Note: This is part two of a multi-part series exploring the various units within the U.K. Special Forces (UKSF).
The United Kingdom’s prolonged involvement in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has created the demand for an increase in the country’s number of special forces operators. From that need emerged the United Kingdom’s newest special operations unit, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR).
Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR)
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) specializes in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. The mystery surrounding the regiment is even greater than that of its counterparts, the SAS and SBS: Very little information about the unit has ever reached the public domain. The SRR is believed to support SAS/SBS operations by providing close target reconnaissance, surveillance, and “eyes-on” intelligence. The regiment uses state-of-the-art electronic surveillance equipment to eavesdrop on its targets. Teaming up with members from 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment, SRR provides tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT) for special operations missions. The SRR recruits from all three U.K. branches of service. It is the only UKSF regiment to permit women in operational positions.
The Special Reconnaissance Operator
SRR candidates go through an arduous selection and training process. They are trained in various special forces techniques including resistance to interrogation, escape and evasion (SERE), close-quarters battle (CQB), and High-Altitude Low-Opening (HALO) and High-Altitude High-Opening (HAHO) parachuting. But where the SRR differs from the other units is in its members’ mastery of intelligence-gathering operations.
Photography is a critical skill for all things surveillance, so candidates learn the basics skills right through to nighttime infrared photography. They also study how to conceal visual recording devices within their clothing. Candidates learn numerous methods of surveillance, including hiding in bushes, staying concealed on rooftops, covertly following a target on foot, and conducting surveillance from vehicles. Each operator develops the ability to covertly observe, follow, and communicate via radio.
Operators also study how to install electronic eavesdropping devices (wiretaps) and covert cameras. They engage in planting tracking devices on vehicles, in weapons caches, and on individuals. They’re taught lock picking and key copying to facilitate breaking into houses and businesses so they can plant eavesdropping devices without being exposed. Special Reconnaissance operators also learn language skills best suited to their area of operations.
Special Reconnaissance Regimental History
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment formed in April 2005. The unit incorporated the 14th Intelligence Company, better known as “The Det.” The Det was set up in 1973 specifically for operations in Northern Ireland. There, it served as a special plainclothes surveillance unit. The 14th Intelligence Company was trained by a unique training wing of the SAS and SAS officers served as the unit’s command. The techniques and experience developed in Northern Ireland by The Det have been passed down to SRR operatives, who have since assumed a key role in the GWOT.
Next, we’ll take a look at the Special Boat Service, better known as the SBS.