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COM FST ~ French Army Special Forces

Opportunities to photograph units from France’s Commandement des Forces Spéciales Terre (COM FST) – Army Special Forces Command – do not arise too often so when informed that they would be mounting a dynamic display at EUROSATORY 2018 we immediately altered our travel plans to be at the preview.


Created and expanded on 1st July 2016, out of the Brigade des Forces Spéciales Terre or BFST, COM FST consists of: Command Headquarters; a Special Forces HQ & Signals Company – Compagnie de Commandement et Transmission des Forces Spéciales or CCT FS; 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment – 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine or 1er RIPMa; 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment – 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes or 13e RDP; and 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment – 4e Régiment d’Hélicoptères des Forces Spéciales or 4e RHFS.

The unarmed role-player behind the SUV was the operators’ High Value Target [© Bob Morrison]

On Civvy Street there are two basic ways of scaring off burglars – either put up a sign saying ‘Beware Of The Dog’ or let the beast patrol the yard or garden where potential bad guys can see that not only does it exist but it has teeth. Since Operation NIMROD, the 1980 take-down of terrorists occupying the Iranian Embassy in London, Britain has opted for the warning sign approach; these days France has become much more proactive and at the Press Preview day prior to Eurosatory 2018 we were able to watch Army, Gendarmerie and Police Special Forces / SpecOps teams displaying their skills and capabilities.


Two SF operators in ghillie suits recce the scene from a distance [© Bob Morrison]

Each of the four SF/SO organisations which laid on a display on Sunday 10th June reacted to a different scenario – for Police and Gendarmerie the context was Homeland Security and for Army the context was Counter-Insurgency overseas. To give variety of camera angles and ensure we covered all aspects, the images on this page are a combination shot at the preview on the 10th and at the display for exhibitors on the 12th.


Here a signaller, covered by a colleague, transmits intelligence back to HQ via satellite – normally they would not be this visible [© Bob Morrison]

The COM FST display commenced with a video presentation showing how SF Operators would be clandestinely inserted using HALO or HAHO parachute techniques, usually under cover of darkness and then tab some distance into position to allow them to report on insurgent activity for hides overlooking the enemy positions. In this instance their target was one of a group of insurgents who had arrived at a remote rendezvous location by SUV and their mission was to neutralise those with him and spirit him away unharmed for questioning.


In addition to the recce team inserted by parachute to gather intelligence and transmit it back to HQ, another team operating from a pair of heli-portable Panhard VPS light gunships were lying up within easy striking distance awaiting confirmation that the HVT (high value target) was actually at the rendezvous. Once the decision had been made to proceed, the whole operation was conducted in under five minutes.

For those specifically interested in the vehicles being used, the Panhard VPS, we have also created this small album page:-

Album ~ COM FST Panhard VPS

Update: A very short video clip can be found here:-

French Army Special Forces ~ On Video

The following images show how the display panned out, then conclude with close-ups of some of the participants as they waited to be introduced to French and Allied senior officers.

One half of the snatch team approaches the insurgents – second vehicle is covering them from high ground [© Bob Morrison]

Fight or flight – this insurgent made the wrong choice and is taken down [© Bob Morrison]

Spent rounds (training) fly as a pair of operators advance on the two insurgents who chose to fight [© Bob Morrison]

Loaded for bear – count the number of magazine pouches on this operator’s vest and belt [© Bob Morrison]

With the insurgents accounted for one of the team checks their SUV for booby traps before driving it away [© Bob Morrison]

The high value target – hooded and wrist tied – is extracted as another operator checks an insurgent for signs of life [© Bob Morrison]

Another ‘dead’ insurgent is checked for anything which could provide intelligence [© Bob Morrison]

This ‘dead’ insurgent is photographed as part of the intelligence gathering process [© Bob Morrison]

While DNA samples are being taken by one operator another bags a recovered weapon for forensic examination [© Bob Morrison]

These are the two operators who mounted overwatch from the high ground behind – Gazelle on video screen is from 4e RHFS [© Bob Morrison]

Standard weapon for COM FST is the Heckler & Koch HK416 A5 – note blue training round mechanism which prevents live 5.56mm rounds being fired [© Bob Morrison]

Both rifles here are fitted with suppressors and weapon on the left has an underslung 40mm grenade launcher – sight combination on right is EOTech HHS III with G33.STS Magnifier [© Bob Morrison]

The standard sidearm for COM FST is the Glock 17 pistol – camouflage pattern worn is Crye Precision MultiCam [© Bob Morrison]


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