Belgian Special Operations

Immediate Reaction Cell (IRC)

The Immediate Reaction Cell (IRC) is the Special Forces unit of the Koninklijke Belgische Leger (Royal Belgium Army). The origins of the Immediate Reaction Cell can be traced Back to World War II. In fact the unit is based on several elite units from that war. The British Parachute Regiment, the British Special Air Service and Inter Allied Commando no 10.


These units were combined in 1952 in the Para-Commando Regiment. The unit received a third battalion in 1955. In 1991 the name was changed to Para-Commando Brigade. During the 1990’s the existence of the unit was much discussed by the Belgium politicians. However by June 1994 the existence of the unit was more or less undisputed and the name was changed to the Immediate Reaction Capability. There are ideas to make the Para-Commandos part of a larger unit called the Luchtmobiele Brigade. The date set for this unit to be operational is 2015.

  • Raised: May 8th 1942, B Company of the 2nd Belgian Fusilier Battalion
  • Redesignated: January 1943, Belgian Independent Parachute Company
  • Redesignated: January 1944, 5 Special Air Service Regiment (Independent Belgium Squadron), Special Air Service Brigade
  • Redesignated: January 1947, 1ste Parachute Bataljon


  • Raised: September 1942, 4th Troop No. 10 inter allied Commando
  • Redesignated: May 15th 1945, Commando Regiment


  • Raised: 1952, Para-Commando Regiment
  • Redesignated: November 1991, Para-Commando Brigade
  • Redesignated: June 2004, Immediate Reaction Capability


  • Immediate Reaction Cell Command
  • 1 Bataljon Parachutisten, 1 Para
  • 2 Bataillon de Commandos, 2 Cdo
  • 3 Bataljon Parachutisten, 3 Para
  • 4 Para-Commando Veldartillerie Batterij



The IRC (or Para-commando’s as they are known in Belgium) have 4 combat units and 1 command unit:

  • IRCC: command unit based in Evere

  • 1 battalion Para: based in Diest*

  • 2 battalion Commando: based in Flawinne*

  • 3 battalion Para: based in Tielen*

  • 4 battalion Fieldartillery Para-Cdo (Para-Commando): based in Brasschaat.

* The name Para is short for parachutist and is being used for units based in Flanders (Dutch speaking), the name Commando is being used for units based in Wallonia (French speaking). 1 Para is the only unit that is bilingual, although all units must speak both languages, this is not the case in practice.

Beside the difference in language there is also another difference, all units wear the Bordeaux beret (which is a sign of airborne units all over the world) except for 2 Commando and the field artillery unit which wear the Green Beret (Commando Units). There are no other differences between the other units, they receive the same training and do the same jobs.

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