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Special Forces Support Group (SFSG)

The Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) is a relatively new special operations unit. It was formed in 2006 and is based 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 specialised support to United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) operations.

sfsg
SFSG soldiers in Iraq
(click for fullsize image)
more sfsg photos

SFSG Roles

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
  • Domestic counter-terrorism (CT)

Each of the SFSG's four rifle companies rotate into one of four six month commitments:

Global Commitments

The company assigned to this task is typically split into sections / small teams and sent on operations around the world. Current theatres may include Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Extreme High Readiness

The SFSG company assigned to the Extreme High Readiness task forms part of the United Kingdom Counter Terrorism Task Group and is on standby to respond to a terror attack in the United Kingdom. SFSG operators undergo extensive Close Quarters Battle (CQB) training for this role.

High Readiness

The High Readiness Company is on standby to deploy anywhere in the world in response to a crisis situation.

Training

The one SFSG company not on operations or on contingency commitments undergoes extensive training in order to maintain skills and prepare for their next task.

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.

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. During the campaign in Afghanistan, the SFSG trained and mentored Afghan special forces and other troops. (read report).

sfsg insignia
SFSG insignia

SFSG Components

The makeup of the SFSG is as follows:

1 PARA

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.

Royal Marines

Commandos from the Royal Marines provide another element of the Special Forces Support Group. The Royal Marines add their considerable expertise in maritime operations to the SFSG mix. About a company-strength contingent of Royal Marines has been integrated into the SFSG. Initially, they formed their own seperate company (F Coy). Later, they were spread throughout the group.

RAF Regiment

The RAF Regiment commited 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.

SFSG parachutists
An SFSG operator free-fall parachute jumps from the rear of a United States MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter during training, c. 2014.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released

SFSG Organisation

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 and the Joint Fires Cell.

  • Battalion Headquarters (BHQ)

  • Headquarters (HQ) Company (formerly D Company)
    • Quartermasters
    • 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

  • 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.
    • Recce Platoon
    • 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 Unit
      Provides Combat Medical Technicians (CMTs).

SFSG Weapons

Aside from the standard array of weapons available to a British military unit, the SFSG is known to employ the L119A1/L119A2 carbine. Sidearms include Sig Sauer P226 and Glock 17 pistols.

SFSG armed with HK417 rifle
An SFSG operator takes aim with a Heckler & Koch HK417 rifle. When fitted with a sniper scope, the HK417 fills the same niche as the L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle that was brought into service with regular forces.


SFSG heavy machine gun team
An SFSG machine gun team (possibly with a Fire Support Group) operate a tripod-mounted L1A1 Heavy Machine Gun.

SFSG operations

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.

Afghanistan

Operation Medusa

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

Afghan Training

A report from December 2009 describes a SFSG role in training Afghani troops.

more info : Task Force Crichton

Parachute Assault

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

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