Special Operations Battalion (Bojna za specijalna djelovanja – BSD)
The Special Operations Battalion is Croatia’s premier SOF unit. It is tasked with standard NATO SOF tasks: special reconnaissance and surveillance (SR), military assistance (MA), and direct action (DA), along with additional tasks such as counterterrorism and providing specialized aid to the civilian population in times of crisis. It also provides specialized training to other units and individuals within the Croatian Armed Forces.
The Special Operations Battalion was established on September 8, 2000 by merging the 1st Croatian Guard Corps and the Special Combat Skills Training Center into a new unit, thus ensuring that the new unit was full of hardened combat veterans and expert instructors in all forms of special warfare. This date is celebrated annually. The unit’s patron saint is St. Martin of Tours.
The unit is composed of a headquarters, HQ company, four operational companies, a Combat Support company, and a training wing. The battalion’s commanding officer is a colonel. The operational element in the companies is the 12-man team which consists of a team commander, first sergeant, operations sergeant, intelligence sergeant, two weapons specialists, two engineering specialists, two communications specialists, and two medics.
Most of the unit is based in Delnice, with two of its operational companies stationed in additional military facilities on other locations, in order to insure constant access to training facilities in all types of terrain that can be found in Croatia.
Unit members wear a green beret canted to the left with the unit badge worn above the right eye, which is different from berets in the regular forces which are canted to the right. The unit patch is worn on the right sleeve. The unit badge and unit patch depict a horned viper wrapped around a sword, with wings in the background. Unit members additionally wear an SF insignia above the unit patch. Its origin dates back to the early days of the Homeland War, when members of the first special units adopted an insignia similar to the US SF insignia, which partly reflected the entire country’s ambition to be a part of the developed West, and also possibly because they were facing opposing forces which wore red stars on their helmets (the Yugoslav National Army).
Unit members wear Croatian standard issue digital woodland and digital desert uniforms which have an outline of Croatia hidden in the digital camouflage pattern. However various individual items of clothing and equipment in other camouflage patterns can often be seen on unit members during training and operations.
The Special Operations Battalion is the best equipped unit in the Croatian military with unit members often receiving the latest pieces of tactical equipment, which is also supplemented with private purchases by the operators in order to customize their individual loadouts.
Weapons, vehicles and equipment used by the unit include:
- assault rifles: HK416, HK417, HK G-36C, HK G-36K, FN F-2000, VHS rifles, AK-74
- SMGs: HK UMP, HK MP-7
- pistols: HS-9, HS-45 (known in the US as Springfield XD, a Croatian product)
- shotguns: Remington and Winchester tactical models
- machine guns: Ultimax, HK21, PKM, M2 HMG, Mk.19 AGLs
- sniper rifles: Steyr models 7.62 and 0.300 WinMag, 0.50cal and 20mm anti-material rifles
- ground vehicles: Mercedes jeeps, up-armored HMMWVs, Yamaha motorcycles, snowmobiles, light APCs
- watercraft: RHIBs, Klepper-canoes, SDVs
- open and closed circuit diving equipment
- parachutes: round canopy (MC-1) and ram-air canopies (Parafoil, Classic, MC-5)
- full complement of climbing and skiing equipment
- NATO SATCOM-compatible comms (individual and team systems)
- Gen. III NVGs, IR aiming lasers/illuminators, thermals, etc.