The Australia got their own Special Air Service in 1957 with the creation of the 1st SAS Company. By 1964, an extra two companies had been added and the Company was renamed the Special Air Service Regiment. More than 50 years they serve proudly to their country.
The new formed SASR saw action in Borneo just a year later where it found itself involved in a broad counterinsurgency operation. Not long after, SASR operators were sent to Vietnam (although records indicate some may have been present as early as 1962) to aid in training the Australian Army.
By the time the Vietnam War was over, the Regiment had racked up an impressive combat record and established itself as a significant player in the special operations arena. Peacetime led to a reduction from three Sabre Squadrons to two, not including a new Training Squadron and an Operations Research Unit. During this time, special attention was given to countering the increasingly visible international terrorist incidents which were befall with regularity.
Today, this group is one of two special units responsible for Counter-Terrorism in Australia, the other being the very capable No. 1 Commando Regiment, which is part of the Army reserves. A requirement of further specialization within the SASR led to the formation of the Tactical Assault Group (TAG).
The TAG was formed in the mid-1980s. The Group shared these responsibilities for a time with its brother unit at the time, the Offshore Installations Assault Group (OAG). At the time, OAG was tasked with maritime operations such as assaults on ships or oil rigs. This latter unit was disbanded, however, there are reports that an offshoot of the original OAG remains, designated the OAT, or the Offshore Assault Team. Initially, twenty divers from the RAN Clearance Diving Teams switched branches to the SASR to help man the new unit. Offshore Assault Team (OAT), as the name suggests, is rumored to specialize in maritime assaults; including ships, ferries, and oil rigs. Offshore Assault Team is considered a separate but equal element of Tactical Assault Group.
Members of both units are HALO/HAHO qualified and are proficient at heliborne insertions as well. As “B” squadron of the SASR, members of Tactical Assault Group undergo the same selection and training that members of the “regular” SASR. The selection phase is three weeks long, those that pass undergo nearly a year of training before they can wear the coveted sand-colored beret.
Tactical Assault Group’s training facilities include advanced outdoor close quarters battle ranges, an urban Counter-Terrorism complex, aircraft mock-ups, and snipers ranges which provide best terms for quality military training. The SASR also makes use of the dry savannah woodland of the High Range Training Area. This range is located approximately 40 kilometers west of Townsville and is used extensively for CT training.
There are currently 550 (approximately 200 in Tactical Assault Group) members of the SASR which is headquartered at Campbell Barracks in the Perth suburb of Swanbourne, Australia. Assault teams are composed of four men.
Training and operations
Cross-training with other countries is not uncommon; Australian officers are permanently assigned to both Fort Bragg and Little Creek, NAB. They also have a close relationship with the British SAS which has been shared since 1957. Cross training has also occured with the New Zealand SAS (NZSAS), Germany’s GSG-9 and others. It is not believed that the SASR is used in covert operations abroad, due to a general governmental reluctance to conduct such operations.
In Australian history, there haven’t been any bigger issues with terrorism. Despite that fact, members of TAG were engaged in dozens of events where they have provided security such as:
- 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games
- 2000 Sydney Olympics Security: Joint Task Force Gold
- 2003 Rugby World Cup: Operation Scrummage
- 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: Operation Acolyte
- 2007 Sydney APEC Conference: Operation Deluge
- 2008 World Youth Day Sydney and visit of Pope Benedict XVI: Operation Testament
- 2014 G-20 Brisbane summit