18 photos showing how eerily-similar Russian and US special ops look and operate

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Paul Szoldra

The best-of-the-best in the US and Russian militaries look eerily similar to each other both in appearance and in tactics.

The US Army Special Forces has some of the smartest and most lethal fighters in the world, which could explain why Russia has increasingly modeled its own Special Forces – or Spetsnaz – off its American counterparts.

Those Russian Special Forces most recently infiltrated and took over Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and they are now operating on the ground in Syria. And according to a US military official who spoke with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, they are practically indistinguishable on the battlefield.

That’s not an accident. According to the Journal, Russia’s military chief used a meeting with US Special Operations Command to learn more about how the US operates, in order to more closely mirror his force in Russia. Moscow has also benefited from a framework of understanding signed between the two nations that offered military-to-military exchanges and operational events, orientation at the West Point military academy for Russian cadets, and sharing of ideas among both countries’ combined arms academies.

We decided to look at photos of Spetsnaz in action, along with US Special Forces. It’s sometimes hard to spot the difference.


After US Army soldiers finish their roughly year-long training to become Special Forces-qualified, they don the distinctive green beret for the first time.

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US Army Photo

Their counterparts in Russia do much the same, though their head gear is crimson. Russia’s Spetsnaz unit modeled their competition for the crimson beret from the US, after a former commander read a book by a former US special forces soldier.

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RT/screenshot

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines


The resemblance between the two nations’ special forces don’t stop there. This US Special Forces soldier looks pretty similar …

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US Army

… To his Russian counterpart, right down to the helmet, tactical gear, and camouflage uniform pattern. The two nations do, however, use different weapons systems, with the US favoring the M4 rifle, and Russia going with its AK-style.

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The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

“From the helmets to the kit, they look almost identical,” a US military official told the Wall Street Journal recently, of Russia’s special forces.

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Special Operations Command

Source: WSJ


It’s kind of eerie.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

Here are US Special Forces soldiers doing a room-clearing exercise.

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US Army

And here are Russian special forces soldiers doing the same thing.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

Here’s US Special Forces securing the area after a helicopter insertion …

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US Army via BlackFive

… Which Russian special forces know how to do as well.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

Both train for what’s called “high-altitude, high-opening” parachute jumps …

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Members of the 7th Special Forces Group perform a high-altitude, low-opening jump from an MC-130P Combat Shadow over Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 15, 2015. The final two Combat Shadows in the Air Force landed for the last time at Hurlburt Field in front of more than 400 people. The two aircraft will take their last flight to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 1.
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US Air Force

… Where soldiers jump from a plane from miles above the Earth so they can basically fly into and parachute to their objective without an enemy knowing.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

The US gives some of its special forces soldiers advanced training as snipers.

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An Army Special Forces sniper course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
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Flickr/U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School

Russia does the same, teaching its soldiers the art of stalking and shooting.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

They also learn how to rappel down a wall …

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A 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Beret rappels with his weapon from a 60 foot tower at Eglin Air Force Base during the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) open house, Oct. 14. The open house for the new cantonment site offered the community a rare opportunity to visit the compound and see the different equipment Green Berets use.
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Pfc. Steven Young/US Army

… And jump through a window to surprise an adversary.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

It’s worth pointing out that US Special Forces trains with allied nations’ own special ops, who wear similar uniforms and learn similar tactics.

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US Army

But it seems that Russia has, in some ways, made its special forces indistinguishable from its American counterparts.

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Russian Ministry of Defense