The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 as a regiment and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950. The unit specializes in a number of roles, including counterterrorism, hostage rescue, direct action and covert reconnaissance.
The SAS was first formed in North Africa in July 1941, during World War II. David Stirling, its founder, saw the potential for a strike force that could operate independently deep behind enemy lines, attacking airfields and other important targets. By the end of the war, the SAS had expanded into a brigade and had seen action in Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Germany.
The selection process for the SAS is one of the most difficult military training programs in the world. Its purpose is to test candidates to the utmost limit of their physical and mental abilities. Though rare, it is not unheard of for candidates to die during the selection process.
Until the late 1990s, candidates for the SAS and SBS underwent selection separately. Selection takes place in the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley in Wales and in the jungle of Belize, taking around six months to complete. SAS Selection is held twice a year regardless of conditions.
The SAS has one regular regiment (22 SAS) and two territorial regiments (21 SAS and 23 SAS). The 22 SAS regiment is organized into four squadrons, each squadron consisting of four 16-man troops. Each troop specializes in either mountaineering, parachuting, amphibious operations, or mobility operations using vehicles and heavy weapons.
The exceptional reputation of the SAS is built on the quality of its personnel and its “Who Dares Wins” philosophy.
In May 1980, the SAS conducted a highly successful hostage-rescue operation at the Iranian embassy in London in the full glare of international media. The 1982 Falkland Islands War required the SAS to conduct more traditional tasks of raiding and patrolling behind enemy lines.
The 1990–91 Persian Gulf War saw the SAS operating in Iraq’s western desert to counter Scud missile attacks into Israel and Saudi Arabia. During the 1990s Bosnian conflict, SAS liaison teams communicated directly with warring factions. Teams in Bosnia and Herzegovina later hunted indicted war criminals. The SAS was deployed almost all wars British fought from WWII to Afghanistan.
Foreign Special Forces Modelled on SAS
The Australian SAS, New Zealand SAS, Israeli Special Forces, German Special Forces and American Delta Forces are modelled on British SAS.
The SAS is thought of all over the world as one of the best, if not the best Special Operations organizations. This is mainly because of the intense training they are put through. The SAS is respected worldwide and used to train many other Special Forces Units.
The core of the Special Forces Supports Group, working alongside the United Kingdom Special Forces worldwide. They are trained to deploy on the frontline or behind enemy lines by parachute, helicopter or land – a motivated and determined team at the operational cutting edge of the British Army.
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