This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Background to Philippine Elite and Special Forces.
- Part 02: Organisation of Philippine Elite and Special Forces.
- Part 03: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the Elite and Special Forces of the Philippines.
Part One of this article provides a brief history, outlines Tier 1 and Tiers Special Forces, and then the general duties of special operations forces (SOF). Part Two looks at the organisation of Philippine Elite and Special Forces, highlighting the the various units. Finally, Part Three provides some useful links and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.
1.1 Brief History
The AFP can trace their lineage back to 1898, although they were formally organised during the American Commonwealth era through the National Defence Act of 1935.
Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina was a Filipino statesman, soldier and politician who served as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944, renamed the Philippine Army to the AFP. US Army General Douglas MacArthur was asked to be its first commanding officer in the rank Field Marshal. He is the only foreign citizen to hold rank in the AFP and the only person to hold the rank of Field Marshal in the AFP
1.2 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Special Forces
Some of the units within AFPSOCOM are sometimes referred to as ‘Tier 1’ SF units because they are the units usually tasked with direct action. Other special operations forces are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.
1.3 General Duties of Special Operations Forces
SOF personnel are required to infiltrate and exfiltrate to and from operational areas dismounted, carrying heavy loads and manipulating personal and support weapons systems and other heavy equipment. SOF personnel perform insertions and assaults on targets by:
- Parachuting onto ground or into water;
- Climbing ladders and cliffs;
- Conducting close-quarters battle (CQB); and
- Battle drills in varying types of terrain and climatic conditions day or night.
SOF personnel are also required to board ocean vessels while they are underway from another floating or airborne platform in all sea states day or night, and where speed and stealth are imperative. These duties are performed while wearing heavy rucksack and body armour. SOF personnel perform individual CQB and detainee handling which may require the individual to:
- Combat and detain another person using blocking strikes;
- Ground fighting;
- Grappling; and
- Moving a non-compliant person.
There is no tolerance for a lapse in attention when conducting CQB and other assaults while wearing night vision goggles as well as Special Operations Insertion and Extraction (SOIE) techniques. Accurate discrimination of non-combatants and precision engagement of enemy combatants requires extreme concentration.
Similarly, high-risk roped and un-roped insertions with no redundant safety systems require constant attention. SOF personnel require the ability for continuous analysis of the situation, environment, mission aims and unique foreign societal complexities during operations.
PART TWO: ORGANISATION OF PHILIPPINE ELITE & SPECIAL FORCES
This part of the article outlines the various units and organisations which make up the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM) and other SOF and elite units.
AFPSOCOM is headquartered at Fort Magsaysya, Nueva Ecija.
2.1 AFPSOCOM Mission
The mission of the AFPSOCOM is to plan, conduct and support special operations in all operational environments in support of the fundamental missions of the AFP.
It enables this mission through the following core capabilities:
- Unconventional warfare (UW);
- Direct action (DA);
- Special reconnaissance (SR);
- International and domestic counter-terrorist (CT) operations;
- High value target (HVT) raids;
- Hostage rescue;
- Anti-hijacking operations;
- Foreign internal defence (FID);
- Jungle warfare;
- Raiding operations;
- Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations;
- Counter-narcotics operations;
- Military Operation in Urban Terrain (MOUT);
- Humanitarian assistance and disaster response; and
- Security assistance.
2.2 Commander AFPSOCOM
The Commander AFPSOCOM is a Brigadier General (OF-6) (Parameswaran, 2018).
2.3 Elite and Special Forces Units
Elite and Special Forces units of the Philippines are outlined below:
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM):
- Philippine Army SOF:
- Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).
- First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR).
- Light Reaction Regiment (LRR).
- Philippine Navy SOF:
- Naval Special Warfare Group.
- Philippine Air Force SOF:
- 710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW).
- Philippine Marine Corps SOF:
- Marine Special Operations Group (MARSOG), also known as the Force Reconnaissance Battalion.
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Special Operations Group (AFP JSOG).
- Philippine Army SOF:
- Philippine Army SOF:
- Civil Affairs Group, now under the AFP General Headquarters.
- Security and Escort Battalion, PASOCOM (TBR).
- Philippine Marine SOF:
- Marine Scout Sniper Unit (MSSU) (TBR).
- Philippine National Police:
- Special Action Force (SAF).
- Maritime Group (MG).
- Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) (TBR).
- Regional Mobile Force Brigade (RMFB) (TBR).
- Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
- Coast Guard Special Operations Force (CGSOF).
- Presidential Security Group.
2.4 Special Forces Regiment (Airborne)
Established in 1962, the role of the Special Force Regiment is to organise, train, equip and provide rapidly deployable forces and conduct unconventional warfare in all types of operational environment in support of AFPSOCOM’s mission.
The regiment’s core capabilities include UW, DA; SR; psychological warfare and mass base operations.
2.5 First Scout Ranger Regiment
Established in 1950, the role of the First Scout Ranger Regiment is to organise, train, equip and provide rapidly deployable forces and conduct special operations in support of AFPSOCOM’s mission.
The unit was modelled after two World War Two fighting groups, the intelligence gathering American Alamo Scouts and the US Army Rangers.
The regiment’s core capabilities include guerrilla warfare, DA, jungle warfare, SR, and sniping operations against hostile positions.
2.6 Light Reaction Regiment
Officially established in 2004, the Light Reaction Regiment is the premier CT unit of the Philippine Army and the Special Mission Unit of the Philippines.
Due to its specialisation in CT operations and its formation with American advisers, the Light Reaction Regiment has been sometimes referred to as the Philippines’ Delta Force.
2.7 Naval Special Warfare Group
Established in 1956, the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) is the SOF of the Philippines Navy.
The unit’s core capabilities include sabotage, psychological warfare, and UW. It is heavily influenced by the United States Navy SEAL’s.
2.8 Marine Special Operations Group
Established in 2018, the Marine Special Operations Group, also known as the Force Reconnaissance Battalion from 1995, but can trace its lineage back to the 1950s.
The Marine Special Operations Group of the Philippine Marine Corps have similarities between the NAVSOG. Also trained in the same capabilities, although their capabilities are not as well known.
2.9 710th Special Operations Wing
Established in 1991, the 710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW) is the SOF unit of the Philippine Air Force.
The unit’s core capabilities include hostage rescue and CT operations.
2.10 Joint Special Operations Group
Officially established in 2003, the AFP Joint Special Operations Group is assigned to the AFP counter-terrorism force.
2.11 Civil Affairs Group
The Philippine Army Civil Affairs Group can trace its lineage back to the 1950s. It engages in civil-military operations and psychological warfare.
2.12 Security & Escort Battalion
To be written.
2.13 Marine Scout Sniper Unit
To be written.
2.14 Special Action Force
First established in 1983, the Special Action Force is an elite unit of the Philippine National Police.
2.15 Maritime Group
Tracing its lineage back to 1971, the Maritime Group is a specialised unit of the Philippine National Police, with sub-units having a special operations role.
2.16 Special Weapons and Tactics
To be written.
2.17 Regional Mobile Force Brigade
To be written.
2.18 Coast Guard Special Operations Force
Established in 1982, the Coast Guard Special Operations Force (CGSOF) is a unit of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
2.19 Presidential Security Group
Tracing its lineage back to 1897, the Presidential Security Group is an elite joint service unit of both civilian agents and seconded servicemen from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sworn to protect the President of the Philippines.
PART THREE: MISCELLANEOUS
Parameswaram, P. (2018) What’s in the New Philippines Special Operations Command? Available from World Wide Web: https://thediplomat.com/2018/04/whats-in-the-new-philippines-special-operations-command/. [Accessed: 27 August, 2019].