The FAMAS bullpup carbine used by the Commandos Marine. One…

The FAMAS bullpup carbine used by the Commandos Marine.

One thing I admire about the French is their willingness to take action to protect their citizens without worrying too much about what the rest of the world thinks. This has been particularly apparent over the last few months as French citizens have been taken hostage by Somali pirates three times, and in each case, France has sent in special operators from the Commandos Marine who successfully rescued the hostages. During the three operations, 36 hostages have been rescued with one hostage killed, three pirates killed, and 15 pirates captured and sent to France for trial. Unlike many of the world’s softer countries, the French do not practice “catch and release” with pirates.

The three rescue operations merit study, as the French Commandos used different tactics in each successful rescue. The rescues were carried out primarily by the Commando Hubert, which is the French equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs, backed up by other French Commando units. Those selected for frogman training with Commando Hubert must have already completed the French Commando course and be qualified as a basic diver. Only 9 to12 new candidates are accepted per year. They then undergo 27 weeks of training, broken into three phases:

Phase One: Advanced diving with oxygen and rebreathers, underwater demolition, waterborne insertions and small-boat operations.

Phase Two: Sabotage on ships, Klepper two-man canoe handling, boat handling, water navigation, harbor penetrations and coastal raids.

Phase Three: Advanced demolitions, obstacle clearance, parachute operations—especially “wet jumps” into the sea—and underwater engineering.

Members of the Commandos Marine clear the deck of a ship, armed with HK USP pistols and HK MP5 SMGs. (Marine Nationale)

Currently, Commando Hubert has a strength of 80 men divided into two companies. The first company is comprised of 50 men broken into four sections. Section A is a command and support section and also is in charge of the unit’s Hurricane RIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats). Section B is in charge of MAT (maritime anti-terrorism) and specializes in underwater approaches to terrorist targets, combat boarding and ship assaults. Section B works closely with the divers from GIGN (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), France’s national anti-terrorist unit. Section C is in charge of the unit’s SDV (swimmer delivery vehicles). Section D includes Commando Hubert’s snipers and heavier weapons experts. These operators also specialize in beach assaults and fire support during combat boardings. The second company with a strength of 30 men handles various support functions.

Other Commando Marine units have taken part in anti-piracy operations as well. Each of the five Commandos specializes in a particular type of operations. Commando Hubert has already been discussed. Strength of the other Commando units is around 80 personnel each. Commando Jaubert specializes in combat boarding and other seaborne assaults, as well as exfiltration of downed pilots and other French personnel by sea and evacuation of French civilians from conflict zones. Commando Trepel has missions similar to Jaubert’s.

Commando de Penfentenyo carries out combat reconnaissance and intelligence operations. Commando de Penfentenyo has its own recon swimmers and has been involved in some of the rescue missions against Somali pirates. Commando de Montfort specializes in forward air controlling and naval gunfire direction, as well as use of heavier weapons, including mortars and anti-materiel sniping rifles. Those are the French operators. Now it’s time to take a look at the operations.


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  • GW

    HA!, what can brown do for you?


    Andrew, thank you for reading. We’ve made the corrections.

  • Andrew

    The pistol shown should be labeled HK USP, not UPS. Brown doesn’t ship their bullets!