and use unconventional combat skills and equipment to complete objectives. Special operations are usually implemented through specific or tailored intelligence.

Special operations forces


Special operations forces (SOF) is a term primarily used in the West. It is an “all encompassing” term that defines a nation’s specialized units. The term “special forces” is age old and used by countries around the world to describe their specialized unit(s). The United States, however, reserves the term “Special Forces” primarily for its Army special operations unit that specializes in unconventional warfare (UW)/Foreign Internal Defense FID) (commonly referred to as the “Green Berets”).

Examples of special operations include: special reconnaissance
Special reconnaissance
Special reconnaissance is conducted by small units of highly trained military personnel, usually from special forces units or military intelligence organisations, who operate behind enemy lines, avoiding direct combat and detection by the enemy. As a role, SR is distinct from commando operations,...

/military intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

, unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare is the opposite of conventional warfare. Where conventional warfare is used to reduce an opponent's military capability, unconventional warfare is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing...

, and counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

 actions. Special operations are sometimes associated with unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare is the opposite of conventional warfare. Where conventional warfare is used to reduce an opponent's military capability, unconventional warfare is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing...

, counter-insurgency
Counter-insurgency
A counter-insurgency or counterinsurgency involves actions taken by the recognized government of a nation to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it...

 (operations against insurgents
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

), operations against guerrillas
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 or irregular forces
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

, low-intensity operations, and foreign internal defense
Foreign internal defense
Foreign internal defense is a term used by a number of Western militaries, including the United States, France and the United Kingdom, to describe an approach to combating actual or threatened insurgency in a foreign state called the Host Nation . The term counter-insurgency is more commonly used...

.

Special operations may be carried out by conventional forces but are often carried out by special operations forces (SOF), which are military units that are highly-trained and use special equipment, weapons, and tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

. They are sometimes referred to as "elite" forces, commandos, and special operators.

See also

  • United States Marshals Service#Special Operations Group (SOG)
  • List of special forces units
  • Foreign internal defense
    Foreign internal defense
    Foreign internal defense is a term used by a number of Western militaries, including the United States, France and the United Kingdom, to describe an approach to combating actual or threatened insurgency in a foreign state called the Host Nation . The term counter-insurgency is more commonly used...

  • Special Activities Division
    Special Activities Division
    The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...


External links