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Ukraine conflict: Ukrainian special operations forces in focus

Ukrainian Special Operations Forces and US Army Special Forces soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) enter an enemy-occupied building during Exercise ‘Combined Resolve XI' at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. Ukrainian SOF components have regularly trained with their NATO counterparts. (US Special Operations Command)

As Russian Armed Forces continue their invasion of Ukraine, minimal information has been published regarding the activities of the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SOF), who are playing a pivotal role in the conflict.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in December 2015 and has expanded to feature four army special operations regiments; three navy special operations regiments; and two training centres. Its strength lies at approximately 2,000 members, although the objective is to have a total force size of 4,000. Since its inception, the SOCOM has placed an emphasis on developing a modern force with equipment and practices aligned with NATO SOF elements.

In 2015 the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a Letter of Intent signalling the SOCOM's plans to co-operate with NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) – a move that included the planned certification of SOF units to work alongside their international partners in the NATO Response Force.

Order of battle

Ukrainian army SOF units include the 3rd and 8th SOF regiments, based in Kirovograd and Khmelnytskyi, respectively, and tasked with undertaking direct action and special reconnaissance missions as part of wider internal security campaigns.

Each unit is 300-strong, and is subdivided into companies and platoons with SOF operators specialising in combat engineering, heavy weapons, communications, and combat medicine. Additional specialist training includes military freefall, cold weather operations, and mountain warfare.

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