One of the most clandestine of all British special operations units is E Squadron. It’s a small unit of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) operatives handpicked to work for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6. Both the UKSF Directorate and Secret Intelligence Service use E Squadron to carry out clandestine activities. They say E Squadron is the modern-day incarnation of a long-rumored MI6/UKSF unit known only as The Increment.
It can be safely assumed the unit is manned by the most experienced members of the UKSF, selected from such units as the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). They likely receive electronic warfare and logistics assistance from relevant attached components such as the 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment. Resources such as RAF 7 Squadron Chinook helicopters, from the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW), are undoubtedly available upon request.
Rumors of The Increment acting on behalf of the General Support Branch of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) have been circulating for years now. The missions tasked to The Increment are black ops: deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised. These could include:
- Secret military assistance to foreign powers
- Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
- Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering
SAS and The Increment
Former MI6 agent Ian Tomlinson published a book titled “The Big Breach.” He claimed the Revolutionary Warfare Wing (RWW) of 22 SAS provides most of the manpower for The Increment. One of the crucial tasks of The Increment was close protection for SIS operators working on risky assignments. Other roles included hiding stockpiles of equipment in foreign countries as escape caches for SIS agents. The Increment would further facilitate hot extractions of SIS undercover operatives.
SBS and The Increment
The Special Boat Service’s (SBS) contribution to The Increment is rumored to include planting trackers on vessels docked in foreign ports. Operators in The Increment would likely need SDVs to ferry SIS agents to and from foreign coasts. SBS-trained Increment operators may work under aliases and carry the relevant commercial licenses to hire and operate boats such as fishing trawlers.
RAF S&D Flight
The Increment has a secretive Royal Air Force (RAF) unit dedicated to supporting their operations. Known as S&D Flight, it utilizes Puma helicopters from 33 Squadron and a C-130 from 47 Squadron. S&D pilots are recruited from other RAF special operations flights. A team from the SAS RWW would most likely also be deployed with the aircraft on operations involving The Increment.
The Increment does not work alone. Another supremely clandestine unit in the U.K. intelligence services is the UKN, a highly specialized surveillance unit also run by SIS. The UKN specializes in surveillance in foreign countries and it has been speculated that the unit acts as The Increment’s eyes and ears, identifying and tracking targets for operations.
E Squadron = The Increment
E Squadron’s task is to carry out clandestine activities for Britain’s foreign intelligence service, and its intelligence agents operate in countries around the world. They establish and run agents, form alliances with factions inside foreign countries, and collect intelligence from an extensive range of sources. Working in hostile regions has become a growing obligation since the commencement of the Global War on Terrorism, and MI6 now regularly relies on special operations escorts on their missions.
Mention of E Squadron’s existence first appeared in January 2012, when the BBC reported on the deployment of British special operations forces on the ground during a 2011 NATO operation in Libya. A Chinook transported a team of MI6 intelligence agents and their E Squadron minders from an airbase in Malta. The team touched down in a remote desert location in Libya. E Squadron was on a mission to build a working relationship with a faction of the rebels fighting against the Gaddafi regime.
The same report claimed that E Squadron deployed to the Sahara in 2009 as part of an initiative to rescue a British citizen who had been taken hostage by al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, the unit was not given the go-ahead to intervene before the hostage was killed.
Some wild and unsubstantiated rumors surround E Squadron/The Increment and its supporting units. Among these rumors is speculation that The Increment was somehow involved in the following:
- The death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed
- The death of Dr. David Kelly
- The planned assassinations of foreign leaders such as Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Serbia’s Slobodan Milošević
One can certainly question whether or not the unit even exists, but given the times in which we live, such forces would undoubtedly prove invaluable in modern warfare.