The 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment

1.0 Introduction

The 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment (or 18 Sig Regt) is a joint unit of the Royal Signal Corps of the British Army and one of the units that constitute the United Kingdom’s Special Forces (UKSF). In the same way that the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) supports UKSF units in the aerial domain, 18 Sig Regt’s mission is to provide communications and information systems (CIS) support to other UKSF units. 

The regiment traces its origins to the 18th Signal Regiment, formed in 1959 in Singapore as part of the Far East Land Forces (FARELF), and disbanded in 1971. To distinguish them, the current regiment includes UKSF in its name. The current 18 Signals Regiment was established in 2005 alongside the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). It is therefore one of the newest British special forces units.

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

2.0 Motto, Symbols and History

2.1 Motto

 The motto of the 18th Signal Regiment is Colloquendo Imperamus (Latin). It translates to “Command through Communications”.

2.2 Symbols

The emblem of the 18th Signal Regiment consists of three lightning bolts superimposed on a Xiphos sword pointing upwards. Underneath, a scroll containing the unit’s motto, Colloquendo Imperamus (“Command through Communications”).

undefined
Emblem of the 18 Signal Regiment (source)

2.3 History

2.3.1 The UKSF

The Signal Regiment has its origins in the broader reorganisation of special forces in the UK. In 1987, the MoD created the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), when the post of Director of the Special Air Service (SAS) became Director of Special Forces (DFS). The MoD created the UKSF by assigning the DSF control of both the SAS and the Navy’s Special Boat Squadron, which was renamed the Special Boat Service (SBS). 

undefined
UKSF Emblem (source).

Since then, the directorate has expanded by creating and unifying new units. In 2001, they created the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) which specialises in covert battlefield insertion and extraction. It includes the 7th Squadron (RAF) and the 658th Squadron (Army Air Corps or AAC). In 2005, the UKSF created the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) to support the SAS, alongside the 18th Signal Regiment. In 2006, they created the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), a quick-reaction force to assist Special Forces missions.  This might include large supporting offensives, blocking enemy counter-attacks or guarding areas of operation (source; source).

For those of you who want to know more about the UKSF, you can have a look here at the article I recently published about them.

2.2.2 The 18 Signal Regiment

The 18th Signal Regiment is a descendant of a unit of the same name in 1959 in Singapore. It was part of the Far East Land Forces (FARELF), disbanded on 1 December 1971. The dissolution of the unit was due to the British withdrawal from Singapore. The Singaporean national archives keep photographic records of the regiment’s activities in the country, including jungle training (source).

The UKSF created the 18th Signals Regiment (UKSF) in April 2005. This was at the same time as the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). The regiment includes signal squadrons from the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Navy.

The 18th regiment works similarly to the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW). Both units amalgamate capabilities from different armed forces branches. While the JSFAW provides air support to the UKSF, the 18th regiment provides intelligence support (mostly SIGINT).

The UKSF formed the regiment around the existing communication capabilities of the SAS and the SBS. The first squadrons of the 18 Signal Regiment were the 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron based at Stirling Lines, the SBS Signal Squadron based at RM Poole, and 63 (SAS) Signal Squadron (V) Territorial Army (TA) (Volunteer, now known as Army Reserve). The regiment later expanded with the creation of two new squadrons, the 267 and 268.

(Source), (source), (source), (source), (source)

18 Signal Regiment
Soldiers of the 18th Signal Regiment of the FARELF belonging to 249 Signals. Singapore, 5 February 1970 (source)
History of the Squadrons

The 18 Sig Regiment consists of five squadrons. Below is the history of each:

  • The 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron was formed in July 1966 to support 22 SAS. It included a signal troop that had been part of the Malayan Scouts SAS Regiment formed in 1951. 
  • The 63 (SAS) Signal Squadron (V) was formed on 1 April 1967 to support 21 SAS and 23 SAS (Reserves). It was formed from four disbanding TA units. These were the 41 Signal Regiment, 63 Signal Regiment, 327 Signal Squadron and 115 Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers. In 2014, the 63 (SAS) Signals Squadron (R) was redesignated as 63 (UKSF) Signals Squadron.
  • The SBS Signal Squadron was formed in 2000 to support the SBS. It included a specialist troop of Royal Marines signallers that had been formed in the 1980s.
     
  • The 267 (SRR) Signal Squadron was formed in 2005 to support the recently created SRR.
  • The 268 (UKSF) Signal Squadron was also created in 2005. It incorporated the strategic communications element of the 264 (SAS) Signals Squadron which provided long-range strategic communications. It is now attached to the SFSG as 268 (SFSG) Signal Squadron. 

(Source), (source), (source), (source), (source)

undefined
Cap Badge of the Royal Corps of Signals (source)

3.0 Purpose

The 18 Sig Regt, along with the other British Special Forces regiments, are designed to help in the “long war” as well as asymmetric war. This responded to the need for special forces of small, well-trained, and well-supported units operating on battlefields where combat lines are poorly defined and enemies mix among friends. These special forces are understood as “force multipliers”. These are small teams of operators that can achieve results comparable to those of larger forces. As the role of the UK’s special forces expanded, the MOD found that it needed more capable units to support its efforts (source; source).

The roles of the 18 Sig Regt include:

Members of the 18th are highly proficient in all aspects of communications. In addition, and because they have to accompany UKSF units on operations, they also train in various specialised military techniques, such as parachuting and escape and evasion.

(Source), (source), (source), (source)

Hombre con uniforme militar parado junto a una camioneta
British Operator from 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment alongside a British SFSG member and a Norwegian SFK operator somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan. Source.

3.1 18 Signal Regiment Doctrine

The 18 Sig Regt is the special mission unit responsible for providing signal intelligence and communication support to special operations. The regiment is an elite group whose sole purpose is to support and enable other special mission units (SMUs) within the UKSF. Although not as well known as its Army or Navy counterparts, the 18 Sig Regt plays an integral role as a support group. 

The purpose of 18 Sig Regt is different from that of many other special operations forces. It is not generally involved in direct combat but in covert and clandestine actions necessary to support other military operations. Its scope is quite specific. It consists of handling communications and information systems (CIS) and providing secure communications for UKSF operations. They also intercept and monitor enemy communications. The 18 Sig Regt focuses on battlespace preparation through Electronic Warfare (EW), and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). It therefore acts as a facilitator for UKSF special mission units.

The 18 Sig Regt is to a certain extent the equivalent of the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) belonging to the US JSOC. The SRR also performs intelligence tasks for the UKSF.

4.0 Organisation

The 18 Sig Regt is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF). This is a directorate that manages the assigned joint capabilities of the three-armed services. The SFSG is under the operational command of the Director of Special Forces (DSF). The DSF is a senior role (Major General or OF-7) within the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The DSF is also the head of the UKSF, which reports to the so-called Strategic Command (StratCom). This was formerly known as Joint Forces Command (JFC). They are governed by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) which are located at Northwood Headquarters (source). 

The 18 Sig Regt headquarters (HQ) are located at Stirling Lines, Hereford. It shares HQ with the 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) (source). The Regiment is commanded by a Colonel (OF-5) (source).

4.1 Squadrons

The 18 sig regt is made up of several squadrons:

  • SBS Signal Squadron
  • 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron
  • 267 (SRR) Signal Squadron
  • 268 (SFSG) Signal Squadron
  • 63 (UKSF) Signal Squadron (R): Reserve unit (source; source)

The 18th Regiment also counts with a detachment from the 14 Signal Regiment providing SIGINT support in the form of Light Electronic Warfare Teams (LEWTs) (source; source).

Due to the nature of their tasks, there is not much information about the composition and organisation of each squadron.

(Source), (source), (source)

CDN media
UKSF personnel pictured in front of a Union Jack and crests for 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron (left) and 22 SAS (right). Source.

5.0 Recruitment and Training

The 18th Regiment runs a specific selection course, separate from the joint SAS/SBS UKSF Selection Course (source). The 18th Regiment course is the UK Special Forces Communicator Course (UKSFCC). 

On the other hand, SAS and SBS personnel undergo their selection which finishes with the award of a sand-coloured beret to SAS personnel. After this, SBS candidates undergo further selection to qualify as canoe swimmers, while SAS personnel undergo additional specialist training. SRR candidates go through the aptitude phase, before receiving their specialised training in covert surveillance and reconnaissance (source).

5.1 Eligibility

The SFC course with the 18th (UKSF) Signal Regiment is open to all male volunteers from any part of the Regular Armed Forces. It is also open to Army Reserve candidates. There is no age limit.

To apply, applicants should contact the Recruitment and Induction Cell (RIC) of the 18th Signal Regiment (UKSF) for specific personal advice. Before attending the SFC briefing course, all applicants must undertake preparation and training as advised by the recruitment and induction cell. This includes map reading, practical navigation, physical development, and basic CIS revision.

(Source), (source), (source), (source)

5.2 Selection and Training

The 18 Regiment runs the UK Special Forces Communicator Course (UKSFCC), which lasts 6 months. It is designed to test physical and mental fitness. The SFC candidate must be fit, motivated and have the ability to assimilate the skill set required to operate modern CIS and apply it within an SF operational context.

Phase 1: SFC Briefing Course

All applicants must attend one of four mandatory briefing courses held each year before they can apply for the SFC course. The aim of this week-long course (5 days) is to inform aspiring SFC volunteers about the UKSFC selection process, and service with the 18th Signal Regiment (UKSF). It also assesses their potential to advise them on their pre-selection preparation. Following completion of the briefing course, applicants have 12 months to attend the SFC course (source).

Phase 2: SFC Preparation Course

Candidates also have the option of attending one of two SFC preparation courses per year. The aim of this course, which lasts 3 weeks, is to better prepare applicants for the aptitude and CIS phases of the UKSFC selection. It also provides further preparation advice (source).

Phase 3: SFC Course

All candidates must attend the CFS course, which lasts 6 months (25 weeks). It is held twice a year, in May and November. As SFCs may have to accompany SAS and SBS personnel on operations, they receive HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) and firearms training to SF standards. The UKSFCC comprises:

  • Technical Trade Assessment (1 week);
  • General Support Communications (6 weeks);
  • Physical Aptitude (5 weeks);
  • Close Support Communications (5 weeks);
  • SF SERE training (4 weeks);
  • Military Training (3 weeks); and
  • SF Parachute Training (3 weeks).

(Source), (source), (source), (source)

SF SERE Training

During training, candidates will undergo a 4-week SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract) program at RAF St Mawgan near Newquay since 2008. This part covers measures to prepare candidates for captivity, isolation, and recovery. 

As part of SERE, all candidates must pass the 2-week Army Combat Survival Instructors Course, even if they have attended it before. The training includes an evasion exercise where candidates in small groups, wearing restrictive greatcoats, attempt to reach a final objective while facing a credible capture threat from a Hunter Force. 

Upon capture, candidates undergo a 24–36-hour Resistance to Interrogation element, even if they were not captured. This involves simulated torture. During interrogation, candidates can only provide their serial number, rank, name, and date of birth, responding to other questions with “I cannot answer that question” to avoid disclosing sensitive information.

(Source), (source), (source)

SF Parachute Training

On-the-job training also includes an SF Parachute course at RAF Brize Norton. This is compulsory for all students and includes skydiving training such as:

  • Parachuting Static line (for those not qualified to skydive);
  • High Altitude High Opening (HAHO); and
  • High Altitude Low Opening (HALO): HALO freefall insertions allow SF to deploy from altitudes of 25,000 feet or higher, taking advantage of a low radar profile.

(Source), (source), (source)

5.3 Reserve Training

Applicants for reserve service in 63 Signal Squadron (UKSF) must first successfully pass a three-week assessment course. They must then undertake a two-week course of Royal Signals communications training to be accepted as eligible for appointment to the squadron. Following this, the applicant joins the squadron for a probationary year. During this time they must complete the mandatory courses. They also must take part in a two-week training exercise to achieve mobilisation fitness (source).

6.0 Equipment

Apart from the standard range of weapons used by the British Army, the 18 Sig Regt men have access to a wider selection of firearms and other weapons than the average British soldier. Some of those that have been observed are: 

6.1 Weapons

Guns

  • Glock 17(T) /19; local denomination L131A1/L132A1 and L137A1

Rifles

  • C8 Carbine; local denomination L119A1/A2 (source)
  • HK417

(Source), (source), (source)

6.2 Personal Equipment

Not much information is available on the personal equipment of its operators except for photos:

Helmet

UKSF forces use the Ops-Core Future Assault Shell Technology (FAST) helmet, also known as the FAST helmet (source).

Combat body armour

The UKSF likely use the combat ballistic/plate-carrying body armour C2R CBAV (Commando Ballistic Armour Vest). It forms the core of the Modular Commando Assault System (source).

Uniforms

As part of the Future Commando Force program, the standard uniform for the Royal Marines since 2020 is the standard Crye Precision design with a MultiCam camouflage pattern. It replaces the Multi-Terrain Pattern Personal Clothing System uniform, which continues in use by the rest of the British Armed Forces (source).

7.0 Notable Operations

The 18 Sig Regt and other British special forces have been involved in covert operations in 19 countries in the last twelve years. Due to the secret nature of its mission, its activity inside and outside the country is rarely public. Additionally, the unit’s recent founding and the nature of its role as support means that it receives less consistent media coverage than the more famous UKSF units like the SAS or SBS. The 18 Signal Regiment has been particularly active in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting SAS and SBS operations (source).

Imagen que contiene Mapa

8.0 Summary

The 18 Sig Regt emerged during a period of reform of the British Special Forces. This unit was specifically designed to provide signals intelligence and communications support to other Special Forces units, specifically SAS and SBS. Its success has led the UK authorities to regard it as a useful tool that can be deployed rapidly and safely around the world. In the context of the war on terror, the 18 Sig Reg is more than able to respond to the terrorist threat. 

This unit is therefore an indispensable and highly flexible force on the battlefield, providing indispensable support to the spearheads of the elite units of the British Armed Forces. Its history, training and equipment make the unit highly effective and efficient in its tasks. As a result, it is entrusted by the British military and political authorities with the most dangerous and sensitive missions. In an increasingly hostile world, and given the continuing need to respond to threats, the 18 Sig Reg is more than likely to play an important role wherever British and allied interests lie.

Table of Contents

Related Content

Takeo Yoshikawa: The Spy Behind Pearl Harbor

TYPE:_ Article

The Failed Assassination Affecting US-India Relations

The 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ Europe

Volt Typhoon: Taking US Infrastructure by Storm

Location:_ North America

Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina: The Mexican Marines

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ Latin America

Russian PMCs in Africa: A Situational Assessment

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading intel articles and reports actually enjoyable.

Log in

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading Intelligence Reports and Articles actually enjoyable.

Table of Contents

Contact

Contact

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.