Special Forces in the Service of Her Majesty

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Special Forces in the Service of Her Majesty
Special Forces in the Service of Her Majesty
Special Forces in the Service of Her Majesty
Special Forces in the Service of Her Majesty

Back in the fall of last year, the British media, citing information from the British military, reported that SAS fighters operating in the territory occupied by IS in the western regions of Iraq are killing up to eight Islamist militants every day. And this is just the statistics given by the raid groups, whose task is to destroy the enemy's manpower with sniper fire. There are also teams conducting reconnaissance of the enemy by visual observation using optics and UAVs. Their data is used by the Air Forces of the United States, Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf States (whose military aircraft are involved in the alliance's operations) to adjust air strikes to combat targets and positions of IS troops.

Earlier it was reported that SAS specialists perform only instructor work in the Middle East region to train soldiers of the Iraqi army (which the Sunni population of Iraq considers the Shiite militia), Kurdish militia and Syrian rebels - Sunnis, some of whom, oddly enough, end up in the ranks IG. According to the British publication Mirror, it was the SAS fighters who identified the whereabouts of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after which he was mortally wounded as a result of an air strike on his residence. Later, information about the death of Abu Bakr was repeatedly refuted and confirmed, so it is not known for certain whether he is alive or dead and where he is, if he is alive.

Currently, various sources, mainly British media, report that SAS groups have long been operating in Syria against both ISIS and Syrian government forces.

An unnamed SAS source said last fall: “Our tactic is to target ISIS with the fear of God so that they don’t know where we are coming from and where we will strike next time, to be honest, they are not able to stop us. We destroy them morally. They can run or hide if they see planes in the sky, but they cannot see or hear us. Our use of large numbers of snipers raises the fear factor to another level too; terrorists just don't understand what's going on. They only see how the dead bodies of their comrades fall on the sand."

In a recent publication, Sunday Express quoted a source from the United Kingdom military as saying: “More than 120 soldiers belonging to an elite regiment (22nd SAS regiment - NVO) in a war-torn country“secretly” in black clothes and with flags, IS are attacking the Syrians under the pretext of fighting a terrorist group. " In addition, British media reported that special SAS teams, together with similar US services, continue to intensively train Syrian opposition fighters in camps in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Qatar. SAS and SBS (British Navy Special Forces) conduct joint operations in Syria in close cooperation with MI-6, which has a powerful technical base for observation, reconnaissance, surveillance and interception and a well-organized, ramified agent network within numerous Islamist groups, including IS …


The SAS force was formed in 1941 from British volunteers to raid deep behind enemy lines in North Africa. The service's motto "Who dares wins" (decisive wins) was later adopted by the elite of the special forces of France and the former British dominions.

The modern special forces of the United Kingdom are subordinate to the Directorate of Special Forces, but can act in the interests of individual military expeditionary formations and formations. These include: 22nd Regiment (regular), 21st and

23rd reserve regiments (for operations in wartime), 18th and 63rd signal regiments, a combined squadron of special forces of the 8th air army and support and service units.

The modern tasks of the SAS are: conducting reconnaissance to the entire depth of the battle formations and rear of the enemy, conducting sabotage deep behind enemy lines and in the front-line zone, counter-terrorist operations on the territory of the Kingdom and abroad, training special forces of friendly states, fighting revolutions to support friendly regimes and the overthrow of unfriendly regimes (as a military support for the foreign policy of the government of the United Kingdom), the protection of senior officials and functionaries of the Kingdom, as well as especially important persons.

The elite of the British special forces is the 22nd SAS regiment, it is a permanent military unit of the special forces of the British military department.

It is recruited from the United Kingdom military. Many candidates come from the Airborne Forces, all without exception undergo a thorough background check and loyalty to the UK. To be accepted into the SAS regiment, recruits must pass numerous tests and a five-week practical elimination course. Such selections are held twice a year in Sennybridge and Brecon Beacons (UK). The statistics of admission are as follows - out of 200 candidates, no more than 30 recruits get into the regiment.

The first stage lasts three weeks and takes place in Brecon Beacons or Black Hills in South Wales. Applicants must carry heavy loads over long distances and demonstrate their orienteering skills, pass between different checkpoints accurately and show the best time at the finish line. At the same time, there is no influence from the selection committee on the candidates, they are left to themselves and can use only the means they have. A vital need for special forces to keep the fighters self-motivated.

The first phase of the test ends with a 40-mile (mile - 1, 6 km) march with an ammunition weight of 55 kg over hilly terrain, you need to keep within 24 hours. Those who have passed the first stage are allowed to the second, which takes place in Belize, in the thick of the jungle. The CAC jungle test is carried out by four people. This stage weeds out those who cannot maintain discipline in the difficult conditions of long raids. In the jungle, there is a test of moral strength more than physical. Special forces teams need people who can carry out their work under conditions of constant moral stress in a hostile environment and a hostile environment, without having a connection with their bases.

This mask can hide the face of a terrorist or SAS fighter. Photo by Reuters
This mask can hide the face of a terrorist or SAS fighter. Photo by Reuters

The third phase of the test is devoted to the ability to bypass enemy counter-sabotage forces, evade capture, and some other tactical issues. SAS needs soldiers who can find the spiritual strength to avoid capture or withstand interrogations if he is arrested. This stage lasts three days, after which, regardless of whether the candidate was captured or not, he is subjected to interrogation with partiality, the subject's task is to withstand the pressure and not blur out important information. The subject can only report the name, rank, number on the token and date of birth, it is recommended not to answer the rest of the questions.

Those lucky few who passed the test receive beige berets with the CAC emblem. Only men between the ages of 18 and 32 plus 364 days and candidates who are on active duty in any part of the United Kingdom military up to 34 years plus 364 days are eligible for recruitment. Anyone applying for admission must be volunteers and must be prepared to serve anywhere in the world. The age limit for service in the SAS troops is from 18 to 49 years plus 364 days. In SAS, they try to recruit recruits who, in addition to outstanding physical data, have the skills of driving, cooking, are able to repair cars, clerks from sailors and military personnel who want to transfer to other branches of the military or to another service. Nursing staff with CMT1 qualifications (primary health care or emergency in the field) are encouraged.

After completing basic training, the minimum allowance for an SAS soldier is 103 pounds per day. For each year of service, military personnel receive a bonus of 424 pounds per month, which reaches 1,674 pounds by the fifth year of service. A one-time payment upon transfer to the reserve is 10 thousand pounds.

Only British or citizens of the countries of the British Commonwealth, as well as the Irish, are accepted into the 22nd regiment. Or persons with dual citizenship, but the main one must be one of the above. The candidate must have lived in the United Kingdom for at least 5 years.

The 22nd SAS Regiment is actually barely reaching battalion numbers. It includes a headquarters, a planning and intelligence service, an operational department, a combat training department, a counter-revolutionary combat organization service (also called anti-terrorist) and six squadrons: A, B, C, D, E, G. Squadron E has a special task, it specializes on the so-called black operations to organize revolutions in countries with hostile regimes, it acts in close connection with the political intelligence of Great Britain and the military intelligence of MI6. Each squadron includes four detachments for various purposes of 16 servicemen in each and a command group. The first is a parachute detachment, the second is a naval one, the third is a mobile one, and the fourth is a mountain one. The squadron commander, speaking in the army language, is a major, the squadron commander is a captain. The squadron control section consists of: deputy squadron commander - captain, operational service officer - in the same rank, chief sergeant of the squadron (in our opinion, foreman), sergeant-quartermaster, senior sergeant.

During operations, each squad can be divided into two groups - "red" and "blue", which, in turn, are divided into an assault subgroup and a cover (sniper) subgroup.

Squadron Gee (G) of the 22nd SAS Regiment is so named because it was originally formed from military personnel - volunteers of the disbanded Guards company of the separate parachute division of territorial defense. The so-called cavalry squadrons are organized as special purpose units with versatile training.

Parachute units, when performing a combat mission, are delivered to the place of special operations by airplanes and helicopters. They are able to jump from great heights with various devices that increase the landing depth. Their tasks include actions in the interests of their troops, in the deep rear and in the enemy's front-line zone. They are trained in three main types of airborne assault: standard military parachute landing using forced canopy, high-altitude airborne landing with low canopy (wing), and high-altitude landing with high canopy (wing) opening. For the last two methods of landing, the fighters are supplied with breathing oxygen apparatus and use special insulated clothing. In addition, SAS parachutists have at their disposal individual navigation devices to determine the location and altitude of an autonomous flight. All the ammunition necessary for the performance of the combat mission and life support, during an autonomous flight, is fastened between the legs of the paratrooper, the individual weapon is always "at hand" in readiness for use.

Amphibious assault forces move both on standard naval and specialized floating crafts: small boats, mini-submarines, small and medium surface motor boats (including inflatable ones or made of light polymer materials), kayaks. Fighters use open and dry (closed) diving suits, with open and closed breathing systems. The SAS soldiers are trained in autonomous navigation, including under water, in the techniques of stealthily approaching and mining enemy warships. They can also be delivered to the place of operation by air. SAS fighters are parachuted from high altitudes or without those from helicopters, along ropes from 40 to 100 m long, or simply jump from a height of about 15 m. and the weapons are in waterproof cases.

Additionally, breathing equipment, individual means of autonomous transport and special immersion suits are provided for SAS fighters when disembarking from submarines at an accessible depth, in a submerged state. Getting out of a submarine at depths of 50-60 m is always fraught with risk, especially in cold latitudes.

SAS mobile groups move on wheeled and tracked vehicles, this type of special forces existed already during the Second World War and even then tested in long-term raids in the North African deserts. Mobile groups are prepared for operations in the deep rear in the front-line and front-line zones of the enemy, completely autonomously, without communication with their troops. The most popular modes of transport among these groups are defender off-road vehicles, light two-seater vehicles such as buggies and ATVs, less often motorcycles. Moreover, the "Defenders" used in the desert are painted pink (the color of the desert landscape). British special forces call them among themselves "Pinky" (pinky - pink). SAS groups can also move on any technique, mainly common among the local population, in any outfit, to ensure the secrecy of their stay in a particular area. According to the terms of the assignment, they quite often have to wear the clothes of the local population of the countries of North Africa or the Middle East, while they try to cover their faces, since outwardly red-haired, white-skinned Britons do not look like Arabs at all.

The standard equipment of mobile SAS groups can have the following armament: machine guns of the Browning type 50 caliber (12.7 mm), AGS Mark 19 (40 mm), single 7.62 mm L7A2 machine guns, ATGM Milan. For observation and reconnaissance, the groups use an impressive set of state-of-the-art optics, thermal imagers, night vision devices, radars, etc. To communicate with each other, if radio silence is required, mobile groups can use signaling devices operating in the visible and infrared spectrum, or in the old fashioned way - flags, improvised signaling devices, gestures.

SAS mountain groups are formed from fighters who have the skills to move on all types of mountainous terrain, stay, survive and conduct military operations in the mountains. The soldiers of these groups must be great rock climbers and ice climbers, alpine skiers and base jumpers. To be able to survive in stormy weather, in conditions of arctic cold and oxygen starvation. The fighters undergo training for a long stay in the highlands, in mountainous regions, in various parts of the world. Kenya is considered the optimal place for CAC training due to the presence of all climatic zones, from equatorial-tropical to high-mountainous, which is identical to the Arctic.

When entering service in the 22nd SAS regiment (and other units of the same purpose), servicemen sign a "nondisclosure pledge of military secrets." Those who leave the ranks of the CAS, regardless of the reason, are forced to fulfill this obligation and not disclose the details of their service under any circumstances. The British government adheres to strict rules regarding the publication of information on SAS operations and activities and prefers not to inform the public about the use of its special forces.


The combat training of the units of the 22nd SAS regiment is divided into several stages, most of them lasting up to 14 weeks. It includes general disciplines for all military personnel of the regiment and special disciplines, such as the tactics of underwater combat divers, the release of hostages taken by terrorists, the tactics of raiding operations in the mountains, etc. The basic training, which is mandatory for all SAS fighters, includes a course on acquiring the skills necessary for raiding behind enemy lines in groups of four, which includes working out methods of stealthily moving around territory controlled by the enemy, fire training, medical training, communication, the art of disguise, survival skills, and other disciplines. The training is carried out in an environment as close as possible to a combat one. Fire training of SAS fighters is carried out using both standard weapons and foreign-made samples (including Russian). Serious attention is paid to the ability of SAS fighters to evade counterintelligence forces, patrols and enemy capture groups, as well as the ability to remain silent during interrogations, if they could not escape and were caught. To operate behind enemy lines, the British special forces must be able to manage with small, poor food (in very limited quantities), sometimes they have to starve and lack sleep, use badly worn clothes and shoes, feel thirsty, cold, and hot. Each time the fighters are tested to the extent of their capabilities, according to the principle "what does not kill us makes us stronger." Members of the SAS groups bring all fighting techniques to reflex execution. In the course of their studies, they get used to eating and drinking only as much as possible, moving around in the dark, secretly staying in the day, using the camouflaging properties of the landscape, planning their entire existence in relation to the main goal - the fulfillment of the task. The course ends with exercises, during which the readiness of the SAS fighters to carry out raids in the rear and frontline zone of the enemy is checked. The tactics of actions as part of raid groups are being worked out on various landscapes and in various climatic zones. In a special course (not for everyone), preparation for actions in the mountains, arctic and subarctic zones is highlighted.

Landing of the Chinook helicopter with a landing of SAS fighters in Afghanistan. Photo from the site www.army.mod.uk
Landing of the Chinook helicopter with a landing of SAS fighters in Afghanistan. Photo from the site www.army.mod.uk

The general stage of conducting raids in tropical rain forests is much more focused on testing the moral strength of fighters than other courses. It is somewhat shorter, takes six weeks and usually takes place on the island of Kalimantan in the Malaysian archipelago. The purpose of this course (in addition to testing mental strengths) is to hone skills in survival in the jungle, the ability to move and navigate, overcome natural obstacles, build a shelter, look for food and water, endure heat, hardship, insect bites, etc. And most importantly, the techniques for conducting covert special operations in equatorial and tropical conditions are being worked out to the point of automatism. Trainings are held in groups of four; methodically, this is a permanent exercise in an environment as close as possible to a combat one, with a minimum set of conventions. And here the main principle is confessed: the utmost secrecy of actions (in maneuvering, marches and arranging ambushes and observation points), surprise attacks on enemy targets and manpower and their reliable destruction.

The General Airborne Parachute Training Phase takes place over four weeks at one of the RAF's premier parachute schools, located in Breeze Norton, Oxfordshire. The training program includes long and night jumps from various types of air transport. Groups specializing in airborne assault also conduct their training here.

Each soldier of the 22nd SAS regiment is unique, each of them is a versatile person, but at the same time specializes in some area, their special training takes place according to a special in-depth program.


The combat path of the 22nd SAS regiment is quite difficult to trace due to the secret nature of the tasks it performs. Occasionally, his participation in a particular operation is only announced in general terms by the government, sometimes information gets into the British media from various sources, more often you still have to rely on analytics of indirect signs of the presence of SAS groups in certain regions and participation in certain military conflicts …

The first mentions of SAS raid groups are associated with military operations in 1941-1942 (until May 1943) in North Africa and the Mediterranean islands against German troops and in the Middle East against Arab rebels supported by Nazi Germany. Then in 1943-1944 they distinguished themselves in France and Belgium. It is worth saying that the special forces of most Western countries, including France, the USA, Italy and others, were created in the image and likeness of the SAS. From 1948 to 1960, British special forces from B Squadron fought in Malaysia against the communist movement. In 1952, the 22nd regiment appeared on the basis of this squadron. One of the most famous joint SAS operations with the French was the 1956 landing in the Suez Canal area. From July 1964 to July 1966, SAS fighters fought in Borneo, in that operation they already assisted Malaysia in the war against Indonesia, then 59 special forces were killed. In 1963-1964, as well as in the 70s, Her Majesty's special forces took part in operations against the Omani rebels. The 22nd SAS regiment distinguished itself in Northern Ireland in 1976. There he acted toughly and effectively in special operations against the leaders of the Irish Republican Army. The regiment fighters glorified themselves with a swift operation to destroy the terrorists who seized the Iranian embassy in London in May 1980. They fought successfully in Iraq in 1991. During the second Iraqi campaign (2003), SAS fighters preferred to abandon their favorite SA-80 assault rifles of 5, 56 mm caliber, which were ineffective in conditions when they had to shoot a lot, and often changed them to AK-47s. In 2005, in the same place, the special forces of the 22nd Regiment successfully carried out Operation Marlboro.

The SAS fighters have proven themselves well in Afghanistan in 2001–2014. The 22nd Regiment of the Special Aviation Service participated in operations against the Taliban near Kandahar. In one of the battles in the Tora Bora area, British special forces killed about 20 militants, while they themselves did without losses. It was during that special operation that a unit of British special forces was thrown into the rear of the Taliban by parachute, which is very uncharacteristic for mountainous terrain. In total, SAS fighters conducted three operations in Afghanistan: Trent in 2001, Condor in 2002 and Moshtarak in 2010.


British special forces groups, together with similar teams from the United States, France, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar, participated in the Libyan events. Their main tasks were: target designation for NATO air strikes against military targets and positions of the Libyan government forces, organizing an insurgency and hunting for high-ranking officials of the Gaddafi regime, including the permanent leader of the Jamahiriya himself. According to British media, the number of special forces from Foggy Albion in the Libyan rebel units was measured in the hundreds. The soldiers of the 22nd SAS regiment were also present in Libya. Raid groups of the special forces of this elite unit operated in conjunction with operatives of the well-known MI-6 (British military intelligence). They mainly carried out reconnaissance tasks, elaborating an operation plan, determining the directions of strikes and coordinating the actions of groups of anti-government forces in the most successful military actions, such as the capture of large cities, including Tripoli. And the presence of special groups of the 22nd SAS regiment in Libya was declassified by their students, Islamist rebels. Militants of the anti-government forces captured six SAS special forces on March 6, 2011 in the Benghazi region and trumpeted the whole world about it.

The search and discovery of the "hero of the occasion" - Muammar Gaddafi is also attributed to the British special forces of the 22nd SAS regiment, there is no exact information on this score, as always, one can only guess about it. In any case, the United Kingdom Secretary of Defense Lime Fox once mentioned that NATO is helping the rebels in the search for Gaddafi and his sons. In an interview with Sky News, he said: "I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance for the National Transitional Council (NTC), helping him find Colonel Gaddafi and other members of the former ruling regime." There is another information on this, published in the Daily Telegraph: “After a reward of £ 1 million was offered for Gaddafi's head (Libya's NPC announced such a price for a former dictator, dead or alive. - NVO), the military from the 22nd regiment of the British Special Air Service received an order from Prime Minister David Cameron to take over the leadership of the rebel forces looking for Gaddafi. " By the way, David Cameron officially rejected the presence of British troops on Libyan soil. However, the French president of that time, Nicolas Sarkozy, said the same about his commandos.

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