Special Forces Support Group (SFSG)
The Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) is Britain's newest special operations unit. Formed around a core component of members of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 PARA), with additional troops from the Royal Marines and the RAF regiment, the SFSG provides infantry and specialised support to SAS and SBS special operations.
The roles of the SFSG include :
- Acting as a quick reaction force for SAS/SBS operations
- Sealing off and guarding an area of operation
- Taking part in large scale offensive operations alongside SAS/SBS forces
- Carrying out secondary assaults and diversionary raids
- Acting as a 'blocking force' against counter attacks.
- Training / mentoring foreign militaries
- CBRN detection/protection
- Domestic anti-terrorist support
A model for the kind of operation that the SFSG has been created for can be seen in the 2000 Sierra Leone 'Operation Barras', in which elements of 1 PARA attacked a rebel base whilst the SAS/SBS rescued fellow soldiers from a nearby camp. A comparable relationship exists between the 75th Ranger Regiment and SFOD-1 (Delta Force) in the U.S. Military. The Rangers provided perimeter security for Delta Force operations in Somalia in 1993, as portrayed in the film, Black Hawk Down.
The SFSG was 'stood up' at its base in St Athan, Wales in April 2006 and has reportedly been deployed in support of UKSF operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is thought that 1 Company of SFSG is deployed to Afghanistan, in support of the SBS, under the command of a SBS officer. At least one Company is deployed to Iraq where it supports the SAS.
Apart from giving direct support to SAS/SBS missions, the SFSG also provides specialist training support. One of the traditional roles of the Special Air Service has been to provide foreign militaries with specialist training. Since much of this training does not necessarily require the skills of the SAS, such training tasks can now be performed by members of the SFSG, thus freeing the SAS up for direct combat missions. It has been reported that the SFSG has been training and mentoring Afghan special forces and other troops. (read report)
It's also believed that the SFSG will also support the police during domestic terrorist incidents. The precise nature of this support is not publicly known but it is speculated that it may include providing additional area security around a large scale terrorist incident. Some sources indicate that elements within the SFSG have received counter-terrorist (CT) training from the SAS. Such SFSG CT elements would be able to assist the SAS/SBS in large scale CT operations. It's also beleived that CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiation & Nuclear) specialists from the SFSG would assist in event of a domestic terrorist attack.
The makeup of the SFSG is as follows:
The bulk of the SFSG is made up from the 1st Batallion Parachute Regiment. Paras from the other 2 regular Batallions, 2 and 3 PARA, can apply to the SFSG after 2 years service.
Commandos from the Royal Marines provide another element of the Special Forces Support Group. The Royal Marines contribution to the SFSG is in the form of F Company - around 120 men. F Coy are sourced from 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, who run their own SFSG selection course.
The RAF Regiment comiited at least one flight (the equivalent of a platoon, around 30 men) of RAF Gunners from II Squadron to the SFSG. The RAF Regiment contingent includes Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) in the Joint Fires Cell.
The exact SFSG order of battle (ORBAT) has not been disclosed to the public domain, although some details can be gleaned from open source publications. The SFSG is structured in a similar manner to a regular Parachure Regiment battalion, the most notable differences being the addtion of F Coy Royal Marines and the Joint Fires Cell.
- Battalion Headquarters (BHQ)
- Headquarters (HQ) Company (D Company)
- Motor Transport Platoon (MT Platoon)
- Regimental Administration Office (RAO)
- Regiment Aid Post
- Catering Platoon
- Operational Readiness Wing
- General Training Cell
Runs the 'Unit Operator Cadre' which trains new SFSG operatives to 'SFSG Operator Qualification' standards.
- Counter Terrorism (CT) Cell
- Campaigns Training Cell
- Contingency Cell
- General Training Cell
- 4 x Rifle Companies
- A Coy
- B Coy
- C Coy
- F Coy
Each rifle company features a Fire Support Group (FSG) providing the company's organic heavy weapons capability (HMG, GMG, GPMG, Javelin).
- Support Company
Provides elements in support of the 4 SFSG rifle companies.
- Sniper Platoon
Provides sniper teams to support other SFSG elements.
- Mortar Platoon (60mm / 81mm)
- Signals Platoon
provides signals detachments to other SFSG elements
- Joint Fires Cell (JFC)
Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTACs) - calling in close air support from fast air (jets), helicopters and UAVs.
- Medical Support Detachment
Provides Combat Medical Technicians (CMTs).
- Sniper Platoon
Details of SFSG operations remain sketchy at this time, although a handful of reports have surfaced. On multiple occasions, the SFSG were deployed in support UKSF during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iraq - Task Force Red / Maroon
Shortly after the units inception, it was reported that a company from the SFSG had been assigned to the US-led Task Force 145 (TF-145). TF-145, later renamed as TF-88, operated in Iraq and was responsible for hunting down senior Al-Qaeda members such as al-Zarqawi.
The British element of TF-88 consisted of 1 SAS Squadron ('Task Force Black'), a company of SFSG (reported by different sources as 'Task Force Red' and 'Task Force Maroon') plus associated supporting units (SRR, 18 UKSF Signals, Joint Support Group, 7 & 47 Squadron RAF among others).
The SFSG operated as a quick reaction force (QRF) and security screen for SAS operations. One such occasion, the SFSG were positioned around the area of an insurgent's bomb-making factory, providing security for an SAS sniper team's operation.
The SFSG also supported the SAS operation to free British peace activist Norman Kember, who had been kidnapped by Iraqi criminals.
SBS and SFSG were reportedly involved in Operation Medusa, in September 2006. OP Medusa was a combined attack on Taliban forces in the strategically important Panjwayi district of Afghanistan that featured NATO units from the UK, US, Canada and Holland. The SBS and SFSG played key roles in the coordinated attacks acting as both attacking forces (SBS) and cut-off groups (SFSG).
UKSF Raid On Taliban Fort
Late August 2009 - SFSG troops supported a raid by the SBS on a Taliban bomb factory in Helmand Province. The SFSG reportedly carried out diversionary attacks during this operation.
more info : UKSF Raid On Taliban Fort
UKSF Raid On Taliban Fort
September 2009 - A Paratrooper with the SFSG is killed during an SBS/SFSG operation to free a British journalist and his interpreter held captive in Afghanistan.
more info : British Special Forces Free Hostage
A report from December 2009 describes a SFSG role in training Afghani troops.
more info : Task Force Crichton
A December 2010 news item reports on combat jumps made by 1 PARA (SFSG) in Afghanistan.
more info : 1 PARA (SFSG) Parachute Raids In Afghanistan