United Kingdom Special Forces: 2300AD

Special Air Service
Special Boat Service
Special Planetary Sections
Other Units
International Cooperation


Dave Hamilton lead his team out of the deserted town of Plateau, they moved swiftly and quietly. Their German SK-19 rifles tracked from left to right as they moved in bounds towards safety through the shadows. From the south side of Plateau came the cacophony of the mercenary army of Tanstaafl fighting a delaying battle against the Kafer column. Forcing the aliens against the retreating militia and into the town. Hamilton and the rest of his team were now racing against time to reach the outskirts of town where a mercenary Commando detachment was waiting for them. They had twenty minutes to negotiate the town, and the Kafer infiltrators that were now flooding in to the agricultural town.

The first contact was sudden and violent. A huddle of Kafer soldiers shambled around the corner ahead of the team. The reaction was instant: the four soldiers opened up, pumping rifle grenades into the aliens. It was over in seconds, the flat ugly cracks of the high explosives faded away, and fragments of the grenades and Kafer shells rattled on to the ground. They moved up, swiftly finishing off any Kafers still alive with aimed double taps to the head, and reloading grenades into their weapons. A further Kafer group came up from behind them and was warded off with more grenades. More incoming rounds indicated that they were in danger of being cut off.

Instead of fighting their way out on the ground they took to the roofs of the agricultural barns, abandoning any pretence of stealth they raced the Kafers to the edge of the town. There two APCs of the Tanstaafl Free Legion's 1st Commando gave them covering fire. Hamilton limped into the last carrier, he had damaged his bad knee dropping from the barn, and gave the vehicle commander the thumbs up. The turbines of the APC screamed as it spun and began to charge away from the town along a wadi.

Twenty minutes later Hamilton waited with the Tanstaaflian commander, a plain speaking colonial American. Moments later the sky flashed and the town of Plateau and the Kafers in it and around it were vaporised in a nuclear explosion. The warhead had been jury rigged from a surplus starship missile, and delivered by Hamilton's team into the centre of Plateau as part of an elaborate trap. It had paid off handsomely. The Colonel turned to Hamilton, with his hand outstretched.

'Well Sergeant, you and your men might just have saved Tanstaafl today.' Hamilton took his hand, then shrugged and looked embarrassed. 'Well, you know, Who Dares, Wins,' the Scot murmured.


The United Kingdom has a vast array of military power at its disposal, from its star ships to its Armoured Divisions. Yet no other nation has traditionally relied upon covert operations and special forces operations as much as the British. The British government sees the employment of small bands of highly trained specialists as being much more effective than the very visible deployment of larger forces with the media attention that it brings with it.

British special forces teams helped train the Baluchi army before that young country's war with Pakistan in 2212. A conflict that averted Pakistani hegemony in the region, and amply served the UK's interests in the sub continent. The involvement of British troops was unknown of for nearly two decades and when finally revealed caused the UK little embarrassment. This contrasts vividly with the French experience in Africa when central government interventions in the Zairian department of Rwanda went wrong. Massacres by the Foreign Legion and Tutsi terrorist reprisals on French conscripts were caught on camera and caused an outcry which led to the resignation of the Foreign Minister.

Whilst still in operation on Earth, these tactics pay even greater dividends out in the colonies. There special forces personnel can train local armies, replacing expensive garrisons, whilst also being able to deter border disputes and internal insurgencies. It is also rumoured that British special forces fought alongside the Canadians during the Slaver War.

Another key role for British special forces are counter terrorism operations. Britain as a rich, powerful and influential state is vulnerable to terrorist actions, and relies on its fearsome reputation for action for deterrence. Whilst the UK is the most liberal of the great powers, any terrorist who kills on its territory on Earth or off, is very unlikely to live out the rest of the day. This unspoken policy from the late Second Millennium onwards has meant the UK is relatively free from this scourge.

Alongside more conventional formations UKSF have been heavily involved in the Kafer War. Unfortunately reliable details are currently hard to come by, with the MoD releasing very little information.


The UK's special forces are administered through a unitary command which deals with all of their administrative and training needs. The United Kingdom Special Forces Command (UKSF) is further split into two branches, Strategic and Tactical.


Tactical special forces include those forces used in the support of specific military units or in relatively static roles. These include the Royal Marines' M Squadron, Commachio and Zeebrugge Groups in addition to the ASLAN Pathfinders. The All-Ireland, Police Observation Detachment could also fall into this category as it receives much of its specialist training from the special forces community.


The strategic branch includes the Special Air Service regiments (both regular and TA), the Royal Marines Special Boat Service and the Special Planetary Sections attached to the Royal Space Navy.

Tactical forces are generally less well trained than their strategic counterparts and are controlled by specific units in their tasks. Strategic forces however are always controlled at the highest possible level and are tasked with missions that will effect the strategic outcome of any campaign they are committed to undertake. They are never deployed simply to undertake a tactical mission, such as a raid that could be carried out by virtually any well trained infantry unit.

Above: SAS cap badge

The Special Air Service

The SAS is the oldest, most successful, most flamboyant and most famous of all humanities special forces units. Created during the Second World War to attack German supply lines the SAS has been in action ever since. In the 20th Century alone they fought in conventional wars, counter-insurgency campaigns in both de serts and jungles as well as conducting counter-terrorist operations, all with great success. In recent years rumours of SAS involvement in the Kafer Wars have come to light, including their possible role in detonating a nuclear device under a Kafer column, saving the independent colony of Tanstaafl. As always the Ministry of Defence refuses to comment. The British SAS currently consists of four regiments, two regular and two territorial.

Regular SAS troopers have to have served in the regular British military (or certain Commonwealth Armies (such as Australia, Azania, New Zealand, Canada, Wellon)) before applying for Selection. The most applicants generally come from the UK's Parachute Regiment, but members of virtually every Regiment and Corps can be found in the ranks of the SAS. Selection (always spelt with a capital) is six months of hell for the potential SAS trooper. The first four weeks are spent in the hills of the UK, undergoing a series of route marches including the murderous (literally, on average two men a year die on the route) three day march across Ireland. The potential trooper is sent to the Jungle Warfare School in Guyana, and then onto the Falklands for further training and testing. Finally he returns to the UK to find out if he has passed the course. Only 5% of applicants pass through Selection, which they are only allowed to attempt twice. Finally through selection, the candidate is 'badged' into the SAS, is assigned to a troop (on probation, he can be returned to unit, RTU'd, at any time) and coincidentally looses his previous rank.

Territorial SAS men undergo a similar (but less intensive) process spread out over 12 months, before spending a total of six weeks in the jungle and at Hereford learning long range patrolling.

Below: SAS 'Sabre' Parachute Wings (worn upper right arm)

22 Special Air Service Regiment

22 SAS is the regular regiment based on Earth at the SAS' traditional home of Hereford. It currently consists of five 'sabre' squadrons and a regimental headquarters as well as a number of 'Wings' devoted to training and special tasks. The sabre squadrons are A, B, C (Commonwealth), G (Guards) and D. The squadrons are essentially identical, except that C Sqn has many troopers from the Commonwealth countries and G has most of the regiment's intake from the Brigade of Guards. Each squadron has a small headquarters and four troops, these are Interface, Mobility, Hostile Environments and Maritime. Ideally 16 men strong and commanded by a Captain, the troops are mostly under-strength with some having no more than 10 men and are often commanded by a Senior NCO . Therefore the regiment has fewer than its nominal 400 'badged' troopers (including training staff and men on secondment), defence experts speculate it has around 320 troopers currently.

Once a trooper has made it to the regiment he has to learn a number of skills. He has to master a patrol skill (and will eventually master them all) either communications, demolitions or medical. All are courses lasting around twelve weeks (24 for medical including work in hospitals) and to an extremely high level of training. In addition he needs to learn his troop skills. The Mobility troops specialise in piloting, repairing and tactical use of ground and other vehicles. Interface troops specialise in movement between orbit and planet as well as traditional parachuting. Hostile Environment trains in mountain and arctic warfare in addition to warfare in different gravity and atmospheric conditions. Maritime troops work on and under the surface of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. Training in the SAS never stops, and troopers are constantly under pressure to excel.

The roles of the Squadrons are many and various. One squadron is always at Hereford on Counter-Terrorist duties, standing by to deploy at a moments notice. One squadron is also based at Hereford on stand-by to undertake more conventional military tasks for HMG. The remaining three are scattered about the Earth conducting their own operations, the squadrons rotate through roles every six months. It is this rotation that is one of the great strengths of the SAS, the troopers all have a variety of skills and experience. Whilst other nations, especially America, tend to have different units in each role with no rotation between them.

The SAS is often accused by its detractors, both at home and abroad, of being little more than a gang of assassins and state terrorists. This is unfair to a regiment that plays its 'big boys games' to the rules. However it should be noted that for exceptionally 'black' operations, men (usually highly experienced with at least 10 years experience in the SAS) from the Training Wing will assemble an ad-hoc team and undertake the task.

24 Special Air Service Regiment

24 SAS is 22's off-world brother that is deployed to the colonies. 24 is also a regular formation consisting of a regimental headquarters and three sabre squadrons, P (Pathfinder), L (Light Infantry), and R (Rifles) Squadrons. Due to the overstretch of 22 SAS, squadrons were raised around a cadre of men from 22 SAS and volunteers from each of the three Light Brigades deployed off-world. These independent squadrons were recruited and trained off-earth and long had a reputation similar to the original SAS of being rough, tough fighting men, lacking some of the polish of their Earth counterparts. Nevertheless they all had an excellent reputation undertaking many un-attributable border operations in Britain's colonies.

However in the 2270's the independent squadrons were brought in to a new regimental formation, 24 SAS Regiment under the command of P Squadron's near-legendary former commander Peter Cameron. As a result some of the 'rougher edges' were knocked off the squadrons (and long service NCO's retired) and a proper Selection procedure instituted (recruits were sent back to Earth). They are now organised identically to 22's sabre squadrons.

21 & 23 Special Air Service Regiments

21 and 23 SAS are Territorial Army (part time) formations. Their role is to provide I and II Corps commanders with long range reconnaissance patrols and observation posts deep behind enemy lines. The British are the only nation to give this vital role to reserve troops. Nevertheless the personnel are mostly ex-regulars or the best the TA has to offer, as such they perform as well if not better than their counterparts in foreign armies.

21 SAS is recruited and based in the South of England and Wales, and is slated to support I Corps. 23 SAS is from the North of England, Scotland and Ireland and supports II Corps. 21 SAS has a RHQ and A, B and C Squadrons. 23 SAS has an RHQ and A, B, C and I (Irish) Squadrons.

SAS Operations

SAS operations are many and varied, but for basic 'green' or field operation the classic four man patrol remains the building block. Different organisation within troops and squadrons are common for different roles, for example when on Counter-Terrorist duty a squadron will organise into Assault and Sniper Groups. While in desert operations the SAS might operate from vehicles, so mobility troop members are distributed to maximise the best use of their skills. Flexibility is a key SAS characteristic.

Although renowned for its raids behind enemy lines and assaults against terrorists, the SAS does much of its best work gathering information for its commanders. The SAS can provide tactical and strategic information that is unavailable to nations that rely solely on technical measures. An SAS team can stay for long time behind enemy lines remaining undetected, whatever the state of tension in the area, providing vital information.

The SAS does some of its best work without firing a shot. They are the undisputed masters of counter-insurgency warfare, winning over local populations by earning their respect, not buying temporary popularity. The occupation of the Arabian Peninsular by France, Britain, Bavaria, Japan and Egypt in 2008 caused much resentment and rebellion in the south of the Peninsular. French occupation forces responded with utter brutality and casualties on both sides rose. Increasing tensions with Iran meant that French troops were needed in the north, the British sent in the re-built SAS. Composed of a cadre of pre-War SAS men and newly recruited veterans of the War, the SAS in three tough years managed to bring the southern tribes to a state of peace.

Off-world the SAS has been used to conduct similar operations on often rough and ready colony worlds. The early years of colonisation on New Africa saw bands of illegal colonists settle in the mountainous regions in the south of the continent far from the jurisdiction of the British New Africa Police. Lawlessness and raiding developed in these areas, which the BNAP was unable to deal with and so resorted to brutality against these communities. As a result C Sqn of 22 SAS was brought in to deal with the problem. A hearts and minds program and government economic assistance was combined with patrolling against the bandits of the mountains. C Sqn handed over to a newly raised R (Rifles) Squadron, which completed the task some three years later. These communities are now a peaceful and productive part of New African society.

SAS men can also be found in small teams protecting British embassies in the more unfriendly places. Also they can be found training an d leading bodyguard teams for leaders of nations allied to Britain. Typically British BG teams are much smaller than those of other nations, relying on a small group of men close to the principle and another team conducting intelligence and surveillance. It is a system that is remarkably successful.

One further unit of note within the British SAS family is the Intelligence Support Wing. The ISW is the descendent of a pre-Twilight War covert surveillance unit that operated in Northern Ireland, sometimes known as 14 Intelligence and Security Group. During the Twilight War 14 Int operated on the British mainland countering Soviet infiltrators and saboteurs, before taking part in the pacification. After the war the unit was brought into the SAS fold attached to the Regimental HQ. ISW is manned by SAS soldiers and volunteers from throughout the armed forces who have passed Selection. Its role is to provide covert military and surveillance support to the British intelligence services in situations where a conventional SAS team would be unsuitable.


The SAS is regarded with envy by the rest of the British Army because of the perceived better quality of equipment available to it. It is true that the SAS has a much wider range of equipment availa ble to it, and specialist equipment is produced all the time. However SAS operations are still governed by the usual parsimony of the British Government and woe betide any team that unproductively wastes its equipment.

The renowned sand coloured beret and winged dagger badge remain the symbol of the SAS, but they are rarely worn. An SAS unit will often wear the badges of Royal Engineers or Royal Signals when on operations to confuse any onlookers. Although a skilful observer will spot both the non-standard weaponry and older soldiers that are typical of an SAS unit.

Above: Royal Marines cap badge.

The Special Boat Service, RM

The SBS is a regimental sized formation drawn from the Royal Marines. Where the SAS motto boasts of Daring and Winning, the motto of the SBS also reflects its role: Not By Strength, By Guile. The SBS is responsible for strategic reconnaissance for the units of 1st Commando Division and also for any element of the Royal Navy that requires it. Sabotage raids are also a speciality of the SBS, but the emphasis is very much on covert military amphibious operations.

The SBS developed from an array of ad hoc units raised from all the services during the 2nd World War. After the war the roles these units undertook were taken over by the Royal Marines. The techniques and equipment used for amphibious special forces oper ations developed in leaps and bounds and became much safer. The SBS survived the Twilight War relatively well, being deployed in Norway where they conducted many raids and operations. SBS also served on the central front, and conducted the famous 'Orpheus' raid on Leningrad, and much of the ethos of the unit still comes from this time. The SBS still is somewhat in the shadow of the SAS, who are regarded by the SBS as being arrogant and lacking in subtlety.

SBS men are all volunteers from the Royal Marines. They undergo a series of tests to see whether they have the skills, aptitudes and endurance for service with the SBS, after this they then go on to their Swimmer-Canoeist 3 course. The SC course is extremely demanding both physically and mentally, and covers the whole syllabus of diving and small boat operations. In addition the demanding tasks of beach reconnaissance, long range reconnaissance and demolitions are taught. On passing the SC course the Swimmer-Canoeist (as SBS men are referred to) is sent for a relaxing three weeks of parachute training.

Further courses include SC2 for more experienced men, but like the SAS, training in the SBS is continuous and wide ranging.

The Special Boat Service Regiment

The SBS is organised into three Sections and a Regimental HQ. Each of the sections is nominally attached to a Commando Brigade, but is often on standby for UKSF deployment around the world. No 1 Section is assigned to 3 Commando Brigade, No 2 to 4 Cdo Bde and No 3 to 5 Cdo Bde.

Each section is commanded by a Major and has three 16 man teams. Each of the teams is split into 4 man groups. It should be noted that unlike the SAS, SC non-officer personnel rotate back to the line Commandos of the Royal Marines. Some claim this distributes the skill and professionalism of the SC's throughout the Corps, whilst others say it dilutes the effectiveness of the SBS Sections.

There is also a reserve SBS unit of recently discharged SC qualified personnel that can be mobilised in time of war. It should also be noted that the Dutch Marines (RNLMC) continue to send some of their personnel to the Royal Marines for specialist training. Thus the RNLMC has a section of SC trained marines, No. 7 (NL) Section SBS.

Special Planetary Sections, RM

The SPS have developed from the need to supply a special forces capability to the Royal Space Navy. Whilst Royal Marines have been deployed on RSN ships from the very early days of that service, the complexities of the role soon gave birth to the need for the Red Commando course. These early parties of Marines proved their worth on the frontier worlds and at stations, but it became apparent that there were roles these conventional marines couldn't take on. The first SP marines were drawn from a number of sources, including the SAS and the SBS as well as from those from the 'Fleet Parties' as the ships troops were known.

The initial roles of the Fleet Parties were in protecting ships officers whilst on the surface of worlds, in their capacity as ad hoc roving ambassadors for Britain. Whilst undertaking such duties, it is rumoured that other SP members of the party would be conducting covert operations. Rumours have surfaced of espionage, sabotage and even assassination during the early years. The SP team would then withdraw under the quasi-diplomatic cover of the Captain's protection team. These early operations were often done under great pressure and constraints of time, as if the operation was discovered it would cause great embarrassment both for the ship's Captain and the British government.

As time progressed sometimes SP men would be delivered to their targets on civilian freighters, often disguised as members of the crew. Included in these operations were covert operations on space stations. It is widely rumoured that the SPS sabotaged the stutterwarp drive on an Argentine frigate docked at Clarke Station above Earth. Causing great embarrassment to the Argentine government when their new frigate failed to perform in front of a selected audience of notables.

It is supposed that the development of the Zeebrugge Group teams to provide security for British orbital and station facilities arose directly from the activities of the SP teams. They realised that what an SP team could do, could also be to a British facility. The counter-intelligence, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism brief of the Zeebrugge Group are the direct opposite of a cynical reading of the SPS mission.

Deep recce missions would also become an SPS speciality, both in orbital or mining stations or on a planet itself. The SPS team would now be delivered to target either by a commercial ship or by a warship and conduct its operations for as long as necessary and then recover.

The creation of a full Red Commando brigade, 6 Cdo Bde, led to a profound change for the SPS. Whilst the SP 'Originals' were fewer than 20 men, led by the visionary (some say maverick) Commander Brooke RSN and working direct to the RSN higher command. They were now to be organised and administered within the Royal Marines proper. Where they had once recruited by word of mouth and cherry-picked the cream from a range of organisations, they were now to have a proper selection and training procedure. The SPS also grew, from the originals to two sections of 40 men. Later a third would be added. Rumours (the MoD calls these propaganda) report that a fourth section exists, specialising in 'black' operations.

SPS Training and Recruitment

The SPS recruits from a range of sources. Its primary pool of recruits are the Red RM units, 6 Commando Brigade, Zeebrugge Group and the Fleet Parties. In addition Army members of the ASLAN Pathfinders can volunteer for SPS training, as can members of the RSN. Lastly it is believed that the SAS detaches members of its Interface Troops to serve two year tours with the SPS, they have to pass Induction but are not required to undertake Continuation.

SPS Induction, is reported to be even harder than SAS Selection, with the volunteer being put under huge mental pressure. Induction is carried out in a military section of a British space station. Beyond that, few details are known, the SPS remains deliberately clouded in secrecy and mystery. Unlike the SAS and SBS very little has been published about the SPS. SPS personnel are also notoriously tight lipped.

If Induction is passed, the proportion failing is also unknown, the volunteer passes on to Continuation training. This is reported by official sources to last around three years before the volunteer is considered a proper SPS man, but operations can commence after only two years. It is assumed that Continuation training covers a whole range of skills and it is conjectured to include some elements relating to star ship operation.

SPS Operations

SPS operations are amongst the most dangerous undertaken by British military personnel. They also seem to be morally questionable. Commander Brooke's much reported remark, 'special circumstances require special measures' sums up the ethos of the SPS. It also contributes to the dangerous glamour surrounding the unit.

As already mentioned the roles and operations of the SPS have never really been officially revealed. The continuous rumours and speculation have obscured the true aims of the SPS and perhaps do them a disservice. But in the absence of official details they are all we have to go on.

The SPS seams to be focused on the gathering of intelligence, whilst also being capable of insurgency operations, sabotage and raids. A counter-terrorism role is also believed to be part of the SPS brief. The famous Bristol Rover incident, when HMS Ulysses intercepted and boarded a hijacked British freighter in 2295, is the point in question. The bloody boarding of the ship, resulting in the death of one hostage and all the hijackers was credited to FP 2501, the ship's marines. However in a recent interview an unnamed member of the Ulysses crew claimed the boarding party were actually SPS and the hijackers were killed trying to surrender. The truth of the incident has not been resolved.


Little is known about how the SPS is equipped, but it is reasonable to assume that they have access to a whole range of equipment beyond that normally on issue. The SPS have no known insignia or mottoes. They are known to dress in typical Red RM dress.

Below: Planetary Assault Wings, worn by Red RM Commandos and ASLAN Pathfinders.

Other Forces

M Squadron, RM

M Squadron is a formation that exists to train the Royal Marines in arctic, antarctic and mountain warfare and survival techniques. It is composed of marines who have passed the gruelling Mountain Leaders course. On mobilisation the Squadron forms a long range recce force for 1 Commando Division. However this formation is now very understrength as it was used as the basis for the formation of 41 Commando, the new divisional recce formation for the Division.

ASLAN Pathfinders

The ASLAN Pathfinders are a company sized force of Royal Marines and Army personnel. It is their role to land in advance of an assault landing and secure la nding zones. They also link up with any special forces in the area and with any guerrilla forces. Their war role is expected to be quick, but potentially very dangerous. They have recently begun to experiment with using Combat Walkers in support of their role.

Zeebrugge Group, RM

The Zeebrugge Group comprises of detachments of Royal Marines deployed to Britain's space stations and landing facilities. There role is to protect these against possible sabotage or attack by special forces or agents provocateur.

Commachio Group, RM

Commachio Group is comprised of three company sized groups of Black (Earth based) Royal Marines. Their role is the security of British nuclear installations and also in the fighting of Maritime Terrorism.

Police Observation Group

The Police Observation Group is not strictly part of UKSF but it receives training from it and also has some former members within its ranks. The POG is an All Ireland formation, recruited from both the Provincial Garda and the RUC Special Branch. Its role is close observation of terrorist suspects throughout Ireland, they run covert Observation Posts and tail suspects. They are also extremely well trained in close combat techniques. The POG is very much like a military special forces unit.

A decision was taken to combat both extremist Ulster Nationalism and Irish Republicanism with a combined force to reinforce ties between the Irish provinces. Military intervention wasn't wanted, so the cream of the Garda and RUC were recruited and sent for training by the SAS in Hereford. The POG has been remarkably successful, but has been open to allegations that it is little more than a death squad after the shooting of an Ulster Nation gunman in Belfast.

International Co-operation

British Special Forces have always maintained close links and co-operation with other international forces. Indeed the SAS has become the original template for most special forces units, and several units owe their origins to this force even though many have evolved in different directions. Links are especially close with special forces units from the Commonwealth, exchange of personnel and methods take place with Australian and New Zealand SAS as well as Canada's Recon Commando of the Special Service Force. Despite America's political isolation the British have maintained contacts across the Atlantic, mainly with the Joint Chiefs Special Task Force (JCSTF) or Echo Force, but also including other units.

Although UKSF has something of an anglophile bias it also works frequently with its continental counterparts. France remains Britain's largest partner in international affairs despite recent differences of opinion, UKSF often trains with the 1e RPIMa as well as other regular Army and Foreign Legion units. Rumours persist of UKSF undertaking 'deniable' missions in sensitive areas on behalf of France, it is known that British exchange personnel worked alongside their French counterparts during the Central Asian War. Before the Re-unification of Germany the SAS had close links with the German (Hanoverian) 'Owls' of Kommando Gruppe Braunschweig. Britain's traditional military co-operation with the Netherlands continues, and this has extended to training the Korps Commandotroepen of the new Flemish state.

Lastly 24 SAS especially has been active in helping to create special operations capable units in Britain's off-world Dominions and Colonies. The North Albion Green Jackets and Commandos both received SAS training before the creation of Wellon's own Special Air Service regiment, 25 SAS. Alicia's SAS and New Africa's Scouts have also benefited, but significantly Crater's police force has been denied access to this training despite frequent requests by the colony's Governor General.

Copyright 2009, D Hebditch