One of the most shadowy of all British special forces units, E Squadron is small cell of UKSF operatives hand-picked to work with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), otherwise known as MI6. E Squadron is believed to be available for tasking to both the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) Directorate and SIS.
E Squadron is said to be the modern day incarnation of a long-rumoured MI6-UKSF unit known as 'The Increment'.
The unit is thought to be manned by experienced operators from the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). It can be speculated that it receives signals, electronic warfare and logistics support from appropriate attached units such as members of 18(UKSF) Signals Regiment. Assets, such as RAF 7 Sqn Chinook helicopters, from the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) are available as required.
E Squadron Role / Operations
E Squadron's role is to carry out clandestine operations for the SIS. The SIS is Britain's foreign intelligence service and its intelligence officers are active in countries around the world. They develop and run agents, form alliances with various factions inside foreign countries and gather intelligence from a wide range of sources. Operating in more hostile regions has become more of a necessity since the September 11th terrorist attacks and MI6 are more likely to require special forces escorts on their missions. It is likely therefore that E Squadron has carried out numerous operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. To what extent the UKSF element of E Squadron would be used in an offensive scenario is not publicly known at this point.
E Squadron - Libya
The existence of E Squadron first came to light in a January 2012 BBC news article and Newsnight report on the deployment of British special forces on the ground during the 2011 NATO action in Libya. A team of MI6 intelligence officers and their UKSF 'minders' from E Squadron were airlifted by Chinook from an airbase in Malta to a remote desert location in Libya. It appears that the E Squadron team was on a mission to establish a working relationship with a faction of the rebels that were aligned against the Gaddafi regime. They were carrying sophisticated communications equipment that would allow the rebels to keep in secure contact with British officials. Unfortunately E Squadron's helicopter insertion had been spotted by locals who were unaware of the proposed meeting and who feared the men landing in the desert were Libyan forces. As E Squadron moved off from their landing site they were detained. A flurry of diplomatic activity eventually secured the release of the E Squadron team but it was a very inauspicious and very public start to the British ground campaign in Libya.
E Squadron - Sahara
The BBC report claims that E Squadron deployed to the Sahara in 2009 as part of efforts to rescue a British citizen who had been held hostage by Al Qaeda. Unfortunately the unit was not given the go ahead to intervene before the hostage was killed.
read more / related info:
- Inside story of the UK's secret mission to beat Gaddafi
(BBC news article that includes a profile of E Squadron)