Special Air Service (SAS)

Special Air Service (SAS)
Home NationUnited Kingdom
Motto‘Who Dares Wins’
Date Founded1941, dissolved in 1945, reformed in 1947 and reconstituted as a corps in 1950.
Key StatisticsSize: 1200-1800 aproximately across 3 regiments 22 SAS (Regular) and 21/23 SAS (reserves).
Funding: Like much else surrounding the SAS information on their funding and budget is completely opaque. The only information we know is that UKSF broadly received £2b in investment under the 2015 spending review (supposedly double the regular amount)  and the SAS/ SBS specifically received a £300mcash injection in 2017 to help re-equip the forces with more up to date weaponry to fight so called Islamic State.

Diversity: Women were allowed to join as of 2018 but there are no confirmed cases.
Regimental RemitSpecialism: Counter-terrorim, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, sabotage, forward air control, training. Where are they based: HQ/ 22 SAS are based in ‘Stirling Lines garrison in Hereford, 21 SAS are based in Regent’s park barracks in London, and 23 SAS are based in Birmingham. Operating location(s): 22 SAS are internationally deployable and are often tasked with special covert missions such as sabotage or targeted strikes on enemy centres of command. There is also a rapidly deployable troop stationed domestically to deal with issues of terrorism or hostage crises that may occur. 23/21 SAS operate in the same location but to less of an extent, they are often involved with domestic training or in light reconnaissance roles while deployed internationally.
Noteworthy Operations1991 – Bravo Two Zero – forward air control/ reconnaissance – the operation failed almost immediately as the team was discovered, many were killed or captured. 1980 – Iranian Embassy Siege – hostage crisis – SAS called in after attempts to reason with terrorists failed, one hostage was killed before the raid and one during, the operatio is regarded as a great success and brought the regiment into the limelight.  1960-93 Irish troubles – undercover counterinsurgency – SAS personnel went undercover into IRA circles on multiple occasions to extract information or conduct ambushes/ sabotage. The techniques used in these operations occasionally came under fire with some allegations of torture. 
ScandalsExtrajudicial killings of civilians in Afghanistan: Allegations of extrajudicial killings of civilians in Afghanistan in 2011 – at least 33 ‘fighting age males’ were reportedly killed in 11 night raids. The justification of the killing often cited self-defence; however, the similarity of the accounts raised doubts, most post-battle reports of the incidents indicated that the victim would re-enter a compound after surrendering only to pick up a weapon and turn on the SAS teams – a tenuous story. Investigations revealed patterns of unlawful killing and a subsequent cover up by military leaders. An internal military review in 2014 called ‘Operation Northmoor’ responsible for investigating extra-judicial killings by British personnel in Afghanistan came to a close in 2020 with no prosecutions. However, there have been considerable criticisms over how the review was conducted, in that supposed ‘core’ video evidence was not utilised. The lack of prosecution has resulted in allegations that the ministry of defence negligently or purposefully failed to investigate systemic issues. The families of some of the victims are still locked in a legal battle over the alleged killings and cover up after they reopened the discussion in 2021.

Training deaths on Brecon Beacons: In July 2013 three perfectly healthy men collapsed and died on an 16 mile march in the Brecon Beacons as part of SAS selection, it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year and men were 3 out of 7 cases of heat exhaustion that day. The coroner and subsequent investigation into the deaths ruled that planning for the exercise was inadequate and did not take into account the weather or the amount of water needed in the risk assessment. Two soldiers were then charged with neglect and not following guidelines on heat exhaustion, the exercise should have stopped only two hours in when the first case of heat exhaustion came to light. In light of the events the British military conducted a massive overhaul of its environmental risk analysis in relation when training can and cannot occur and today a detailed risk assessment must be produced before any outdoor physical training activity and environmental conditions must fall between strict parameters. Most military training centres now have access to highly accurate temperature reading equipment.
Noteworthy Distinctions/ extra informationThe SAS is often regarded as one of the most capable and deadly fighting forces in the world, many nations have based their own SF units on the SAS: Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Rhodesia have SF units named and based on the SAS. The Belgian SF and French 1st Marine infantry para regiment use the SAS insignia and motto. Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag of Israel use the SAS motto. Delta forces in the US, Ireland’s Army Ranger Wing and the Special Action Force of the Philippines were also supposedly based on the SAS after their founding members trained with the group. 
The SAS is the quintessential example of a covert special forces group and was the first of its kind as a specific counter-terrorism group.

Nickname: ‘The Regiment’

Popular TV show based on the SAS – ‘Who Dares Wins’