Commandement des Operations Speciales
The events of the Gulf War emphasized to the French military that its current special operations assets needed a unified command structure to allow them to operate at their full potential. Some of the weaknesses that were identified in a study conducted after the war were that the units lacked of organic transport assets, compatible communications equipment, and operational procedures.
To address these and other problems, a new command was established. The new command would combine special operations forces of the three services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), and would answer to the Armed Forces Chief of Staff.
COS (Commandement des Operations Speciales)was raised in 1992 with a mandate that stated is primary mission:
Headquarterd at Taverny, and operating under the command of a Major General or an officer holding equivalent rank, COS is currently coposed of the following units:
The 1er Regiment Parachutiste D'Infanterie de Marine (1er RPMIa) is a French Army unit. This battalion sized force carries on the traditions of the Free French SAS units of WWII. The Regiment performs missions similar to those carried out by the US Army's Special Forces or British SAS, and is the French military's primary special operations unit.
The Detachment ALAT Operations Speciales (DAOS) is the French Army's special operations aviation unit. DAOS is currently composed of two special operations helicopter squadrons. The first squadron operates Pumas and Cougars, while the second squadron operates Gazelle gunships.
The 1er RPIMa and DAOS form a separate subcommand with in COS, known as
Groupement Speciale Autonome
(GSA). GSA operates in a fashion similar to the US Army's Special Operations Command.
The Commandement des Fusiliers Marins Commandos (COFUSCO) is the naval component of COS. The "Marine Commandos" are composed of four assault commandos, Commando Hubert combat diver unit, and the GCMC counter terrorist unit.
The Four assault commandos are Trepel, Jaubert, de Monfort, and Penfentenyo, and at one time there was also a reserve commando Francois, but it appears to have been disbanded. Each assault commando is composed of approximately 80 men divided into four sub units (Command, Support, Assault, or Reconnaissance). The assault commandos are tasks with performing beach recon, ship assaults, small boat operations, and acting as shock troops during amphibious operations.
The Goupement de Combat en Milieu Clos (GCMC) is a relatively new unit. Formed in 1994, this 17 man force is tasked with conducting maritime counter terrorist missions. It operates in conjunction with Commando Hubert's CT team.
The Commando Hubert CASM (Commmando Hubert: Commando D'Action Sous Marine) is the French Navy's combat diver unit. It operates along lines similar to the US Navy SEALs and British SBS. Commando Hubert is divided into two companies. The first company is composed of 50 men divided into four sections: Command, recon and support, CT, and SDV. The second company provides maintenance and signal support.
The French Air Force contributes four units to COS. The first of these units is the Division Des Operations Speciales (DOS). DOS is the fixed wing special operations aviation unit. The unit is equipped with C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall transport aircraft. Pilots and air crews are selected and trained in low-level flying techniques and operating with Night Vision Devices (NVDs).
The second unit is the Escadrille Des Helicopteres Speciaux (EHS). The EHS is the French Air Force's special operations helicopter unit. The squadron is equipped with Puma transport and Puma gunship helicopters. It performs both special operations and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions in support of French military and allied forces.
Another Air Force unit is CIET (Centre d'instruction des Equipages de Transport) which if nessary can support COS operations by supplying specially trained C-130 flight crews, and C-130 aircraft.
The final Air Force unit with in COS is the Commando Parachutiste De L'Air No. 10 (CPA 10). The unit is the French Air ground special operations component, and performs missions similar to those conducted by USAF Special Tactics units (CSAR, airfield seizure, FAC, laser target designation, and combat control).
In addition to the various operational units, COS also maintains a support staff, a research and developement branch, and a large group reservists who specialize in conducting civil affairs operations.
Since its inception, COS has been involved in a number of French military interventions, especially in France's former African colonies. Most recently COS units have reportedly been active in Kosovo supporting NATO combat operations.