United Kingdom Special Forces
The United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) is a UK Ministry of Defence Directorate which also has the capability to provide a Joint Special Operations Task Force Headquarters. UKSF is commanded by Director Special Forces (DSF), a Major General.
UKSF was formed in 1987 to draw together the Army's Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Squadron Royal Marines (SBS), which was renamed the Special Boat Service at the same time, into a unified command, based around the former Director SAS who was given the additional title of Director Special Forces. The Directorate has been expanded by the creation of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group. Roles and tasks UKSF assets undertake a number of roles, with a degree of interaction and interoperability:
Counter Revolutionary Warfare
Reconnaissance of the deep battlespace
Offensive operations in the deep battlespace
Battlespace preparation in Transition To War
Capture of subjects of interest
Human intelligence (HUMINT) collection
Training of other nations' armed forces
The badge of each UKSF unit shares a representation of the Sword of Damocles (or Excalibur) in common. Special Force units United Kingdom Special Forces
22 Special Air Service
L Detachment 21 Special Air Service (Reserve) 23 Special Air Service (Reserve) Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Special Boat Service Special Boat Service (Reserve)
The UKSF is supported by a number of units: Special Forces Support Group Special Forces Support Group 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment F Company, Royal Marines RAF Regiment elements
18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment
264 (SAS) Signals Squadron, attached to 22 SAS
267 (SRR) Signals Squadron, attached to the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR)
268 (UKSF) Signals Squadron, specialist sp to UKSF
SBS Signals Squadron, attached to the Special Boat Service
63 (SAS) Signal Squadron, reserve unit attached to 21 and 23 SAS
The Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing provides fixed-wing and rotary-wing support to UKSF. Four units of the Army Air Corps (AAC) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) are thought to have the task of supporting British Special Operations:
8 Flight Army Air Corps, which has four Eurocopter AS 365N Dauphin light utility helicopters and two Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters. The aircraft are painted in civilian colours (which are regularly changed) and are rumoured to be used in counter-terrorist missions.
47 Squadron (RAF), operating Special Forces versions of the C-130 Hercules. These are six Hercules C.1 (C-130K), modified after the Falklands War (an RWR and AN/ALQ-157 infra-red countermeasures device were added); two have been lost.
Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW)
7 Squadron (RAF), uses Chinook HC.2 heavy-lift helicopters (equivalent to the CH-47D Chinook). This squadron took part in Operation Barras in 2000, and is earmarked as the operator of the eight Chinook HC.3s (intended to be equivalent to the US Army's MH-47E Chinook) ordered in 1995, but not yet operational.
651 Squadron (AAC), which uses Defender AL.1 fixed wing aircraft
657 Squadron (AAC), which uses Lynx AH.7 helicopters
Six Hercules C.3 (C-130H-30), upgraded in C.3A standard (with more countermeasures and navigation systems), were added to the "SF Flight" because of SF needs after 11 September 2001 attacks.
The Special Air Service
The Special Air Service (SAS) is a Special Forces regiment within the British Army which has served as a model for the special forces of other countries. The SAS forms a significant section of United Kingdom Special Forces alongside the Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). The Special Air Service is divided into two distinct parts: 22 Regiment Special Air Service, the regular regiment of the SAS, which is the unit associated with most well-known SAS operations. Two Territorial Army units, 21 Regiment Special Air Service (Artists) and 23 Regiment Special Air Service.
The SAS was formed in 1941 as a commando force operating behind enemy lines during the war in North Africa and disbanded in 1945. In 1947 the Artists Rifles regiment was remodelled as the nucleus of the reformed Special Air Service which has become the model upon which many other countries have based their own special forces units. Function.
Current SAS roles include:
Intelligence collection in the deep battlespace Battlespace preparation by sabotage and offensive raids in the medium and deep battlespace Counter-terrorism operations inside UK territory in conjunction with police forces Counter Terrorism operations outside UK territory Training soldiers of other nations, and training guerillas in unconventional warfare Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) activities in support of UK government Foreign Policy
The Special Air Service is a Corps of the British Army under the United Kingdom legal system which authorises the raising of military forces and comprises three battalion-sized units, one Regular and two Territorial Army (TA), each styled as 'regiments' in accordance with British Army practice; 22 Regiment SAS being the Regular unit, with 21 Regiment SAS (Artists) and 23 Regiment SAS as the TA units, known together as the Special Air Service (Reserve) or SAS(R). Under the Operational Command (OPCOM) of the Director Special Forces. Each Regiment comprises a number of "Sabre" Squadrons with some supporting functions being undertaken within 22 SAS; Headquarters, Planning, and Intelligence Section, Operational Research Section, Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing, and Training Wing. ('Sabre' Squadrons are so called to distinguish the operational squadrons from administrative or HQ squadrons.)
The Squadrons also rotate through the CRW Wing (originally designated "Pagoda") and is relieved every 6 - 9 months. The squadron is split up into two combined troops, "Red" and "Blue", with each troop made up of an assault group and a sniper team. Though the counter-terrorist teams are based at RHQ in Credenhill, a specialist eight-man team is based within the outer London region (4, south London border & 4, north London border/Hertfordshire). This team rapidly responds to any situation in London as required. The three regiments have different roles:
The SAS was formerly garrisoned in based at Stirling Lines (formerly Bradbury Lines), Hereford which was named after the founder of the regiment, Sir David Stirling. Stirling Lines relocated to a former RAF station in Credenhill in 1999.
'Sabre' Squadrons in 22 SAS are organised as four specialised Troops, although personnel are broadly skilled in all areas following 'Selection' and 'Continuation' training. The specialised troop provide a focus for particular skill sets and personnel may move between Troops over the length of a career. 21 and 23 SAS do not so distinguish. 22 SAS differ from others as they are limited to foreign insurgency, containment and conflict rather than counter-terrorism.
Air Troop personnel specialise in airborne insertion from fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. Leaving the aircraft at high altitude personnel are capable of delivering personnel and equipment into the deep battlespace far beyond the forward edge of battle area in support of their ISTAR or offensive operations. Personnel are trained in three principal forms of parachute infiltration; Basic static line, High Altitude, Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude, High Opening (HAHO). HALO insertions involve a long free fall followed by canopy opening at low level, about 2,000 feet (600 m), leaving the operator exposed to detection and fire for the minimum possible period. The aircraft must overfly in the vicinity of the Drop Zone to effect delivery, risking a compromise to the mission should it be detected. HAHO insertions allow the aircraft to deliver the operators from a significantly greater range from the Drop Zone, thus reducing risk of mission compromise. Operators leave the aircraft and immediately deploy a canopy which allows a long glide over great distance. To avoid hypoxia, the parachutists are provided with an oxygen supply to survive the depleted air at high altitude and warm clothing protects from the extreme environmental conditions.
Boat Troop personnel specialise in water-borne insertion techniques. Personnel are trained in diving using Open and Closed Circuit breathing systems, sub-surface navigation skills, approaching the shore or vessels underway and the delivery of maritime demolition charges. Much of this training is undertaken with the Special Boat Service. One of the main forms of transportation is the Klepper canoe. The first SAS folding boats were designed during World War II for use by Commandos, based on existing designs. The German Klepper has been in service since the 1960s. Other transportation methods include the Gemini inflatable, used primarily for sending small groups of soldiers onto a shore undetected, and the fibreglass hulled Rigid Raiders - fast patrol boats which are larger and can carry more personnel or cargo ashore. Entry to the water is also achieved from rotary wing aircraft and by parachute drop. In case of the former, the helicopter hovers around 50 feet (15 m) above the water and personnel simply jump out. Airborne entry to the water carries a significant risk to equipment with weapons and other equipment sealed using a dry bag. Deployment from submarines is also taught. Submarine egress bears a high risk given the effect of pressure at depth (nitrogen narcosis and oxygen toxicity), the cold, and the risks inherent in the use of mechanical breathing aids while underwater.
Mobility Troop personnel specialise in vehicle insertion techniques, similar to those of the Long Range Desert Group of the Second World War and allows a more sustainable patrol in the medium to deep battlespace but create logistical and force protection challenges. Personnel are required to gain skills in vehicle maintenance across the range of vehicles used by the Regiment, particularly whilst on patrol with limited opportunity for combat support. Vehicles include the Jackal MWMIK, Land Rovers, Supacat HMThttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Air_Service - cite_note-8, Honda 350 cc Quad Bike, CRF450X, and the Honda 250 cc motorbike.
Mountain troops' personnel specialise in the conduct of operations at high altitude and in mountainous terrain, requiring advanced skills in climbing, ice climbing, skiing and cold weather survival. Training is conducted in deserts and mountain ranges around the world. Those members that show particular aptitude are seconded to the German Army where they undertake the 18-month long Alpine Guides course in Bavaria. A number of members from the mountain troops have participated in major military and civilian expeditions to some of the world's highest peaks although this has not been without loss.
All UK military personnel are bound by the Official Secrets Act and undergo various levels of vetting, Special Forces personnel are required to be cleared to higher levels than many. Following a number of high-profile book releases about the Regiment, candidates for selection are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, in addition to their duties under the Official Secrets Act. Ex-members of the Regiment who wrote exposés prior to the introduction of the agreement have used pseudonyms, such as Andy McNab and Chris Ryan. Books in the genre include both non-fiction and fictional accounts based on the experiences of the author. The British Government has a standing policy of not discussing the SAS or its operations and makes few official announcements concerning their activities. When reports of military operations are given there is usually no mention of SAS, or other Special Forces, involvement. Since the inception of the British D-Notice system for the British Press during World War II any mention of Special Air Service operations has been one of the cautionary or non-disclosure categories of reporting. Medals awarded to personnel are publicised in the normal manner and officially and formally via The London Gazette however the individual's original parent Corps or Regiment, if they have such, is attributed as a matter of fact which sometimes provides security cover. The circumstances surrounding personnel killed in action are not routinely disseminated. Before 2006 three officers have been recommended for the VC: two during World War II and one during the Falklands. Only one has been awarded; to Major Anders Lassen, MC**, killed in Italy in 1945 when he was commanding a squadron of the Special Boat Service. His grave marker bears the badge of the Regiment because the SBS in which he served continued to wear this as their cap badge, and was considered part of the 'SAS family' even though it was a separate regiment, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel and formed out of the Special Boat Squadron of 1 SAS.
The SAS, like every other British regiment, has its own distinctive insignia.
Order of Precedence
Preceded by: The Rifles Infantry Order of Precedence
Succeeded by:Last in Order ofPrecedence of the Infantry
The SAS is classed as an infantry regiment, and as such is shown in the infantry order of precedence. However, because of its role, it is listed 'next below' the other designations (foot guards, line infantry, rifles). The expression 'next below' is utilised in British official publications as a form of 'grace note' to avoid the connotations of first/last since, in spirit at least, no Regiment admits of the claim to being last and all are deemed equal in the scope of their service under the Crown-in-Parliament.
Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the Special Forces unit of the British Royal Navy. The service's motto is "By Strength and Guile". It forms part of the United Kingdom Special Forces group, alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) and 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment. The SBS is an independent unit of the Royal Marines based at Royal Marines Poole, in Poole, Dorset, co-located with 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and 148 Commando Forward Observation Battery, Royal Artillery.
The roles of the Special Boat Service are predominantly focused on, but not restricted to, the littoral and riverine waterborne domains, including:
The Ministry of Defence does not comment on special forces matters therefore little verifiable information exists in the public domain. Memoirs suggest an organisation split into four operational squadrons and a training wing, with a range of supporting personnel drawn from the Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the British Army. The SBS is under the Operational Command of Director Special Forces, which allocates resources to the Permanent Joint Headquarters, deployed forces or other tasks as required. Qualified personnel are known as "Swimmer Canoeists" and are employed in one of the operational squadrons, training wing or elsewhere in the RM, RN, DSF or MOD.
Two squadrons, C and X, support general SBS tasks.
The SBS Reserve (SBS(R)), provides individual reservists to serve with the regular SBS rather than forming independent teams.
To be eligible for SBS selection, a candidate must have at least two years regular service in the British Armed Forces. Formerly candidates were from the Royal Marines or the Royal Navy, but now volunteers are taken from any arm of the services. In order to qualify as a Swimmer Canoeist, Candidates must first undergo Special Forces Selection with the SAS before continuing to SBS selection.
For SBS Reserve (SBS(R)) selection, candidates must have previous military experience or have served at least two years in the Royal Marines Reserve before passing the three main elements (Hills Phase @ 4 km/h / Ex Atap Hurdle / SERE) of regular UKSF selection and gaining the specialist qualification of swimmer canoeist.
Qualification as an SBS Swimmer Canoeist involves an extensive training course, building on the skills gained during SF Selection at Hereford. Training includes:
On qualification Marines of the SBS wear the branch badge on the left cuff of Lovat green and blue uniform jackets, the letters SC over a wreath, Officers wear no branch designators. On qualification as an advanced parachutist, personnel are awarded the SBS variant of Special Forces parachute wings, worn on the shoulder of the right sleeve. Marines continue to wear the commandos Green Beret.
SBS veterans include:
C & X Squadron
The men of C & X Squadron are specialists in canoe and small boat operations. Utilizing 2-men Klepper canoes, and various inflatable boats for stealth insertion and extraction, the SBS carry out reconnaissance and sabotage missions along coastlines, river networks and up to 40 miles in land. C & X Squadrons are currently the SBS's designated 'green' squadrons ie focusing on operations on land, mostly in land-locked Afghanistan.
Trained for Maritime Counter-Terrorism (MCT) operations, the SBS men of M Squadron are on standby to respond to deal with the threat of terrorism on ferries, cruise ships, hovercraft, oil tankers and oil rigs.
The divers of Z Squadron specialise in underwater attack and insertion using mini-submarines and swimmer delivery vehicles. During a war, Z Squadron would sneak into enemy harbours and attach magnetic mines to ship's hulls. Regular SBS are augmented by volunteers from the SBS reserves (SBS(R)) For reasons of security, the exact number of regular SBS ranks is not made public, however the number is speculated to be between 250 & 300.
Carries out all training not covered by an SBS recruit's initial continuation training with the SAS.
Operational Research & Development
Like the SAS Operations Research Cell, this special sub-unit of the SBS is responsible for developing and evaluating equipment and procedures that to pertain to the SBS's role. This may include such things as the development of waterproof flashbangs for the MCT role or testing a new SDV.
A reserves element, SBS(R) augments the regular SBS, with individual SBS(R) members working integrated into regular SBS formations.
SBS Command Structure
The Special Boat Service is usually commanded by a rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Whilst technically part of the Naval Service (Royal Marines and Navy) order of battle (ORBAT), the SBS comes under the umbrella of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), commanded by the Director Special Forces (DSF). UKSF is a directorate that combines several units under one command structure. The SBS, along with the British Army's 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are the so-called 'teir one' Special Forces. Tier one Special Forces are supported by 21 and 23 SAS (reserves), the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), 18(UKSF) signals and the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW). Each SBS squadron is commanded by an Officer, usually a Royal Marines Major or Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander.
Squadrons are organised into 16-man Troops, each usually commanded by a Captain. Troops are often broken down into 4-man patrols, 2-man canoe teams or 8-man teams (a typical boat-full). In recent Afghanistan operations, the SBS has reportedly been operating in larger teams, sometimes at full Squadron strength.
Recruits must be Royal Marines Commandos with at least three years service. They will have started off their careers with the 30-week initial stint at the Commando Training Centre or the 15-month Young Officers Course, mostly at the same establishment. Later they may have had further training in signals, heavy weapons, sniping etc. Those wishing to join the SBS must first go through a two-week aptitude test, which consists of the following:
Complete a number of dives, generally show confidence and willingness to dive.
Those successful will go on to the joint SAS/SBS selection course
1. Brecon Beacons phase (3 weeks)- land navigation marches with Bergen and weapon, culminating in " long drag". The majority who drop out will do so in this phase. 2. Pre-jungle training (2 weeks)- working in four-man patrols. 3. Jungle Training, Brunei (6 weeks). 4. Officer week/signals training (1 week). 5. Support Weapons Training (1 week). 6. Army Combat Survival Instructor Course (2 weeks)- survival, evasion, resistance, escape; well-known for its harsh Resistance To Interrogation training; the last phase where many will be " binned". Continuation training takes place mainly at Hereford 1. Demolitions (2 weeks) 2. Observation Post Training (1 week) 3. CQB Course (2 weeks) 4. Individual Skills Courses (8 weeks)- during this time men will undergo training as Special Forces medics or signalers, or further demolitions training. Officers attend language training and a Special Forces commander's course. 5. Static Line Parachute Course (3 weeks)- for those who are not qualified paratroopers.
SBS students go on to their own 8-week boating and diving course, including underwater navigation and demolition, negotiating surf zones and navigating a 55km course in the Klepper canoe, and infiltration via submarine. Following this Marines are rated as Swimmer Canoeist Class 3, and entitled to wear the badge of this specialist qualification on the left cuff of their blue and green dress uniforms, "SC" over a wreath.
This and the parachute wings worn on the upper right sleeve are their only distinctions; they wear the same Green Beret and cap badge as all Royal Marines, or white cap in blues. RM officers do not wear qualification badges, so they have just the parachute wings. For Marines to be promoted to Corporal they must qualify as SC2 and to Sergeant SC3. These advanced training courses emphasize operational planning and training supervision. Promotion to Sergeant also requires passing the Senior Command Course at the CTC, Lympstone.
Newly-qualified swimmer-canoeists will then join an operational troop, but of course training never ceases. They may go through further training in combat medicine, communications, counter-terrorist operations, foreign languages, SDV "driving" and many other skills. Exercises are conducted with friendly nations' units, the closest relations being with the SEALs and Dutch SBS.
Weapons and Equipment
The armoury of a member of a four-man observation post in the Falklands is described as: an M16 rifle, M203 grenade launcher, fifteen high explosive grenades, one 66mm anti-tank rocket, 200 rounds of rifle ammunition, smoke and phosphorous grenades, 9mm Browning pistol and hunting knife. We can clearly see that while the SBS will often wish to remain unseen, they are fully prepared for a fight if it is necessary.
Another weapon used at this time was the silenced Sterling submachine gun, designated the L34A1. On bigger operations more firepower is taken along. Nine of the 23 men on the Fanning Head raid, to destroy the Argentine outpost at San Carlos, were carrying 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns, the British version of the FN MAG.
Today the M16A2 is the most popular weapon among British special forces. The M203 is often attached. Other weapons include the MP5, which has taken over the silenced SMG role, and the HK53 which was seen in East Timor, after being popularised by covert units in Northern Ireland. The Browning Hi-Power remains the main pistol. The Royal Marines have a long sniping tradition, the Accuracy International L96A1 being the weapon used today. Support weapons include the GPMG("Jimpy"), 66mm Light Antitank Weapon and 51mm mortar, the last even fired from specially modified canoes.
Two-man kayak-type canoes are used by the SBS due to their stealth capability, portability and reliability. The latest model known to be in service is the Klepper Aeres Mark 13. Other craft are the Gemini inflatable and Avon Searider rigid-inflatable boats; these are always used with twin engines in case of failure on operations. The SBS started experiments with two-man Swimmer Delivery Vehicles in the late 1960s. Descendants of these prototypes are in service today, along with American-built four/six-man types. The Draeger LAR-V closed-circuit system is the most commonly used scuba gear today. On operations this will be worn with a dry-suit over the combat uniform. Communications are of course of paramount importance to men on long-range patrols, and the PRC-319 and PRC-320 radios are known to be in service.
SBS versus SAS
The SBS is increasingly coming under the influence of the SAS. It has been suggested that it move to the Hereford base of 22 SAS, or even be disbanded and its members form boat troops within 22. This would enable the SAS to be at full strength, but could also put off Royal Marines from joining. While no-one denies the expertise of the SAS, the "Booties" are and always have been a bit different, with their own way of doing things, and it would seem silly to lose their talents. The loss of the SBS identity as Marines could also result in neglect of its beach reconnaissance role for 3 Commando Brigade, which proved so important in the Falklands War. Combining the two units was meant to improve cooperation, not result in one taking over the other.
We defend our country and its people, fight alongside our allies, kill our enemies. We are, first and always, Royal Marines.