How good is the French Foreign Legion compared to the British SAS, SEAL Team 6 or Delta Power?
First of all, the French Foreign Legion is not a special operations force. Yes, they are some of the toughest men on the planet who train for some of their lives and fight on duty around the world and are recognized among warriors for this. Still no special power.
The French Foreign Legion often does the dirty work for the French government in the corners of the world. Many died in Indochina, North Africa, and elsewhere. Even today they are occasionally used in dangerous areas, but their role is quieter. It is more dangerous compared to most of the national military, but the French are not involved in any major conflicts. Once it does, the French Foreign Legion will likely be there, whether it’s another part of Europe or hundreds of kilometers from France.
French Foreign Legion vs. SAS, DEVGRU (Seal Team 6) and Delta Force
The French armed forces have numerous special units such as Commando Hubert, GIGN and other heavy, capable rapid reaction forces. As with the US military, it can be sorted by military level (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3).
A comparison with entities like SAS, DEVGRU or Delta Force is simply not possible. Additionally, the French Foreign Legion might look more like the 101st Airborne Division and some other “normal” military units with a slightly better history than “normal” military units.
The French Foreign Legion is more like the 101st Airborne Division etc. than the Tier 1 units like SAS, DEVGRU or Delta Force (Photo: Pinterest / 101st)
The French Foreign Legion has a very brutal training system. Unfortunately, a lot of time is wasted cleaning, ironing, and formation training while completely neglecting some aspects of modern infantry training. This is due to language problems and the fact that most instructors have just completed basic training themselves and are not really able to teach more advanced things (e.g. navigation skills). The Legion also suffers from the strict hierarchy that prevails in the French army: officers rarely speak to soldiers, and most “minor” tasks (such as training) are delegated to the lowest rank possible.
Discipline above all – In order to integrate people from different cultural and social backgrounds, the French Foreign Legion has a very strict discipline. “La mission est sacrée, tu l’exécutes jusqu’au bout et s’il le faut, en opérations, au péril de ta vie.” your life) is their motto.
In order to embed people with different cultural and social backgrounds, the French Foreign Legion has a very strict discipline compared to the Western Special Operations Units, as the operators of these units usually have the same cultural background (Photo: XY)
The French Foreign Legion is characterized by the tactics of small units. Due to the fact that most of their soldiers cannot initially speak French, the Legion has trained their soldiers in the use of non-verbal communication on the battlefield. Legionnaires are very quick to respond, which is a huge plus, especially when it comes to anti-ambush tactics.
Special forces of the French Foreign Legion
GCP (parachute command group)
However, the Légion received its own special unit, the GCP (Groupement Commando Parachutiste), a special unit with personnel selected from the 2ème REP, an already elite parachute regiment of the Légion. In other words, the best of the best.
GCP of the 2ème REP is the elite unit of the French Foreign Legion (Photo: French Foreign Legion)
This is one of the most basic things that make up their specialty. While the rest of the 2ème REP consists of conventional paratroopers, these men are “Chuteurs Operels”. They open their ram air parachute to the desired height to achieve the type of infiltration that traditional paratroopers are unable to (traditional paratroopers use a static line to open their parachute).
Aguerrissement Combat: Among many other valuable items, GCP specialists hold this badge, which they acquire by completing an advanced training course in endurance and combat skills. (Photo: XY)
Although they do not qualify as special forces, the GCP of the French Foreign Legion carries out command missions, which means reconnaissance, target marking, raids, hostage rescue, extraction or destruction of high-value targets, etc., which are relatively limited in time and space when special forces take months and months can be of very different nature.
This is the “chuteur operationel” badge that makes the GCP des 2ème REP part of the 19 other French paratrooper commandos with which they are aligned. (Photo: XY)
GCM – Dinops
The first foreign engineering regiment has a unit called Dinos who are underwater combat divers, in terms of their skills they are like the GCP, which some consider special forces while others consider them commandos. If you are a member of the 2nd Foreign Engineering Regiment, you can try the GCM training which is again a group like the GCP. The GCM are mountain commandos that recruit from all 27th mountain brigades, which mainly include French army units.
GCM operator (Photo: French Foreign Legion)
These guys would go well with the comparison you mention in your question. But the opportunity to train and work with former legionnaires often surprised me, as these guys could often excel in certain tasks and fail completely in others at the same time.