The Special Air Service Regiment (also known as SASR and Aussie SAS) is a unit with a long history and ultimately Australian Tier 1 unit. But since September 11, 2001, the Australian government has decided to increase its engagement in the global war on terror. They increased its military presence in the coalition led by the US formed to fight against terrorism by introducing up two new units for special tasks, which are joined to the existing Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). SASR is considered as the only real component of Special Operations Forces (per NATO standards) inside the Australian Defence Force.
In fact, the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) is one of three Special Forces Group combat units within Special Operations Command. They are tasked with difficult and challenging small-team operations. Those operations need high-level precise military skills, often in remote areas and with no or very little tactical level-support.
The SASR is involved in operations across the globe including operations in Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia, East Timor, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as many other peacekeeping missions. They also provide a counter-terrorist capability and has been involved in a number of domestic security operations. SASR is a direct command unit of the Special Operations Command.
Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) can trace its beginnings back to the Australian Z Special Unit and Independent Commando Companies that fought during World War II. Officially, they were formed on 25 July 1957, as the 1st Special Air Service Company, Royal Australian Infantry. Their first HQ was set at Campbell Barracks in Western Australia. In 1964, 1st Special Air Service Company was expanded to become the Special Air Service Regiment.
Force elements from SASR have served in various major conflicts (including Borneo, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) and provide support to peace enforcements and peacekeeping operations (including Rwanda, Somalia, Cambodia and Timor-Leste (East Timor)). In addition to international operations, SASR remains prepared to meet domestic and offshore counter-terrorism tasks.
The worst disaster in the unit’s history happen in 1996 during live-fire exercise and has become known as the Black Hawk accident. On the evening of 12 June 1996, two S-70-A9 Black Hawk helicopters from the 5th Aviation Regiment carrying SASR troopers collided during a live-fire counter-terrorism/special-recovery operation exercise at Fire Support Base Barbara in the High Range Training Area near Townsville, Queensland. One Black Hawk crashed immediately killing 12 personnel on board, while the other was able to make a crash landing but burst into flames, killing six. Fifteen members of the SASR and three from the 5th Aviation Regiment lost their lives in the accident.
The strength of the SASR is considered as over 700 personnel according to the available information. Special Air Service Regiment is a battalion-sized element and is known to be made up of a regimental headquarters, four sabre squadrons, an operational support squadron, a specialist support squadron, and a signals squadron.
Regimental headquarters has at its disposal next elements:
- 1 Sabre Squadron
- 2 Sabre Squadron
- 3 Sabre Squadron
- 4 Sabre Squadron
- Specialist Support Squadron
- Operational Support Squadron
- 152 Signal Squadron
Training and Selection
All SASR personnel are specially selected, however, its special forces undergo the most rigorous selection and training cycle. It means the SASR has high personnel standards, and selection into the regiment is considered the most demanding of any entry test in the Australian Army.
Selection is open to all serving Australian Defence Force personnel. And after the initial interview, the candidates who successfully pass the interview are going to the 21-day SAS Selection Course which assesses both the individual’s strength and endurance (mental and physical), as well as overall fitness, ability to remain calm in combat and to work effectively in small teams.
The selection course is further divided into four phases with the first two mainly of physical and navigational exercises held at the Bindoon Training Centre. The third and fourth phases are conducted in the Stirling Ranges with long pack marches in phase three and small group exercises in phase four with little or no sleep and food. Around 10 to 30 percent of candidates pass selection. After the selection phase, the candidates are going to the 16-months basic training.
There were many accidents during the basic training and there were deadly accidents during this phase. And death during training accidents makes up the majority of the SASR’s fatalities.
Members of the Regiment who are SAS qualified (successfully finished their selection and basic training) are readily identified by their sandy colored beret and its distinctive badge depicting the flaming sword Excalibur and the words ‘Who Dares Wins’.
Equipment and armament
SASR operators are armed with a variety of weapons systems depending on what the mission dictates. That means that SASR has a lot of weapons at their disposal which includes:
- M4A1 Carbine (designated as the M4A5 in Australia) – primary weapon
- M4 (designated as the Mk 18 CQBR)
- Sig-Sauer MCX
- Heckler and Koch MP5
- USP Tactical – secondary weapon
- Glock 19
- Heckler and Koch HK 417
- SR-25 Marksman rifle
- Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle
- Mk 48 Maximi Modular
- MAG 58
- Para Minimi
- Blaser Tactical 2
- Barrett M82A2
- M72 Rocket
- M3 MAAWS
- FGM-148 Javelins
- M2-QCB Browning
- Mk 47 Striker
- Flashbang device and fragmentation grenades