SAS vs Navy SEALs: Who is better trained?

Author: Eric Sof


To compare SAS vs Navy SEALs training and selection, we first need to know little more about both units. Both British SAS and American Navy SEALs are considered as the elite special operaitons forces with similar roles. The special forces of both nations are extremely well trained, highly disciplined, elite soldiers. They get that way in pretty much the same way, by starting with oodles of motivation and dedication, and then piling on neverending training, with a side order of training… right after they get done training.

But, to compare SAS vs Navy SEALs and their trainings, first we need to examine few factors.

Who has a better training experience? Who suffers more? Navy SEALs vs SAS!? Do the British officials have more expectations from their candidates than the US or vice versa? Who is faster at being deployed, who has better firepower, what is the difference between the two? What can one do that the other can’t do? What kind of equipment do they use and to what account? Who’s better to get a degree from?  Harvard or Oxford?  Yale or Cambridge? Navy Seals vs SAS?


Ultimately there may be some chest-beating when members of any of those meet in the marketplace, but they will all recognize the hard work it took to achieve the degree. Both units are Tier 1 units in their countries. The same with elite forces of the world.  When a SEAL and SAS meet each other, they acknowledge a kindred spirit.  Sure, there may be some chest-beating and bragging but they almost always relish the opportunity to work and train together.

They train in different ways and for different things. Better training will always be subjective.

Navy SEALS would rather be tied down in a marine environment (where they feel most comfortable) rather than land. Whereas the SAS would prefer to rat it out on land, rather than sea.

How hard is SEAL selection and training?

Navy SEALs focus on maritime operations, direct action raids (a.k.a. shooting fuckers in the face) and special reconnaissance operations. They excel at all three of these fields. But they also focus extensively on the Team part of SEAL Team. Their training, operations, and daily life revolve around the Team. Everything is for the Team, for the Unit. It’s their way of life.

Navy SEALs during BUD/s training in the pool
SAS vs Navy SEALs: Navy SEALs during BUD/s training (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Duration of selection and training

Preparation consists of more than 12 months of initial training that includes Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL BUD/S School, Parachute Jump School and SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), followed by an additional 18 months of pre-deployment training and intensive specialized training.

Washout rate

Each year, about 1,000 candidates make it to SEAL training. About 250 complete their training and join approximately 2,000 more active SEALs, who work among nine active duty teams (East and West Coast). Some SEAL candidates choose to drop out of the program, and some are forced out in progress.

How hard is SAS selection and training?

British SAS focus on a lot of the same things, minus the maritime operations. A better comparison would be between the SEALs and the Special Boat Service (SBS). But when comparing these two, it’s apples and oranges. SAS does more hostage rescue/CT operations than the SEALs do unless you count a special SEALs department – DEVGRU (in public mostly known as SEAL Team 6).

In order to thin out the herd, the SAS holds one of the most arduous and rigorous selection and training programs in the modern special operations community. Timed cross-country marches, treks through jungles, and a mountain climb are just a few of the challenges that make joining the SAS an extreme task.

British SAS selection course
SAS vs Navy SEALs: The British SAS selection course is toughest in the world (Photo: SAS)

Duration of selection and training

The whole process of SAS training and selections is long around 32 weeks (6 montsh), before the candidates are sent to the regiment as the troopers where they will go through their basic training related to their speciality. It may last up to 3 more years to complete all trainings available.

Washout rate

British Special Air Service (SAS) selection is reputed to be among the toughest in the world with an average pass rate of 10% to as low as 3-4% in the ’90s, in some cases in the late 60’s no one passed SAS selection.

Conclusion: SAS vs Navy SEALs training

In the domain of selection, it still hard to compare it on the SAS vs Navy SEALs level. Because SAS selection process is largely individual-based, with long-ass ruck marches and individual events. The argument could be definitely made that the SEALs work better in the Team environment, but I’m not gonna go out and say that. And remember the SAS selection course has a 90% dropout rate compared with a 75% dropout rate for the SEAL course if that means anything.

Chris Craighead: SAS operator during terrorist attack in Kenya
SAS operator assisting Kenyan security forces during terrorist attack on DusitD2 Hotel Complex in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Getty)

Navy SEALs, SAS, Spetsnaz, Army Special Forces, Delta Force or any others around the world are extremely professional and lethal organizations.  Let me say that word again, “professional”, so they are not suitable for wrongdoings. Capable and deadly, that’s what they have in common.

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11 thoughts on “SAS vs Navy SEALs: Who is better trained?”

  1. While ‘regular’ SEALs could carry out a hostage rescue, they receive only limited training in the advanced close quarter battle skills required. Team 6 and the SAS are both also extensively trained to conduct deniable undercover operations where their very presence is unacknowledged.

  2. You forgot 2 significant differences.
    1. SEALs are Tier 2 special forces. Only DEVGRU, which is a separate unit is Tier 1. SAS are Tier 1.
    2. You can join SEAL team as a civilian, to serve in the SAS you must be a serving soldier and already be of exceptional ability to be approved to go for selection.

  3. MATT – Get your facts straights, you can request SEAL training as a civilian – as I did, then AFTER YOU ENLIST, you’re guaranteed the opportunity to become a SEAL candidate and entitles you to certain bonuses and benefits WHEN YOU ENLIST. Also Matt, There are 500 to 600 DEVGRU SEALs and 500 to 600 SAS soldiers. It’s colloquial knowledge that the DEVGRU SEALs and SAS are fairly equal with the exception that SAS does nothing maritime, really shoud be compared to Delta Force as it’s a more equal comparisan. SNeither force can stand up to DEVGRU SEAL team. So all in all, the DEVRGU SEALs are the more elite military Special Force. Tier 2 SEALs are an incredible force, but obviously, there has to be a pool to pull from when operators go down or retire. Should throw in Russian Spetsnaz, and Sayeret Matkal with SAS and Delta Force, they’re at least as good.

  4. During the gulf war US rangers dropped their packs and ran while the Australian SAS called for an air strike over their heads
    How many Seal team recruits have died during training? Yet 3 SAS have.

  5. Brit SAS does have a maritime unit designated boat troop,along with vehicle troop ,a dedicated airbourne unit ,and a mountain troop ,along with our SBS in joint operations with the skill set they have ,they can pretty much take on what ever is necessary.

  6. was a SEAL,left, and worked in the field in th CIA for 12 years, before retiring a few years ago.

    Tier 1-
    1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
    DEVGRU (Team 6)

    Regular SEALs were tier 2, compared to those 3. Obviously, we were capable, and did extremely well in the missions we participated in. However, those 3 listed above are the best of the best.

    As far as SAS vs Team 6 vs DELTA? All are equally good overall, but they have their advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios.