Delta Force

Delta Force

Delta Force is one of the two principal United States counter-terrorism units, the other being the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, formerly known as Seal Team Six. Created in 1977 by Colonel Charles "Charlie" Beckwith, Delta Force is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Little is known about the elite unit, which is highly trained and well equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, airborne insertion equipment, and other forms of technology. Delta Force has participated in a multitude of counter-terrorist actions from 1979 onward.

Formation. In forming Delta Force, which was activated in November 1977, Beckwith drew on his experience with the British 22nd Regiment Special Air Service (SAS), with which he worked in an exchange program in 1962 and 1963. Despite the heavy influence of SAS, with which it often trains—along with France's GIGN, Germany's GSG-9, Israel's Sayeret Matkal/Unit 269, and Australia's Special Air Service Regiment—Delta Force has its own, very distinct and unique, character.

The official name of Delta Force is 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, meaning that it is organizationally part of the Special Forces, themselves an elite fighting unit under U.S. Special Operations Command. Yet, Delta Force is housed apart from the Special Forces at Bragg, and in appearance they are unlike any regular army in the world. Many wear their hair well beyond regulation length, and they often work in civilian clothes. Unlike Special Forces or the Rangers, from which many of their personnel are drawn, Delta Force has no distinct outward uniform or insignia.

In addition to special-warfare units, Delta Force members may come from other parts of the army or even other branches of the military. The group conducts limited recruiting, and undertakes specialized efforts to acquire personnel possessing unique and valuable skills. A soldier who speaks an obscure language, or who possesses special technical abilities may be approached and directly recruited by a representative from Delta Force.

Facilities and equipment. Little is known about the inside of the Delta Force compound, though it reportedly has extensive training facilities that include numerous shooting areas (both for battle at close proximity, and for sniping at longer range), an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a dive tank, and a three-story wall for climbing. The compound also reportedly includes a facility for hostage-rescue training, known as the "House of Horror" and modelled on the "Killing House" of SAS.

Delta Force uses an array of equipment, some of it specialized for the group's unique mission. For example, personnel conduct extensive airborne training, including specialized HAHO (high altitude-high opening) and HALO (high altitude-low opening) jumps. HALO work requires a soldier to fall through the air a considerable distance without the opened chute to break his fall, and thus he must keep his hands above his head. However, this can cause much of the blood to flow out of the arms, leaving the soldier to operate at less than full capacity during the first few minutes after he touches ground. To solve this problem, Delta Force arranged to have specially built parachute rigs that allow them to keep their hands at their sides during descent.

Delta Force operations. Delta Force works closely with other services and federal agencies, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency. Its first deployment was an inauspicious one, the attempted rescue of hostages held in the U.S. embassy in Teheran on April 25, 1980. In any case, the failure of this mission, which ended with a fatal helicopter crash before the special unit (composed of elite fighters from several military services) even reached Teheran, had little to do with Delta Force.

Delta Force also participated in the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, and in 1984 and 1985 conducted assaults on jetliners hijacked by terrorists in the Middle East. During the opening moments of Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, it rescued Kurt Muse, an American citizen held in a Panamanian prison. In the Persian Gulf War, Delta Force served initially as bodyguards for top U.S. officers, and later as part of an effort to locate and destroy mobile SCUD missile launchers in the Iraqi desert. Delta Force also served in Task Force Ranger in Somalia (1993); a variety of operations associated with the Balkan wars of 1992–2000; Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001–2002; and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.



Beckwith, Charlie A., and Donald Knox. Delta Force. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.

Bennett, Richard M. Espionage: An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets. London: Virgin Books, 2002.

Griswold, Terry, and D. M. Giangreco. Delta, America's Elite Counterterrorist Force. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1992.

Haney, Eric L. Inside Delta Force: The Story of America's Elite Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Delacorte Press, 2002.

Landau, Alan M., et. al. U.S. Special Forces: Airborne Rangers, Delta, and U.S. Navy SEALs. Osceola, WI: MBI, 1999.


ADFGX Cipher
Asymmetric Warfare
Australia, Intelligence and Security
Carter Adminstration (1977–1981), United States National Security Policy
DOD (United States Department of Defense)
France, Counter-Terrorism Policy
Germany, Counter-Terrorism Policy
Guerilla Warfare
Israel, Counter-terrorism Policy
SEAL Teams
Special Operations Command, United States
United States, Counter-Terrorism Policy

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