Indonesian Special Operations

Komando Pasukan Khusus (Kopassus)

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Kopassus (abbreviation for Komando Pasukan Khusus) is an Indonesian special forces group that conducts special operations missions for the Indonesian government, such as direct action, unconventional warfare, sabotage, counter-terrorism, and intelligence. Kopassus was founded on April 16, 1952. The Special Forces quickly made their mark by spearheading some of the government’s military campaigns: putting down regional rebellions in the late 1950s, the Irian Jaya (Papua) campaign in 1960, the confrontation against Malaysia in 1964, the crushing of the communist forces in 1965, the East Timor military campaign in 1975, and the subsequent campaigns against terrorism, or anyone considered a threat to the Suharto regime.

Gen. Benny Murdani, although he never held the leadership baton, was one of the most prominent Kopassus alumni, having served in the command from its early years. Kopassus considered as one of the best special forces units in the Pacific and South East Asian theatre


In April 15 1952 Colonel Alex Everrett Kawilarang founding Kesatuan Komando Tentara Territorium III/Siliwangi (Kesko TT) (early name of Kopassus). They built this special force because of an experience of frustration when they fought with RMS (Republik Maluku Selatan or South Moluccas Republican) forces, which are supported by two companies of KST (Korps Speciale Troepen). They were amazed with KST’s ability and skill, especially their sniping. This special force inspired them to build a special force for Indonesia, but, at that time, neither of them had any experience or skill in special force operations. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Colonel Slamet Riyadi could not see his dream realized due to his death in a battle against the South Moluccas rebellion force. Not long after, with the assistance of the Army military intelligence, Colonel Kawilarang met Major Rokus Bernadus Visser, known locally as Mohamad Idjon Djanbi whom married an Indonesian woman, in a city in the province of West Java. Major Rokus Bernandus Visser was an ex-Dutch Special Force member since he defected from the Dutch Special forces. The origin of Red Beret that Kopassus use now is also come from the beret that Dutch Special forces use. Later, he was the first recruit and become a Commander for the first Indonesian special force.

At that time, Indonesia’s special force name was Komando Teritorium 3. According to history, Kopassus’ name had already changed five times. It went from KTT 3 to KKAD, RPKAD, Kopasandha, and finally Kopassus. The headquarters is in Bandung. The first generation of Indonesian Forces was only around 100 soldiers, or 1 company.


In response to military organization reviews, the KOPASSUS was expanded from three groups to five and upgraded from 3000 to roughly 6000 personnel. The rationale for this expansion was based partly on the likelihood of a small-scale, high-intensity, short-term conflict and partly on the need for a four-part rotational cycle (a quarter of the force on duty, a quarter in training, a quarter in consolidation [rest, schooling, leave, etc.], and a quarter in reserve). In 1997, the KOPASSUS was reportedly able to operate in a three-part rotation cycle (training, duty, consolidation). It is unknown whether the KOPASSUS will be able to obtain the numbers needed to operate a four-part cycle.

The KOPASSUS is composed of five groups, plus the Presidential Guard (Paspampres) and headquarters; each group is headed by a Colonel, and all groups are para-commando qualified. Of note is the unusual nature of Group IV, possibly also called “Sandhy Yudha,” which consists of select members from Groups I, II, and III. The duties of these specially trained personnel include attacking behind enemy lines (infiltration). Group IV also reportedly works with the Joint Intelligence Unit on interrogations and carries out clandestine operations around the country.

Grup 1/Parakomando (Para Commando)Serang, West Java3 Battalions
Grup 2/Parakomando (Para Commando)Kartasura, Central Java3 Battalions
Pusat Pendidikan Pasukan Khusus (Training)Batujajar, West JavaCenter of Training
Grup 3/Sandhi Yudha (Combat Intelligence)Cijantung, South JakartaCombat Intelligence
SAT 81/Penanggulangan Teror (Counter-terrorism)Cijantung, South JakartaCounterterrorist

Even though there are many groups in Kopassus, all groups can operate on land, sea, and air.


Members of the KOPASSUS are selected from other units for their mental and physical toughness and ideological soundness. Those who pass an initial screening take part in a 9-month “selection,” with heavy emphasis on physical endurance. At the end of this phase, a 380-km march is conducted through mountainous terrain with minimal rations. Then a week-long evasion and escape phase is conducted; if caught, one is removed from the program. As manpower is increased to meet a three- and four-part rotational cycle, additional training would be expected. Also, as units have been used fairly extensively throughout the years, many of the KOPASSUS members have actual mission experience.

This training is the qualification for new members to joint Kopassus. After joining Kopassus there are still advance training for personal whose are qualified for advance training. Advance training will divided into 2 categories:

  • Intelligence Gathering Abilities
  • Counter Terrorism Unit

Intelligence Abilities

Intelligence is vital in order to win a war. In Kopassus intelligence is taught after members have qualified to join advanced level training. The syllabus in Intelligence can be sub divided in to 2 categories: first is Sandi Yudha, and gathering intelligence behind enemy lines. But the most unique is Sandy Yudha. Sandy Yudha is the ability to persuade people to do something, and the ability to create situations. During 1980 Kopassus improved their skill in intelligence by cross training with world famous intelligence communities, such as: Mossad, even though Indonesia does not have diplomatic relationship with Israel, with a helped a third parties this training become possible to conduct in Indonesia, the nick name for the trainer is “Arizona”. After Arizona finished his or her lesson in Kopassus his or her position changed by other mentor, who now came from the famous British Intelligence, in this case MI6. This training was specialized in using intelligence gathering device for effective and efficient intelligence gathering abilities.

Counter Terrorism Unit or SAT 81 Penanggulangan Terror (SAT 81 Gultor)

This unit is most famous for its counter-terrorism skills. Their first international mission was to release hostages held by Jihad Command in Don Muang International Airport in 1981. Training is the same as above, but improved skills are required in SAT 81. In SAT 81 all members should able to use or handle various types of weapon, and also be skilled in shooting abilities such as: Marksman or sharpshooting, reactive shooting, Close Quarter Combat (CQOB or CQC), martial arts, fighting with various type of weapon, such as a knife, axe, etc or without weapons, the ability to use explosive or demolition charges for breaching purpose and also the ability to dispose of explosive devices that endanger communities. In order to improve their skill during 1990 Kopassus conducted a lot of training with other special force communities, such as the SAS (Special Air Service) in jungle warfare, Delta Force in Counter Terrorism skills, Green Beret in jungle warfare and ability to train local community to conduct intelligence and also support.

Weaponry and Equipment

Kopassus is equipped with the most advanced and complete technology of all the units in the Indonesian armed forces. Kopassus’s equipment is not repaired when damaged, but instead updated to the new model.

  • Side arm: SIG-Sauer P226/P228, Berreta 92SB/92F, FN high Power, H&K Mk23, M1911, Walther PPK, Pindad P1/2,Glock 17, Glock 19, FN Five-Seven
  • Submachine gun: MP5 variants, CZ-Scorpion, Uzi, Daewoo K-7, FN P90.
  • Assault rifle: Pindad SS-1 variants, AK47, Steyr Aug A1/A2, M16A2, M4A1, H&K HK53, SIG 552, H&K G36C, Galil, Pindad SS-2, FAMAS.
  • Shotgun: Franchi SPAS-12, Benelli M3T.
  • Sniper Rifle: Pindad SPR, Sig-Sauer SG550, H&K MSG 90, H&K G3 Sniper, Galil Sniper, Remington 700, AI AW.
  • Machine gun: FN Minimi, Ultimax 100, Daewoo K-3 LMG, and FN MAG
  • Recoilless rifle : Armrust, Carl Gustav 84mm
  • Water devices : Drager, Spero, Oxydive, Farallon, Rubber (Zodiac type) boats

Since Asia Economy Crisis, Kopassus’ performance has been affected greatly especially in term of their weaponry which has became obsolete as compare to other Special Forces in the world. Although there is a strong willingness to renew or upgrade their weaponaries, no one can be sure when this could be done. Nevertheless, none is doubtful about the dedication of every Kopassus members.


There have been several missions conducted by Kopassus. Of which, some were successful, some were not. The most notable missions are detailed below.

  • The Hijacking of Flight GA 206 on 28 March 1981. This was the first serious Indonesian airline hijacking, since the first case was a desperate Marine hijacker who was killed by the pilot himself. The hijackers, a group called Commando Jihad, hijacked the DC 9 “Woyla”, onroute from Palembang to Medan, and ordered the pilot to fly the plane to Colombo, Sri Lanka. But since the plane didn’t have enough fuel, it refueled in Penang, Malaysia and then to Don Muang, Thailand. The hijackers demanded the release of Commando Jihad members imprisoned in Indonesia, and US $ 1.5 million, as well as a plane to take those prisoners to an unspecified destination. The Kopassus commandos who took part in this mission trained for only three days with totally unfamiliar weapons, brilliantly executed this fast-paced operation. One of the Kopassus commandos was shot by the hijacker leader, who then shot himself. All the other hijackers were killed. All the hostages were saved.
  • Mapenduma Hostage Rescue 8 January 1996. The mastermind for this case was OPM (Papua Independence Organization or Organisasi Papua Merdeka) member Kelly Kwalik. The OPM demanded that the Indonesian government should give independence for Republic Melanesia Barat or South Melanesia Republic. At this time Kopassus leader was Brigadier General Prabowo Subianto ex GSG 9 student prepare. For the safety of the hostages, Prabowo preferred a negotiation process rather than a military operation. The negotiation was conducted by the ICRC lead by Henry Fournier, the ICRC mission leader for Indonesia. The negotiations soon broke down, and Prabowo had no choice but to resort to forceful measures. The mission involved 100 soldiers from Kopassus and 400 soldiers from Marine, Kostrad, Kodam VIII Trikora, and Penerbad. The mission was a success. The casualties were 2 hostages, killed by OPM guerillas. There were no casualties among Kopassus and others army members. During this mission Prabowo also retrieved help from others countries who sympatised with Indonesia during the hostage crisis, such as Singapore, which lent their UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Mazlat Scout and Night Vision Goggles.
  • Other operations:
    • DI/TII (Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia)
    • The Talang Betutu Operation against the rebellion in Tentara Teritorium (Territorial Troops) IV
    • Aborting the US Fleet VII
    • Destroying operation PRRI/Permesta
    • Kahar Muzakkar Rebellion
    • The Trikora Operation
    • The Dwikora Operation
    • The Naga Operation (Pepera in West Irian)
    • The Seroja Operation in East Timor
    • The Aceh Operation


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