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Special Boat Service (SBS) - Organisation

The Special Boat Service is organised into 4 regular squadrons C, X, Z and M.

  • The men of C & X Squadron are specialists in canoe and small boat operations. Utilizing 2-men klepper canoes, and various inflatable boats for stealth insertion and extraction, the SBS carry out reconnaissance and sabotage missions along coastlines, river networks and up to 40 miles in land. C & X Squadrons are currently the SBS's designated 'green' squadrons ie focusing on operations on land, mostly in Afghanistan.

  • The divers of Z Squadron specialise in underwater attack and insertion using swimmer delivery vehicles.

  • Trained for Maritime Counter-Terrorism (MCT) operations, the SBS men of M Squadron are on standby to respond to deal with the threat of terrorism on ferries, cruise ships, hovercraft, oil tankers and oil rigs.

Squadrons are organised into 4 16-man Troops. Troops are often broken down into 4-man patrols, 2-man canoe teams or 8-man teams (a typical boat-full). In recent Afghanistan operations, the SBS has reportedly been operating in larger teams, sometimes at full Squadron strength - see the page on Hunting Mulla Dadullah for an example.

Other elements within the SBS include:

Training Wing.

Carries out all training not covered by an SBS recruit's initial continuation training with the SAS.

Operational Research & Devlopment

Like the SAS Operations Research Cell, this special sub-unit of the SBS is responsible for devloping and evaluating equipment and procedures that to pertain to the SBS's role. This may include things like the development of waterproof flashbangs for the MCT role or testing a new SDV.

SBS (R)

A reserves element, SBS(R) augments the regular SBS, with individual SBS(R) members working integrated into regular SBS formations.

more info: SBS (R)

SBS Command Structure

Whilst technically part of the Naval Service (Royal Marines and Navy) order of battle (ORBAT), the SBS comes under the umbrella of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), commanded by the Director Special Forces (DSF). UKSF is a directorate that combines several units under one command structure. The SBS, along with the British Army's 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are the so-called 'teir one' special forces. Tier one special forces are supported by the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), 18(UKSF) signals and the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW).

The Special Boat Service is usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel with a Major as second in command.

Each SBS squadron is commanded by an Officer, usually a Royal Marines Major or Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander. Recent reports have stated that a lack of Officers from the Naval Service wishing to command SBS units has led to a number of SAS Officers being drafted in.

SBS Troops are usually commanded by a Captain.

« back to main SBS page

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 RECOMMENDED READING
First Into Action
Duncan Falconer

A rare autobiographical account of life in the SBS and 'The Det'. One of the best Special Forces memoirs you can read.

more info: First Into Action
(amazon.co.uk)
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