The Royal Marines Commandos might soon be joining the ranks of the United Kingdom’s Special Forces (UKSF).
Although an elite unit as it is, the Commandos are currently considered a step down from Britain’s SOF. They are the country’s premier light infantry amphibious unit. In recent years, they were deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are also the go-to option for large-scale Arctic warfare contingencies.
UKSF is comprised of the legendary Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Service (SBS) – an equivalent of SEAL Team 6 – the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), which contains Royal Marines who have successfully passed the SFSG selection and assessment process.
Under the Special Purpose Task Group (SPTG) concept, which is set to be operational by 2021, the Royal Marines Commandos might see their capabilities increase and the unit becoming a Special Operations force. The Future Command Force (FCF) initiative, which plans Britain’s defence capabilities for the next years, envisions the 3 Commando Brigade as a flexible force that can operate on a no-notice basis from littoral strike ships that would act as floating SOF bases.
A Royal Navy spokesperson told the local Plymouth Live that the “Special Purpose Task Groups are not new, they were designed to provide an agile force of Royal Marines and equipment for a range of military operations,” before adding that the Royal Navy is reappraising both the SPTG concept and the Royal Marines’ capabilities.
Given the fact, however, that the Commandos are already an elite unit, what would make them be considered as SOF? Their selection is already a gruelling 32-week process that culminates with the infamous Commando Course, which includes four tests that must be completed in a seven-day period. The tests are the following:
- Nine-mile speed march (must be completed within 90minutes with a 32lb fighting load).
- Endurance Course (a hellacious six-mile run thru obstacles, followed by a four-mile run, and finished by a stress shooting test)
- Tarzan Assault Course (an obstacle course that must be completed within 13 minutes).
- 30-Miler (30 miles with a rucksack and 32lb fighting load thru the treacherous Dartmoor).
So it would be more of funding and capabilities increase issue rather than making their selection and assessment more difficult. No one can argue that the Commandos aren’t a special breed. The SBS used to recruit only from within their ranks – much like SEAL Team 6 recruits only from the Naval Special Warfare community – until that changed a few years ago. Now, the SBS have the same initial selection process as the SAS, meaning that candidates who could apply for the SAS (that is, anyone in the military), can now also apply for the SBS. Despite this development, the SBS continues to draw most of its operators from with the Commando ranks.