Special Forces Support Group

51°24.331′N 3°27.123′W / 51.405517°N 3.452050°W / 51.405517; -3.452050

Special Forces Support Group
Insigne du Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).svg
Drop-zone flash worn by SFSG operators.[1]
Active3 April 2006 – present[2][3]
Country United Kingdom
TypeSpecial Forces
RoleSpecial operations
Direct action
Unconventional Warfare
SizeOne battalion
Part ofUnited Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF)
Garrison/HQMOD St Athan, Wales, United Kingdom[2]

The Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) is a special forces unit of the British Armed Forces. The SFSG was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to provide support to the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment on operations. It is a tri-service unit, composed of the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (1 PARA), a company of Royal Marine Commandos (F Coy), and a flight (platoon) from the RAF Regiment.[4]

The SFSG also act as the hunter force during the SERE phase of the UKSF Selection; in addition, the SFSG also have a rotating company group trained in Counter Terrorism (CT) to support the on-call SAS or SBS squadrons on CT rotation.[5]



The Special Forces Support Group Inaugural Parade at RAF St Athan on 11 May 2006

The unit's creation stems from the need to provide infantry support to the United Kingdom Special Forces, which became evident after the Battle of Tora Bora during which two Special Boat Service (SBS) squadrons assaulted the al-Qaeda cave complex.[6]

During Operation Barras in Sierra Leone, soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment were deployed alongside troops from the Special Boat Service (SBS) and D Squadron SAS. This was successful, as the SAS soldiers attacked the encampment containing the hostages while the soldiers from The Parachute Regiment attacked a second encampment.[7]

In December 2004, it was announced that a unit would be formalised for this role as part of the wider future army structure. It was initially conceived as a battalion of "Rangers", similar to the United States Army Rangers.[8] The SFSG's formation was announced officially by the then Secretary of State for Defence John Reid in Parliament on 20 April 2006.[2] It was established to support British special forces units in battle overseas and on domestic "counter-terrorist" operations.[7] The unit comprises a battalion of Parachute Regiment soldiers, a company of Royal Marine commandos, and a small platoon of RAF Regiment gunners. All soldiers selected for the SFSG have passed either the P Company selection course run by the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines Commando course or the RAF Regiment Pre-Parachute selection course.[9] Royal Marines and RAF Regiment gunners are sourced from across their respective Corps.[9]


SFSG members in a CH-53D Sea Stallion during a joint UKSF/US Marine mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.[10] 27 April 2011

During the Iraq War, the SFSG was part of Task Force Black/Knight which was composed of a rotational British SAS sabre squadron and a platoon of paratroopers from the SFSG (also known as Task Force Maroon). During the Basra prison incident, a platoon of SFSG accompanied A Squadron 22 SAS to Basra to assist in recovering the two detained SAS operatives.[11] Paratroopers from the SFSG supported SAS operations around Baghdad usually cordoning off areas where the SAS were carrying out their missions.[12] In late 2005/early 2006, the SFSG took part in Operation Lightwater[13] The SFSG platoon in Iraq supported B Squadron 22nd SAS during Operation Larchwood 4, killing one terrorist when he ran out of the target building and hid under a car.[14] Members of the SFSG and the SAS often wore American Army Combat Uniform (ACU) or Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) to blend in when operating alongside American JSOC units.[15]

An SFSG member and a US Marine disembarking from a CH-53 Sea Stallion after a joint operation in Helmand Province[16] 31 August 2013

An SFSG company was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 to support the SBS and SRR as part of Operation Kindle, the UKSF deployment to Afghanistan (known as Task Force 42).[17] On 9 September 2009, the Special Boat Service, supported by the SFSG, conducted a mission to rescue Stephen Farrell; a journalist captured and held at a Taliban safehouse in Char Dara District, Kunduz Province, by Taliban insurgents. The UKSF team was inserted by helicopters from the 160th SOAR, the SBS assaulted the safehouse whilst the SFSG set up a cordon. Farrell was rescued and a number of Taliban were killed, however one member of the SFSG was killed as well as Farrell's Afghan interpreter and two civilians.[18][19][20] Between 18–29 December 2009, a company from the SFSG mentored two patrols from Afghan Task Force (ATF) 444-the Afghan special operations group for Helmand Province-during Operation Tor Shpa'h.[21]

The SFSG have been known to carry out operations in Helmand Province with the United States Marine Corps; they also often conduct unilateral raids (similar to the US Army Rangers), but typically act as both blocking and quick reaction forces for 'Tier 1' units.[22] In August 2013, The Daily Telegraph reported that the SFSG, worked hand-in-hand with an elite unit of Afghan commandos, known as Task Force 444, throughout Helmand Province. The unit's A Company arrived in Afghanistan in January for a six-month tour and went on to mount relentless raids against the Taliban. The Ministry of Defence sources confirmed that the SFSG and Afghan strike forces led a series of raids on suspected Taliban bomb-makers in May after three British soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb at the end of April; the raids continued for two or three times a week afterwards. Also the unit targeted insurgent supply lines in the desert near the border with Pakistan, and Taliban bases in the centre of the province.[23] In 2014, the SFSG maintained a high operational tempo months after the official end of offensive operations by UK forces.


The structure of the SFSG is as follows:[24]

  • RHQ
    • 4x strike companies: A, B, C, F
      • Each strike company has 3x platoons
      • F company is mostly composed of Royal Marines, others of members of 1 PARA
    • G company - equivalent to fire support company
      • 4x Fire support Groups
      • Sniper platoon
    • Support company
      • Mortar platoon, signals platoon, Joint Fires Cell (with RAF regt. JTACs), patrol platoon[9]
    • D company - equivalent to a HQ squadron
      • Motor transport platoon, Intelligence, Regimental Administration Office, Med, Quartermasters, Operational Readiness Wing, Air, REME

The Royal Marines elements form approximately one platoon strength within each of A, B, and C Companies. The RAF Regiment also provide a platoon in B company and forward air controllers to direct close air support. The Support company comprises mortar, sniper, and patrol platoons.[9] The Patrol platoon operates vehicles, including the Jackal.

There is also a RAF Regiment CBRN unit assigned to the SFSG to provide specialised knowledge and capability to military and civilian agencies in detection and handling of chemical, biological, and radiological/nuclear weapons and materials.[9]

Uniform distinctionsEdit

Members of the SFSG wear the cap badge and beret of their parent unit, however the unit's DZ Flash—a lightning bolt superimposed on a downwards pointing Excalibur—is worn on the right-hand sleeve.[1][25]


  1. ^ a b Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036,p.60-61
  2. ^ a b c "Special Forces Support Group". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  3. ^ "Elite special forces unit set up". BBC. 20 April 2006. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Force Protection". RAF Regiment. Royal Air Force. 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  5. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036, p.6,p.56-59
  6. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (5 July 2002). "Scores killed by SAS in Afghanistan". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 July 2002.
  7. ^ a b "Special Forces Support Group forms in Wales". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Archived from the original on 24 April 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2006.
  8. ^ "Britain to double commitment to the war on terror with 'SAS Lite'". The Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e Tim Ripley (25 February 2009). "Special Effects:UK SF unit comes into its own". Jane's Defence Weekly. 46 (8): 24.
  10. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036,p.55
  11. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1-4728-0790-8,p.188,p.211
  12. ^ Urban, Mark, Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq , St. Martin's Griffin, 2012 ISBN 1250006961 ISBN 978-1250006967 p.190
  13. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036
  14. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1-4728-0790-8,p.214
  15. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036,p.42
  16. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036,p.58-59
  17. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036,p.49
  18. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908,p.243
  19. ^ Walsh, Declan (9 September 2009). "British soldier killed during rescue of kidnapped journalist in Afghanistan". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Pierce, Andrew (9 September 2009). "Army anger as soldier killed saving journalist who ignored Taliban warning". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  21. ^ Farrell, Theo, Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan, 2001–2014, Bodley Head, 2017 ISBN 1847923461, 978-1847923462, P.298
  22. ^ Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036p.55-56
  23. ^ Farmer, Ben (18 August 2013). "Elite forces in secret raids against Taliban bomb-makers". The Daily Telegraph.
  24. ^ "Staff Officers' Handbook 2014". pdfcoffee.com. p. 2.6.8_5. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  25. ^ Heyman, Charles, ed. (2014). The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom 2014-2015. Barnsley, Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military. p. 178. ISBN 9781783463510. OCLC 894512134.

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