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Army Special Force

This article was taken from

by MAJ Lewis Field


The Indonesian Army's Special Operations Command (called the KOPASSUS, for Kommando Pasukan Khusus) is a strike force whose main thrust is counterinsurgency and antisubversive operations. As with other parts of the armed forces, the KOPASSUS also is looking at extending its capabilities to defend outer portions of Indonesia from foreign intervention.


The KOPASSUS serves as one of the strike force commands of the Indonesian Armed Forces. It conducts missions such as infiltration, reconnaissance, and militia training behind the lines, as well as antisubversive and internal security operations. Over the years, the KOPASSUS has been involved in many operations against subversive/separatist groups throughout Indonesia. One goal of the KOPASSUS is to have elements available for deployment within 15 minutes of notification.

During internal reviews of the military in the late 1990s, it was considered that a future, large-scale war was unlikely but that a small-scale, high-intensity war or internal operation was likely. It was understood that this would be true for the next 5-8 years; therefore, light, airborne, and special forces were the focus of reorganizations to allow the most flexibility in likely situations.


In response to military organization reviews, the KOPASSUS was expanded from three groups to five and upgraded from 3000 to roughly 6000 personnel. The rationale for this expansion was based partly on the likelihood of a small-scale, high-intensity, short-term conflict and partly on the need for a four-part rotational cycle (a quarter of the force on duty, a quarter in training, a quarter in consolidation [rest, schooling, leave, etc.], and a quarter in reserve). In 1997, the KOPASSUS was reportedly able to operate in a three-part rotation cycle (training, duty, consolidation). It is unknown whether the KOPASSUS will be able to obtain the numbers needed to operate a four-part cycle.

The KOPASSUS is composed of five groups, plus the Presidential Guard (Paspampres) and headquarters (see figure 2 and table 1); each group is headed by a Colonel, and all groups are para-commando qualified. Of note is the unusual nature of Group IV, possibly also called "Sandhy Yudha," which consists of select members from Groups I, II, and III. The duties of these specially trained personnel include attacking behind enemy lines (infiltration). Group IV also reportedly works with the Joint Intelligence Unit on interrogations and carries out clandestine operations around the country.


bulletHeadquarters Cijantung, Jakarta, Unknown
bulletGroup I Serang, West Java, 2000 personel, 3 battalions
bulletGroup II Kartasura, Central Java, 2000 personel, 3 battalions
bulletGroup III Batujajar, West Java, 500 personel, Center of training
bulletGroup IV South Jakarta, 200 personel, Combat intelligence
bulletGroup V South Jakarta, 800 personel, Counterterrorist


KOPASSUS forces are thought to receive better weapons than regular units and possibly better living quarters, rations, salary, and clothing. Their equipment consists of what is found in many special forces units throughout the world (see table 2). Most KOPASSUS forces wear special camouflage uniforms and red berets, though Groups IV and V may wear civilian clothes and have altered grooming standards.


bulletFNC SS1V-1 5.56 mm
bulletAK-47 7.62 mm
bulletM-16 5.56 mm


bulletBrowning Highpower 9 mm
bulletSig Sauer P220 9 mm
bulletPM-1A1 9 mm
bulletWalther PPK 9 mm
bulletM1911 .45 cal
bulletH&K Mk 23 .45 cal

Light machinegun

bulletUzi submachinegun 9 mm
bulletFN Mini 5.56 mm


bulletRT-5A Laser sight

Water devices

bulletDrager Breathing apparatus
bulletSpero Breathing apparatus
bulletOxydive Breathing apparatus
bulletFarallon Diver assist vehicle
bulletRubber (Zodiac type) boats 20 and 40 ft


bulletRemotely piloted vehicles
bulletMC-4 Parachute
bulletMC-1B Parachute
bulletMortars 60 mm (?)
bulletWalkie Talkie comms

In addition to its reorganization in the 1990s, the KOPASSUS has been attempting to upgrade its equipment for additional capability. It reportedly purchased tactical unmanned aerial vehicles in the mid-1990s. However, several plans for upgrading the unit have been placed on hold. For example, KOPASSUS wanted to create a special aviation battalion with helicopters to have an organic lift capability. It also intended to incorporate armored vehicles into at least one of the units. Economic downturns and possibly political infighting have temporarily squelched these ideas. At the same time that the helicopter concept was withdrawn, it was decided to retain the increase in troop strength. Another area that is likely on hold is the desire to issue every soldier a handheld computer for communications.

Training Members of the KOPASSUS are selected from other units for mental and physical toughness and ideological soundness. Those who pass an initial screening take part in a 9-month "selection," with heavy emphasis on physical endurance. At the end of this phase, a 380-km march is conducted through mountainous terrain with minimal rations. Then a week-long evasion and escape phase is conducted; if caught, one is removed from the program. As manpower is increased to meet a three- and four-part rotational cycle, additional training would be expected. Also, as units have been used fairly extensively throughout the years, many of the KOPASSUS members have actual mission experience.