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Special Operations Forces

Estonian Special Operations Forces ESTSOF plays a significant role in Estonia’s independent defence capability. The primary objective of the Special Operations Forces, in terms of Estonia’s national defence, is the development of capabilities for unconventional warfare. In addition to that, the tasks of the unit include special reconnaissance and surveillance, military support and direct action.

The history of the Estonian Special Operations Forces dates back to 2005, when the Special Operations Task Group was being formed within the Military Intelligence Battalion. The new Special Operations Task Group operated with minimal staff and limited resources until 2008, when the military and political leadership decided to start a more intensive development of those capabilities.

The Special Operations Task Group operated within the Military Intelligence Battalion until the end of 2012, when the Government of the Republic approved an amendment which created the Estonian Special Operations Forces as a separate unit under the direct command of the Commander of the Defence Forces. In principle, the forming of the Special Operations Forces created a new command, a part of which was formed by the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), which had previously existed within the Military Intelligence Battalion. This structural change was required primarily because, as an operational asset of the strategic command, special operations cannot be a part of another strategic asset (intelligence). On 1 August 2014 the Estonian name of the command was changed from ‘Kaitseväe erioperatsioonide üksus’ to ‘Kaitseväe erioperatsioonide väejuhatus’ while in English it remained the Estonian Special Operations Forces.

A very important date for the Estonian Special Operations Forces was 2 October 2012. On that day the unit was presented with its flag, which may be considered a sign of acknowledgement of the unit’s operational readiness. On the same day, Estonia and the United States of America concluded a co-operation memorandum regarding the dispatching of Estonian Special Forces on a NATO operation to Afghanistan. Starting at the end of 2012, the first Special Operations Unit (SOTU) of the Defence Forces entered service in ISAF under the command of the United States. They were relieved by the second SOTU in the summer of 2013. Estonian Special Forces supported the security forces in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. The task of the unit in the ISAF operation was to support the training of Afghanistan’s security forces.

In addition to the United States, the Special Operations Forces also actively co-operate with Special Forces from Germany, Poland and the Baltic States.


  • 2019 – … COL Margus Kuul
  • 2012 – 2019 COL Riho Ühtegi

The “ESTSOF” Emblem

Description: the black shield shows a rhombus formed from a single line, standing on its tip and opening heraldically to the right; within the rhombus there is a diagonally lying sword, with its blade pointing to the right – both are in silver.

Explanation: silver symbolises wisdom and loyalty, black is the traditional colour of Special Forces, which symbolises operating in dangerous and crisis situations arising from life’s darker side. The rhombus opening on one side and the sword symbolise ESTSOF and its readiness to take on tasks relating to national defence. Visually the symbol references the letter “E” and through it the name of the unit and Estonia. The symbol also has a notional and visual resemblance with the centre section of the Cross of Liberty.

Last updated: 14. March 2024, 11:21

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