SASR: Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment

The Special Air Service Regiment, more commonly abbreviated as the SASR or the SAS is Australia’s premier special operations unit. Originally formed in 1957 as the 1st SAS Company, it has seen active service in various theatres such as Borneo, Vietnam, Somalia and the wider Global War On Terror (GWOT). [Source]

Tasked with the domestic defence of Australia in a counter-terrorism role, it is also tasked to “provide special-operations capabilities” to the wider Australian Defence Force (ADF). some of its many tasks include special reconnaissance and direct action. Unlike the Australian Commandos who conduct operations in large groups, the SASR usually conducts operations in small teams. [Source, source]

In this article, we analyse the history of the unit, its purpose and organisation including equipment, and also its most relevant operations.

Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

1 Motto, Symbols and Patches 

1.1 Motto

The SASR takes its motto from the organisation it was modeled on, the British SAS.

“Who Dares Wins”

[Source]

1.2 Symbols

Much like the British SAS the SASR also uses the same cap badge which shows a winged dagger with the motto of the unit, “Who Dares Wins” underneath it.

SASR logo with the inscription who dares wins
Cap badge/logo of the SASR – [Image source]

1.3 Patches of the SASR

The SASR commonly uses the Australian flag on its uniform.

Australian SASR operator with an Australian flag patch on his helmet and left arm.
Australian SASR operator with an Australian flag patch on his helmet and left arm. – [Image source]

2 History of the SASR

The SASR traces its history to WW2 when the unit’s predecessor organisation/s operated against German and Japanese forces in the Pacific and North Africa. However, it has undergone several redesignations and has operated extensively in a variety of theatres

2.1 Early History of the SASR

The Australian SASR traces its roots to several units which had been disbanded following the conclusion of fighting in WW2. These were the Coastwatchers, Independent Companies and also the Z&M Special units. These units had been disbanded due to a demobilisation period of the Australian military following the war. [Source]

The Australian Army decided to create its own SAS unit, following the operations of the British SAS during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. On 25 July 1957, the 1st Special Air Service Company (1st-SASC) was established in Perth, Western Australia with a total strength of 160 operators (16 officers and also 144 other operators of other ranks). [Source, source]

In 1960 the 1st-SASC became part of the Royal Australian Regiment and was focused on conducting special forces and commando operations. Four years later the SAS gained regimental status and was expanded to create two sabre squadrons and a headquarters segment which resulted in the links between the SAS and RAR being severed. A third squadron (sabre) was approved on 30 April 1965. [Source, source]

Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

2.2 SASR in Borneo and Operation Claret

The first action seen by the SASR was in North Borneo during the Indonesia-Malaysia/Borneo confrontation in 1965. The SASR was stationed alongside the British and New Zealand SAS  as a part of the British Commonwealth forces stationed there and conducted operations aimed at preventing Indonesian military incursions into Malaysia. [Source]

1 Squadron SASR conducted reconnaissance patrols in Sarawak from February to July 1965 and they also conducted cross-border operations between May and July. Upon completing operations on 1 August they returned to Australia. These operations were part of a wider operation codenamed Operation Claret which was aimed at preventing Indonesian forces from asserting total control. However, they were classified and never acknowledged as it could have led to Indonesia escalating the conflict. [Source, source]

2 Squadron SASR arrived in Borneo in January 1966 for a four-month-long deployment and although Operation Claret missions were officially suspended they conducted reconnaissance patrols and cross-border missions. On 21 July, 2 Squadron was relieved by the British SAS and returned to Australia. Three SASR soldiers were killed during operations and they killed at least 20 Indonesian soldiers in ambushes and engagements. [Source, source, source]

2.3 ‘Phantoms of the Jungle” – The SASR in Vietnam

The SASR was based in Nui Dat and was responsible for intelligence provision to the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF). Operating in Phouc Tuy, Bein Hoa, Long Khanh and Binh Tuy Province they rotated throughout Vietnam on year-long deployments and were withdrawn in 1971. [Source]

SASR patrol in South Vietnam in 1968
SASR patrol in South Vietnam in 1968 – [Image source]

Operating in small groups of four to six men they were primarily deployed by helicopter and also by M-113 APCs. However, a parachute insertion was also carried out. [Source, source]

A fourth SASR squadron was raised in mid-1966 but disbanded in April 1967. Operating closely alongside the New Zealand SAS the 2 Squadron completed its final tour in October 1971 and disbanded upon return to Australia. [Source, source]

Following a patrol in May 1970, SASR soldiers returned to the main Australian base at Nui Dat.
Following a patrol in May 1970, SASR soldiers returned to the main Australian base at Nui Dat. – [Image source]

During the six-year period in which they were deployed in Vietnam the SASR and New Zealand SAS conducted close to 1200 patrols. Suffering only one casualty they inflicted heavy amounts of casualties on the Vietnamese forces, reportedly killing 492, potentially killing a further 106, wounding 47, potentially wounding a further 10 and capturing 11 prisoners. [Source, source]

The SASR worked alongside the US Army Special Forces and provided instructors to the MACV Recondo School and to the LRRP Training Wing. Some SASR members also served with MACV-SOG units. [Source, source]

The SASR was dubbed “phantoms of the jungle” or Ma Rung (in Vietnamese) by the Vietcong due to their stealth capabilities. [Source]

SASR in Vietnam 1971
SASR in Vietnam 1971 – [Image source]

2.4 Post-Vietnam counter-terrorism 

Following the conclusion of operations in Vietnam, the Australian military focused the military doctrine on defending Australia against external threats. The SASR was then focused on developing the Australian military’s capability to conduct patrol operations in Northern Australia. However, the Army formed dedicated Regional Force Surveillance Units in the early 80s which were subsequently trained by the SASR in this role. [Source]

Following approval from Indonesian authorities two SASR patrols were deployed to Irian Jaya to provide assistance to the survivors of an Australian Air Force (RAAF) helicopter which had crashed during survey operations. They were also tasked with securing the wreckage from potentially being captured by Free Papua Movement (OPM) militants. [Source]

Following the Sydney Hilton Bombing in February 1978, the SASR was tasked with creating a counter-terrorism response force for the military in August 1979. This unit was designated as the Tactical Assault Group (TAG). [Source]

Aftermath of the Hilton bombing in 1978
Aftermath of the Hilton bombing in 1978 – [Image source]

2.4.1  Development of SASR/TAG maritime capability

In July 1980 the TAG unit was tasked with developing a maritime capability emphasising operations on offshore oil/gas rigs. Divers from the Navy’s Clearance Diving Branch were selected to assist the TAG as the SASR did not have a sufficient number of divers. [Source]

During the first year, there was animosity between SASR members and the divers who had only completed a five-month training course and five out of eighteen applicants passed selection. [Source]

SASR TAG operators equipped with MP5 SMGs
SASR TAG operators equipped with MP5 SMGs – [Image source]

2.5 Post-1980 SASR Counter-Terrorism

In May 1987 an SASR squadron was alerted for potential deployment to Fiji as a part of Australia’s Operation Morris Dance in response to the first of Fiji’s military coups, but they did not eventually deploy. [Source]

The SASR was not involved in the Gulf War in 1991 but two troops from it were placed on standby whilst other elements of the regiment were placed on high alert in order to respond to potential terrorist incidents within Australia. [Source]

2.6 SASR Peacekeeping Between 1991 and 1994

The SASR’s first operational deployments in active service post-Vietnam war were as a part of Australian peacekeeping deployments.

Between May and June 1991, SASR medics participated in Operation Habitat, providing assistance to Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq and Turkey. Alongside weapon inspection teams, SASR members served as both drivers for “personal protection” and medics, and they were charged by the military with helping to destroy Iraq’s WMD as a part of the UN Special Commission mission. [Source, source]

Between September 1991 and May 1994, Australian signallers from the SASR 152 Signal Squadron were also stationed in the Western Sahara. During the early 1990s, a small number of SASR personnel served in Bosnia on an exchange with the British SAS and SBS. One such member was an SASR sergeant who oversaw an SBS detachment in April 1993. [Source, source]

2.7 SASR Peacekeeping from 1994 Onwards

In April 1994 a 10-man SASR team was attached to Australian forces present in Somalia in order to provide VIP and force protection elements. Known as “the Gerbils” they operated from Toyota Landcruisers, Datsun utility vehicles and two M-113 APCs. During operations in Somalia, they were involved in several incidents including being flown to a downed Canadian civilian helicopter and also a skirmish in which two Somalis were killed after they aimed an AK-47 at an SASR convoy. [Source]

As part of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, SASR medical troops deployed in August 1994. A portion of these staff were present during the Kibeho Massacre that occurred in April of 1995. Furthermore, members of the SASR have served as observers on other Australian peacekeeping missions, such as those in Kashmir, and Lebanon, and as a component of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). The MFO oversees the conditions of the peace accord between Egypt and Israel. [Source, source]

Logo of the MFO which SASR operators were deployed as observers.
Logo of the MFO which SASR operators were deployed as observers. – [Image source]

2.8 SASR in Cambodia and Bougainville

In July 1997, the Australian embassy and its ambassador were placed under close protection when the SASR was called upon to RMAF (Royal Malaysian Air Force) Butterworth on short notice. This happened after the coup in Malaysia, and they were ready to potentially remove any Australian citizens who could be present in the country. In an operation known as Operation Vista, 455 Australians and other nationals were successfully evacuated by the SASR  from the country. [Source, source]

After the conflict in Bougainville, Papa New Guinea, came to an end in October 1997 with a truce agreement, SASR members were sent to serve as part of the Truce Monitoring Group, which was led by New Zealand. Over a four-year period, SASR forces participated in Operation Bel Isi in Bougainville, serving in both monitoring teams and headquarters capacities. [Source]

2.9 SASR deployment to Kuwait

In 1998, 1 Squadron, along with an attached New Zealand SAS troop, made its first squadron-level deployment to Kuwait in February, marking the SASR’s first deployment of that strength since Vietnam. This was carried out as a part of Operation Desert Thunder, which was conducted by the Americans. After New Zealand sent a third troop, this organisation, known as the Anzac Special Operations Force (ANZAC SOF), was completely integrated. [Source]

Although the group was never used, it would have performed combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions to recover airmen that Iraqi air defences might have shot down. They returned to Australia in July 1998 representing the first time that the SASR tactical headquarters had been deployed outside of Australia. [Source]

2.10 SASR in East Timor

Between September 1999 and February 2000, SASR soldiers were stationed in East Timor as part of the international peacekeeping force (INTERFET) under the leadership of Australia. Australians, refugees, and staff of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) were evacuated with the assistance of SASR forces. The first INTERFET forces to seize Dili’s harbour and airport were supplied by the SASR. Response Force (RESPFOR), the special forces component of INTERFET, was comprised of 3 Squadron SASR, NZ SAS, and British SBS. [Source]

The majority of operations in East Timor were led by SASR operators, who also participated in several contacts. This included the two SASR members who were injured at Suai on October 6, 1999. In addition, they took part in an amphibious naval landing and an air insertion by Black Hawk helicopters to establish a beachhead prior to the main INTERFET soldiers’ amphibious assault. [Source, source]

The inquiry into the death of a prisoner taken after the aforementioned battle on October 6th collapsed, and an SASR operator was cleared by the Chief of the Army due to the excessive duration of the investigation and the lack of evidence supporting a prosecution. [Source]

2.11 SASR deployment during the Sydney Olympic Games

During the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the regiment underwent a period of modernisation, acquiring new equipment and capabilities, such as the ability to respond to chemical, biological, and radiological threats and developing techniques for the covert boarding of moving ships at night. [Source]

The regiment was a crucial part of the security force for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. There were two SASR squadrons on standby for counter-terrorist operations during the Games, one of which was assigned to deal with events in Canberra and Sydney and the other to deal with occurrences abroad. [Source]

2.12 SASR interception of vessels 2001

On April 12, 2001, an SASR troop used two rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to board the fishing vessel South Tomi. They were ordered to intercept the ship when it was discovered to be poaching, and they were launched from the SAS Protea, a South African Navy warship, in international waters. SASR operators boarded the boat following a 6,100km pursuit. [Source]

The SASR was involved in the boarding of the MV Tampa after it had illegally entered Australian waters. However, this operation was deemed controversial as it was seen to be excessive to use an elite organisation to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australia. [Source]

The SASR was also involved in the boarding of a North Korean freighter, the MV Pong Su, after it was suspected of drug smuggling on 20 April 2003. [Source]

2.13 Afghanistan

Dubbed Operation Slipper, the SASR was sent to participate in operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban by the Australian government. After moving through Kuwait, 1 Squadron arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was rotated by other SASR squadrons at six-month intervals. [Source]

The SASRs main role in Afghanistan, in the beginning, was to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance of Taliban and al-Qaeda positions and their capabilities, after arriving at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Rhino, SASR personnel alongside US Marines from Task Force 58 conducted long-range vehicle-borne patrols over several hundred kilometres. These patrols were conducted around Kandahar and into the Helmand Valley near the Iranian border. [Source]

Australian SASR in Afghanistan
Australian SASR in Afghanistan – [Image source]

2.13.1 SASR & Operation Anaconda

The SASR was moved to eastern Afghanistan to take part in Operation Anaconda in March 2002. The SASR provided operational intelligence and reconnaissance of the Shahi-Kot valley ten days before the operation. They were also involved in the rescue of US 75th Ranger Regiment members after their helicopter had been shot down. Providing sniper overwatch and precision air strike guidance they saved the lives of 24 Rangers as al-Qaeda forces attempted to overrun the American position. [Source]

SASR in Afghanistan
SASR in Afghanistan – [Image source]

The initial SASR task group was replaced by another Squadron in March and April of 2002 and a third squadron was rotated into Afghanistan in August 2002. The SASR withdrew in November 2002 after all three sabre Squadrons had served in the country. [Source]

2.13.2 SASR in Afganistan From 2005 onwards

In August or September 2005, a Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) was deployed to Afghanistan to operate in the southern province of Uruzgan. The SFTG consisted of SASR, 4 RAR (Commando) and Incident Response Regiment personnel. A FOB was established at Tarin Kowt and the SFTG operated alongside special forces from the UK and the Netherlands. This task force was withdrawn in September 2006 and was involved in 139 contacts and sustained 11 soldiers wounded over a 306-day period. [Source, source]

A 300-strong Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) was additionally deployed in April 2007 to support a Reconstruction Taskforce. This included an SASR squadron, a commando company group and additionally a combat service support team. SASR personnel were primarily tasked with conducting strategic reconnaissance. [Source, source, source, source]

The SASR also provided “Defence Support Teams” to protect Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agents in Afghanistan during this period. [Source]

As a part of Australia’s drawdown from operations in Afghanistan, the majority of the previous SOTG was withdrawn in late 2013. The SASR suffered 5 casualties (KIA) during operations in Afghanistan. [Source, source]

2.13.3 Controversies and Alleged war crimes in Afghanistan

SASR personnel were filmed in Afghanistan in 2012 holding up a confederate flag emblazoned with the words “Southern Pride”. The SASR soldiers claimed that they were using the flag in order to signal an American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in order to be retrieved. In response to this footage, an ADF spokesperson stated that 

“The ADF does not condone behaviours, gestures, flags or symbology that are unprofessional or found to be supporting extremist ideologies.” 

[Source]

An SASR corporal cut the right hands from the bodies of three militants in April 2013 after being told it was an acceptable way of obtaining fingerprints. After this was reported the SOTG was withdrawn from operations for an operational pause lasting a week. One operator was still under investigation in August 2015 but was cleared of all charges. [Source]

In November 2020 the Brereton report was released which detailed that SASR personnel had also been involved in the murder of 39 Afghan civilians. 36 of these incidents were referred to the Australian Federal Police for prosecution and additionally, the 2nd Squadron was to be disbanded in the wake of the findings. [Source, source, source]

2.14 SASR in Iraq

The SASR also took part in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq under the operational codename, Operation Falconer. They provided the majority of the ground forces of the Australian contribution during the initial invasion. [Source]

The Australian SFTG was concentrated around 1 Squadron and a platoon from the 4 RAR (Commando) and a singular troop from the IRR was attached in order to support operations. This SFTG operated primarily in the west of the country as a component of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-West (CJSOTF-West). 

B and C Troops of 1 Squadron were inserted into Jordan by crossing over the Iraqi border, chiefly via vehicle. They crossed 19 miles (30 kilometres) before engaging in one of the first engagements of the war. Additionally, A Troop was inserted 370 kilometres by US MH-47E helicopters from their staging ground in Jordan and they proceeded to observe and collect intelligence on key roads and facilities used by the Iraqi Army. [Source, source]

The SASR secured the large but undefended Al Asad air base towards the conclusion of the 42-day operational campaign. Approximately 200 kilometres west of Baghdad, the SASR secured the airport and a large number of Iraqi Air Force fighter jets and additionally, Iraqi Air Force helicopters (around 50 in total). [Source]

At the conclusion of the war, 1 Squadron was withdrawn from Iraq and was awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry over their actions in the country. [Source, source]

2.14.1 Alleged further operations in Iraq by the SASR

In 2004 there were claims that the SASR was continuing to operate in a counter-insurgency role in Iraq. However, the Australian government proceeded to deny this. [Source, source]

Members of the SASR on patrol (Note the Australian flag on the left shoulder)
Members of the SASR on patrol (Note the Australian flag on the left shoulder) – [Image source]

2.15 SASR in Timor Leste. The Philippines and Fiji

In May 2006, an SASR troop was deployed to Timor Lest as a part of Operation Astute alongside a Commando Company Group due to unrest. [Source]

On 4 May 2007, the SASR alongside commandos took part in the Battle of Same in order to capture rebel leader Alfredo Reinado. During this battle, five rebels were killed and the apprehension of Reinado was a failure. [Source]

Reports emerged in 2006 that the SASR was engaged in the Southern Philippines supporting operations against the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah terrorist organisations but this was denied by the Australian government. [Source]

Following tensions in Fiji, the Australian government sent forces as a preparatory step in order to potentially evacuate Australian citizens. However on 29 November an SASR operator and helicopter pilot died after their helicopter crashed after attempting to land on the HMAS Kanimbla. [Source]

2.16 SASR deployment to Africa

The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper, reported that 4 SASR Squadron had been carrying out intelligence gathering and special mission preparation in order to extract Australian civilians from hostile environments in Africa. Additionally, the newspaper stated that the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd had argued for the SASR Squadron to be used in Libya during the ongoing civil war. [Source]

However, Rudd denied the claims that he had asked for the SASR to be used in Libya and stated that such claims were a

“Total, absolute, fabrication.”

[Source]

3 Structure, organisation and selection process of the SASR

Due to the classified nature of the SASR, information regarding the strength of individual sabres is unknown and varies widely. However, the general organisation of the SASR is based on available information.

3.1 Structure of the SASR

The SASR is organised into several squadrons and supporting elements. This is as follows:

  • Regimental HQ – Led by the Commanding Officer of the SASR and is responsible for maintaining the combat capacity and readiness of the SASR
  • 1 Squadron
  • 2 Squadron
  • 3 Squadron
  • 4 Squadron 
  • 5 Squadron – Reserve force
  • Base Squadron – Logistics and administrative support
  • Operational Support Squadron – Conducts specialist training and trials new equipment and techniques used by the SASR
  • 152 Signal Squadron – Responsible for electronic warfare (EW) and also the provision of specialised communication equipment

[Source]

Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

3.2 Organisation of Squadron 1-4

Each individual SASR sabre squadron is composed of 90-100 personnel and is commanded by a Major. Each Squadron is also composed of an HQ Troop, 3 SAS Troops (a Water Troop, a Free-fall Troop and a Land Troop) and a signals troop. A troop is commanded by a Captain and is comprised of four patrols with 5 or 6 operators within each patrol. [Source]

3.2.1 Disbanding of 2 Squadron

2 Squadron SASR was disbanded following the release of the Brereton Report into war crimes committed by the SASR in Afghanistan. It was announced that 2 Squadron would be struck from the Australian army’s order of battle and that it would eventually be re-raised with a different title in the future. [Source, source]

3.3 Personnel size of the SASR.

The strength numbers of the SASR vary widely with reported strength numbers ranging from 500 to 700 operators and also supporting staff. [Source

3.4 SASR Selection Process

The SASR selection process has undergone a series of changes since its inception in the 1960s in order to meet its evolving mission nature. This is as follows and will be expanded upon below:

  • Stage 1: Preparation
    • 72-day Royal Australian Infantry Rifleman Infantry Operations Basic Course
    • 6-week Special Forces Accelerated Infantry Training Programme
    • Commanding Officers recommendation
    • Special Forces Medical Assessment
    • Special Forces Psychological Evaluation
    • Special Forces Panelling Board
    • 7-hour Special Forces Screen Test
  • Stage 2: Selection
    • 21-day SAS Serlection Course
  • Stage 3: Employment
    • SASR Initial Employment Training (18-month reinforcement cycle)

[Source]

SASR during house breaching training
SASR during house breaching training – [Image source]

3.4.1 Infantry Operations Basic Course

SASR candidates must attend the standard Royal Australian Infantry Initial Employment Training Course. This is only done if they have not already attended and consequently passed this course.

At this training course, SASR candidates are trained and qualified in basic infantry tactics and additionally a range of specialist infantry weapons and equipment to prepare them for working within the SASR.

[Source]

3.4.2 Special Forces Accelerated Infantry Course

SASR candidates who complete the aforementioned Infantry Operations Course go on to attend the 6-week-long Special Forces Accelerated Infantry Course. Delivered by the Australian Defense Force (ADF) School of Special Operations (ADF SSO) out of Singleton New South Wales, it is designed to prepare candidates for the Screening Test and eventually, their subsequent training with the SASR. [Source]

This training course is designed in order to accentuate a candidate’s physiological and psychological conditioning and it also provides the candidates with an opportunity to apply any skills they had developed during the previous training cycle. It also provides candidates with training in navigation, communications, first aid and field craft. Traditional skills such as weapons handling are also covered here. [Source]

Whilst this programme is ongoing candidates also undertake the 15-week Commando Physical Training Package which is undertaken by special forces candidates already serving with the ADF. [Source]

Room clearance training
SASR room clearance training – [Image source]

3.4.2 Commanding Officers Reccomendation 

SASR candidates who are aiming to serve with the SASR must receive the approval of their commanding officer (CO) who will explicitly give them a positive or negative recommendation. This is necessary in order for candidates to proceed with training. [Source]

3.4.3 Special Forces Medical and Psychological Assessment

SASR candidates must undergo both a medical and psychological evaluation and assessment. The medical assessment has to be taken no more than six months from the start of the course date which the candidate is on and they are forced to undergo several as they are only valid or current for 6-month periods. The medical fitness of a candidate is assessed by a doctor and covers a wide range of the candidate’s medical history and is also additionally followed by a comprehensive physical examination. [Source]

Candidates who are seeking to serve within the SASR must also undergo a psychological evaluation which is used to determine a candidate’s psychological suitability for service with the Australian special forces. This is composed of a series of questionnaires and also an interview conducted by a qualified psychologist. [Source]

Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

3.4.4 Special Forces Panelling Board

Prior to selection, candidates face a board convened by ADF Specialist Service Officers (SSOs), two months prior to the course start date. This is done in order to check records and to see which part of the ADF special forces the candidate is aiming to join, the SASR or the Commandos.

About 80–85% of the applicants will pass the Special Forces Screen Test after meeting the psychological and also the medical requirements set forth by the SASR.

[Source]

3.4.5 Special Forces Entry Test

After the initial screening and before commencing the SASR selection course, SASR candidates are required to show their willingness to withstand severe physical and environmental stress which is associated with the SASR selection course.

As of 2006, the Special Forces Entry Test was composed of:

  • A run/jump/dodge course to be completed in less than 50 seconds.
  • Strength test – minimum of 60 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 10 pull-ups.
  • A 2.4km run to be completed in eleven and a half minutes with a rifle, trainers and a pack weighing 7kg.
  • Special Forces swim test follows the run and candidates have to tread water for 2 minutes and swim 400m in less than 18 minutes. This is performed in uniform and in trainers.
  • Officers have to undergo a training exercise without troops (TEWT). The tactical theory is taught and practised against a predetermined adversary (OPFOR) through the Tactical Exercise without Troops (TEWT). In TEWTs, candidates analyse a tactical issue, carry out an analysis, and also come up with a solution for the given terrain.
  • Soldiers also undergo a navigational theory test.
  • 15km endurance march carrying 28kg in a marching order and it has to be completed in less than two hours and 20 minutes.

[Source, source]

3.4.6 Special Forces Screen Test

After completing the Entry Test, candidates undergo the Screen Test over a 7-hour period which consists of:

  • Press-ups
  • Pullups
  • Vertical leaps
  • A flexibility test
  • Situps
  • Shuttle runs
  • Agility test
  • Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test
  • Pack march – 5km carrying a 40kg weighted pack
  • Swim test – 2 minutes of treading water before swimming 400m in a uniform

There is no minimum score needed for passing but candidates are judged against other candidates on the course. Candidates who do not pass are instead encouraged to undertake training for critical support roles within the wider SF or the army.

[Source]

Candidates during training
SASR candidates during training – [Image source]

3.4.7 SASR Selection Course

After passing the SFST candidates continue onto the 21-day SASR selection course. Information regarding the course content is not widely available but is believed to be as follows:

3.4.7.1 Days 1-5
  • Day 1 – Candidates are issued their own personal weapon and ID number. They have to write an initial essay about themselves and are thereafter issued their course kit. After being issued their kit candidates leave the hangar they are based in for a bush camp in the Bindoon Training Area North of Perth. They are driven two hours into the night and then marched another 8km to the bush camp whilst carrying all their kit. At this camp, they are housed in a building known as ‘The Embassy’.
  • Day 2 – Candidates awaken early in the morning and are ‘broken down’ by inspection of their kit and also continuous physical exercise. They are also interviewed by serving and ex-SASR members in order to probe for mental weakness.
  • Day 3 – A circuit-style PT session is held and is designed in order to create fatigue.
  • Day 4 – The first loaded march (20km carrying 28kg pack and 8kg webbing) is held and must explicitly be completed in under three hours and fifteen minutes.
  • Day 5 – Over a third of candidates will have withdrawn at this point. Candidates are faced with a series of obstacle courses including water-filled, blacked out and also aerial courses. Combat exercises such as house-clearing scenarios are also conducted.

[Source]

3.4.7.2 Days 2-10
  • Day 6 – A solo navigation is conducted across a 68-76km distance and additionally candidates must meet at all checkpoints along this course.
  • Day 7 – Continuation of the solo navigation course
  • Day 8 – A rest period following the march is held but candidates are later awoken and they endure a PT session which lasts for several hours
  • Day 9 – Candidates are asked to demonstrate how to develop a plan in order to secure a particular objective. They then proceed up a steep hill wearing an 8kg webbing and their personal weapon where they then endure a PT session.
  • Day 10 – On day 10 candidates who failed the 20km march have to retake it. The remaining candidates are told to form up outside the ‘Embassy’.

[Source]

3.4.7.3 Days 11-15
  • On these days an exercise known as ‘Happy Wonderer’ is conducted. Candidates are required to traverse over 150km in 5 days scaling mountains and also valleys. They are not told how many checkpoints they have to reach on each day and the amount can vary from several a day to one every other day.

[Source]

3.4.7.4 Days 16-21
  • On these days an exercise known as ‘Lucky Dip’ is held where candidates are tasked with acting as a guerilla force. Candidates must move as a team across the bush and are also assessed on their team-leading abilities. On day 3 of the exercise they are offered food and on the final day they are all also assessed. Successful completion does not guarantee selection.

[Source]

3.4.8 Reinforcement cycle

The following selection candidates undergo an 18-month training series that consists of several different courses. Examples of courses which candidates undergo are as follows:

  • Basic SASR Patrol Course 
  • Urban Combat Course (6 weeks)
  • Special Forces Weapons Course (3 weeks)
  • Special Forces Demolitions Course (2 weeks)
  • Special Forces Basic Parachute Course (3 weeks)
  • Special Forces Signal Course (3 weeks)
  • Special Forces Military Roping Course (2 weeks)
  • Combat First Aiders Course (3 weeks)

[Source]

Window entry breach training
SASR window entry breach training – [Image source]

3.4.9 End of SASR Selection

At the completion of the aforementioned courses candidates are ‘badged’ as members of the SASR and they also receive their berets.

[Source]

4 Equipment and Vehicles Of The SASR

The SASR uses a wide variety of equipment which is also utilised by the regular ADF.

4.1 Weapons and Equipment of the SASR

SASR soldiers use a variety of weapons and equipment including but not limited to:

M4A5 visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
  • Assault Rifles (ARs)
    • M4A5 – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
    • M4A1 – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
    • HK416 – 5.56x45mm NATO
    • MK18 CQBR – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
    • F88 Austeyr – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
      • F88 – 5.56x45mm NATO
      • F88S – 5.56x45mm NATO
      • F88C – 5.56x45mm NATO
  • Sniper Rifles and Designated Marksman Rifles (DMRs)
    • Blaser R93 Tactical 2 – .338 Lapua Magnum [Source]
    • SR-98 – 7.62x51mm NATO [Source]
    • Barret M82A2 – .50 BMG/12.7x99mm NATO [Source]
    • AW50 – .50 BMG/12.7x99mm NATO [Source]
    • HK417 – 7.62x51mm NATO [Source, source]
    • SR-25 – 7.62x51mm NATO [Source]
    • MK 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle (M14 EBR) – 7.62x51mm NATO [Source, source]
  • Machine Guns (MGs)
    • Para Minimi – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
    • Mk48 Maximi Modular – 5.56x45mm NATO [Source]
    • MAG 58 – 7.62x51mm NATO [Source]
  • Pistols
    • Heckler & Koch USP SD – 9mm [Source]
    • Glock 19 [Source]
    • Browning L9A1 Hi-Power – 9mm [Source]
Glock 19 visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Glock 19 visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
  • Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs)
    • MP5 variants [Source]
      • MP5K – 9mm
      • MP5KA1 – 9mm
      • MP5A3 – 9mm
      • MP5SD3 – 9mm
    • SIG MCX – .300 Blackout [Source, source]
  • Shotguns
    • Remington Model 870/870P – 12-guage
    • Benelli M3A1 – 12-gauge (Replaces the Remington 870) [Source, source]
  • Rocket Launchers, Explosives and Heavy Weaponry
    • FGM-148 Javelin (ATGM) – 127mm rocket [Source]
    • M72 LAW – 66mm rocket [Source]
    • M3 MAAWS – 84mm rocket [Source]
    • M224A1 Mortar – 60mm [Source]
    • M2-QCB Browning – .50 BMG/12.7x99mm NATO [Source]
    • Mk 47 Striker – Grenade launcher [Source]
    • Flashbangs
    • Fragmentation grenades
      • Mk 14 Anti-Structure Munition (ASM-HG) [Source]
  • Other Equipment
    • Divex Shadow rebreather [Source]
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.
Australian SASR visualisation by Charlie Cousens on behalf of Grey Dynamics.

4.2 Vehicles in use with the SASR

The SASR also use a variety of vehicles which include but are not limited to:

  • HMT Supacat Extenda [Source]
  • Deployable Advanced Ground Off-Road light assault vehicle (DAGOR) [Source]
  • Perentie LRPV
  • Motorcycles 
  • Polaris ATV variants [Source]
    • Polaris MV850 4×4
    • Polaris Sportsman Big Boss 6×6
  • Up-armoured Toyota Landcruisers [Source]
  • 11M Naval Special Warfare Rigid Inflatable Boat
    • AirDrop Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (ADRHIB) [Source, source]

4.3 Aircraft

The SASR use a variety of aircraft including but not limited to:

  • MRH-90 (retired from service) [Source]
  • UH-60M Black Hawk [Source]

5 Notable Operations since 1957

Operational Deployments

  • Borneo 1965-1966
  • Vietnam 1966-1971
  • Australia (counter-terrorism duties)
  • Papa New Guinea 1997-1998
  • Kuwait 1998
  • Afghanistan 2001-2013 (some remained in the country but not in large numbers)
  • Iraq 2003-2005 (alleged to still be operating in 2007 and 2014)
  • Timor Leste 2006
  • Philippines 2006
  • Fiji 2006

Alleged deployments (intel gathering and special mission planning)

  • Zimbabwe
  • Nigeria
  • Kenya
  • Laos
  • Burma
  • Cambodia

Peacekeeping

  • Turkey & Northern Iraq 1991
  • Iraq 1991-2000
  • Western Sahara 1991-1994
  • Cambodia 1991-1993
  • Bosnia 1990s
  • Somalia 1994
  • Rwanda 1995
  • Kashmir
  • Lebanon
  • Sinai
  • East Timor 1999-2000

6 Conclusion 

The SASR is Australia’s premier special operations force which undertakes deadly missions in order to defend Australia from both internal and external enemies. Extremely well trained and drilled to a high degree they undergo a lengthy training period which ensures they are capable of meeting any threat they may face. With a history dating back to their founding in 1957, they have been fully engaged for most of their operational history and are increasingly called upon in order to meet Australia’s defence needs.

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