Number 1 – UK – SAS (Special Air Squadron)
The SAS are one of the older special forces units in the world and widely regarded to be amongst the world’s best and most experienced special forces units. The SAS or Special Air Squadron was founded on July 1st 1941, during World War 2, by David Stirling, a British Army Officer from Perthshire in Scotland.
Stirling was convinced that stealthy, highly trained specialist units were going to be crucial to British success in WW2 against the Axis powers. Unfortunately for him, his more old fashioned superior officers did not agree and were not open to his somewhat revolutionary ideas.
Knowing his immediate superiors were unlikely to listen, Stirling ( a 6″5/1.93m former member of 8 Commando unit) went straight over the top of his immediate superiors, to the British commander in chief in the Middle East. Sneaking into the British army HQ in Cairo, Stirling scaled a security fence whilst still limping on crutches after a parachuting accident.
He evaded security to reach Deputy commander of the Middle East, General Neil Ritchie. Who according to Stirling (recounted at a SAS founders reunion meal in the 1980s) was very polite and listened to his plans. The rest is history as the SAS was formed shortly after.
The SAS are extremely secretive and not much about their operations or methods is in the public domain as is the case with all the best special forces units in the world. However there are a few operations that have been made public either intentionally or unintentionally. Notably the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980 in London as well as the raid on the “West Side Boys” kidnap gang in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. During the Iranian embassy siege, Iranian terrorists took hostages in the Iranian Embassy and made their demands. With TV cameras rolling and filming the exterior of the embassy building, the Prime Minister of the UK at the time Margarate Thatcher gave the order to storm the building and kill the terrorists on sight. The SAS were filmed entering the building through windows and across balconies. All the terrorists were killed by the counter terror team.
The modern day SAS have operated in many conflicts around the globe, both public knowledge and secret. They have been active in operations against ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria – directing coalition airstrikes and fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Kobane and elsewhere.