Note: This is part three of a multi-part series exploring the various units within the U.K. Special Forces (UKSF).

The Special Boat Service (SBS), one of the oldest Special Forces regiments, is the U.K.’s premier naval counter-terrorism unit (CT). The unit is tasked with addressing assaults on U.K.’s maritime interests. Over the years the SBS has established techniques for rescuing hostages on oil rigs, cruise ships, and cross-channel ferries. In the event of a rescue operation on an oil rig in the North Sea, for example, the SBS would be the unit to answer this challenging task.

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UKSF keeps at least one squadron on standby for counterterrorism (CT) operations in the U.K. The SBS works alongside the SAS for any scenarios in which one squadron would not be adequate. Such scenarios could include a terrorist attack of a nuclear power station or the simultaneous occupations of numerous nuclear sites.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the SBS worked with U.S. Navy SEALs to secure and scout the beaches of the Al-Faw Peninsula to prepare for amphibious landings. SBS teams were also sent ahead to secure the southern oil fields against Iraqi forces.

Since 9/11, SBS operators have regularly worked side by side with their SAS counterparts in the Global War on Terror. In Afghanistan, the SBS got drawn into one of the bloodiest battles in the unit’s history. They helped squash an uprising of captured Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi. The SBS has been heavily engaged in Afghanistan since targeting Taliban leadership in a series of successful operations.

SBS Skill Set

  1. Diving
  2. Submarine infiltration
  3. Underwater reconnaissance
  4. Beach reconnaissance
  5. Underwater demolitions
  6. Close-quarters battle (CQB)
  7. Parachuting
  8. Wet jumping
  9. Fast-roping
  10. Arctic warfare

The Special Boat Service Operator

SBS candidates go through a rigorous selection and training process, just like SAS candidates do. Of an average intake of 125 candidates, the grueling selection process will weed out all but 10.

There is now a joint selection process for both the SAS and SBS.