German Special Operations

Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK)

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The Kommando Spezialkräfte (Special Forces Command, KSK) is part of Germany’s Special Forces. It is closely modeled on the British Special Air Service (SAS).


The KSK was established in 1996 and was activated on April 1st, 1997, to face the new threats emerging after the end of the Cold War. Before that, (West) Germany had placed little emphasis on Special Forces, relying on the GSG 9, a police unit, for Counter-Terrorist work.

Since its inception, the KSK has seen duty in the wars in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. Its missions are top secret, therefore no specific details are known. Information on the current missions is being withheld even from members of parliament.


The KSK is stationed in Calw in the Black forest in southern Germany. It consists of about 1100 soldiers, but only a nucleus (200-300) of whom are in fighting units. The KSK is a part of the Division Special Operations (Div. Spezielle Operationen – DSO)

The fighting units are divided into commando companies of about 80 men each and long range reconnaissance units of about 100 men. Each of the four commando companies has five specialized platoons:

  • 1st platoon: land insertions
  • 2nd platoon: airborne entering
  • 3rd platoon: amphibious operations
  • 4th platoon: operations under special geographic or meteorological surroundings (e.g. mountains or polar-regions)
  • 5th platoon: reconnaissance, sniper and counter-sniper operations

There are four commando groups in every platoon. Each of these groups consists of about four equally skilled soldiers. One of each group is specially trained as a weapons expert, medic, combat engineer or communications expert respectively. Additionally a group can contain other specialists, e.g. heavy weapons or language experts.


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