Portuguese Special Operations

Centro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (CTOE)


The CTOECentro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (Special Operations Troops Centre), based in Lamego, is a unit of the Portuguese Army with the mission of instructing troops in unconventional warfare and Counter-Terrorism. Until 2006 it was known as CIOE – Centro de Instrução de Operações Especiais (Special Operations Instruction Centre).

The CTOE contains an operational unit, popularly known as Rangers, tasked with performing missions similar to the US Army’s Special Forces or British SAS. Some of these missions include conducting Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP), raids against high value targets, locating enemy command and control centers, targeting and destruction of enemy air defenses and radar systems, and POW rescue operations. The unit can be infiltrated by parachute, helicopter, small boat, or by foot.


The CTOE, heir of the historical traditions of Regimento de Infantaria 9 (9th Infantry Regiment), was created in April 16, 1960, to form units specialized in counter-guerrilla operations, psychological operations, and mountaineering. These special, light-infantry units were called Caçadores Especiais (Special Hunters; the regular army light-infantry units were just called Hunters) and were the first units in the Portuguese Army to wear a beret (brown) and camouflage. They were elite units, with highly-motivated, hand-picked personnel, whose instructors had taken courses on counter-insurgency and counter-guerrilla operations in France, Algeria, USA, UK, and Spain. When the Portuguese Colonial War began, in 1961, there were already 4 companies of Special Hunters in Angola. The 4th Company of Special Hunters was a very active one, and their website contains lots of photos and detailed mission chronology. Still, by the end of 1961, the Special Hunters were disbanded: some of their training was incorporated into the instruction of the regular army Hunter companies, and the brown beret and camouflage spread to the whole Army. The CTOE remained, now tasked with giving their courses to officers and NCOs, and to form commando troops.

After the creation of the special operations unit in 1981, the CTOE ceased to be just an instruction facility but also served as the HQ for the new Portuguese special operations unit. The unit members wear a grass green beret and are the heir of the Special Hunters: the beret badge includes a trumpet – a symbol of the Special Hunters; and the unit is known as Rangers because the instructors of the Special Hunters completed the Ranger Course and adapted the characteristics of that training to the Special Operations Course. The unit has operated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bosnia and East-Timor.

CTOE Courses

The CTOE has several courses:

  • COE – Curso de Operações Especiais (Special Operations Course): direct action (reconnaissance, raids, hostage and POW rescues) and indirect action (insurgency and guerrilla, counter-insurgency and counter-guerrilla, military aid) – 21 weeks.
  • Sniper Course (requires previous COE): 14 weeks.
  • Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Course (requires previous COE): reconnaissance and direct action special operations (8 weeks).
  • Irregular Operations Course (only for officers and NCOs of the permanent cadre): organization, instruction, and orientation of irregular forces with of the objective of defending the national territory (Portugal) when invaded and start the resistance (4 weeks).
  • Psychological Operations Course.
  • Mountaineering Course.
  • Terrorist Threats’ Prevention and Combat Course.

For those already badged as special operations soldiers, there are also courses in the CTOE:

  • Combat Diving Course
  • Forward Air Controller Course.
  • Combat Medic Course.
  • Signals Course.
  • Demolitions Course.
  • NBC Course.
  • Humint Course.
  • Military Parachuting Course.
  • Small Boat Handling Course.

Special Operations soldiers also take courses in friendly countries:

  • Airborne / Special Forces – USA.
  • Sniper Course – UK.
  • Winter Patrol Course – Germany.
  • Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School Course – Germany.
  • Special Operations Course – Spain.
  • Cold weather training – Norway.




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