By: Warren Gray
Editor’s Note: This article is the second part in a three-part series. Read part one here.
Lewis Page, former editor of The Register, wrote on October 5, 2012, that:
“(James) Bond-style skills—unarmed combat, scuba diving, freefall parachuting, demolitions, evasive and pursuit driving in civilian cars—are also rare...But there is a group in the armed forces where such skills become quite common, namely in the Special Forces. One SF formation, the relatively obscure Special Reconnaissance Regiment, is particularly Bond-like in the skills it teaches its operatives.
“SRR soldiers learn to drive like lunatics, often in cars loaded with Q-Branch gadgetry (hidden, optical and thermal cameras, special radios, and microphones.) They are also intensely trained in fighting with concealable weapons, and as such are probably the best combat pistol shots in Britain, and second-to-none worldwide. They are also taught to operate undercover in plain clothes, and in various other Bond-like skills, such as unobtrusive breaking-and-entering, the photographing of documents, and dirty fighting with bare hands or improvised weapons.
“An SRR recruit normally joins the unit from the regular forces, but some are on secondment tours from the other ‘Tier One,’ Special Forces units (SRR is considered ‘Tier Two’), the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service...(and) may also have acquired most of the rest of James Bond’s skill set: explosives expert, frogman, skydiver, and so on. Such things are absolutely not discussed publicly.”
In 2006, an ultra-secretive British Special Forces unit called E Squadron (or “The Increment”) was formed, comprised of selected members of the SAS, SBS, and SRR, with a mandate to work closely with the shadowy, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known informally in popular culture as Military Intelligence, Section 6 (MI6), on covert missions requiring “maximum discretion,” in places that were “off the radar and considered dangerous.” The squadron normally operates in plain clothes, with the full range of national support, such as fake passports, at its disposal.
Lewis Page noted that, “An E-Squadron...operator can expect to go overseas under a fake, cover identity (or perhaps multiple identities), without diplomatic immunity, wearing plain clothes and armed with concealed weapons, and thus he or she certainly has a ‘license to kill’ if the operation requires it, though military types are more likely to use terms such as ‘rules of engagement’ and ‘escalation of force’ to describe the rules governing their use of lethal methods...The E-Squadron types would be crack shots, lunatic drivers, skydivers and/or frogmen as required, dab hands with a lump of plastic explosive, and deadly even when unarmed.
“SRR operatives (the preferred term is ‘operators’) have at times carried Walter PPK pistols. However, a few female operatives, physically too small to easily handle a full-size, 9mm pistol or conceal one about their person, are known to have carried PPKs as their main handgun, like James Bond.”
Special Reconnaissance Regiment personnel receive essentially the same firearms training as SAS and SBS commandos and have access to the same weapons as the SAS at Credenhill. Their most-common, assault rifle is the Colt Canada L119A2 (C8 SFW or C8 CQB carbine variants), with some older, HK33 and HK53 carbines still in use, and H&K G36K and G36C carbines have been employed in Afghanistan, while longer-range rifles include the HK417A2 in 7.62mm NATO for team marksmen.
The 5.56mm ammunition used is the new (as of 2016), 62-grain, BAE Systems L31A1 Enhanced-Performance round with an all-steel core and copper jacket, for improved target penetration, while the 7.62mm ammunition is the new, 155-grain, L59A1 High-Performance round with a steel tip inside the copper jacket.
SRR weapons are primarily for close-range, self-defense, not for offensive operations, though, so SAS sniper rifles such as the Accuracy International L115A2/A4 Arctic Warfare AWM in .338 Lapua Magnum, and the lighter, super-accurate, Israeli-made, DAN .338 sniper rifle are very rare in the ultra-secret, reconnaissance unit.
Until recently, the H&K MP5 submachine gun was quite popular, and in widespread use, especially the ultra-small, MP5KA1 variant and the suppressed MP5SD3, but its 9mm pistol ammunition has proven less-than-satisfactory against enemy insurgents wearing body armor, so MP5s are gradually being replaced by L119A2 CQB models, and the much-newer, LWRCI (of Cambridge, Maryland, USA) M6A2 Ultra-Compact, Individual Weapon (UCIW), a radically shortened, M4A1 carbine variant with a seven-inch barrel, often used with a SureFire suppressor to tame the fierce muzzle blast.
Available service pistols include the older L105A2 (SIG P226R) or L107A1 (SIG P228), or the current, standard L131A1 (Glock-17) or L137A1 (Glock-19.) Some Walther PPKs in either 7.65mm (.32 ACP), 9mm Kurz (.380 ACP), or .22 Long Rifle (formerly used primarily by female operators of 14 Int.) are apparently available, mostly as small, backup weapons, but they clearly lack the magazine capacity or stopping power of a larger, 9mm handgun.
The SAS and SBS specifically requested high-velocity (1,320 fps), Federal 9mm, 95-grain, jacketed soft point (JSP) ammunition (#XM9R01) in the past, before hollowpoints were authorized, but in mid-2017, according to the Express and Daily Star, they ordered the very-deadly, 92-grain, G2 Research Radically-Invasive Projectile (RIP) ammunition (#G2R9MMRIP, at 1,250 fps), in which each round rapidly fragments into eight sharp pieces of solid copper with a blunt core piece, creating nine separate wound channels, for dangerous, counterterrorist operations. This exotic, new round was already reportedly in combat use by U.S. Special Forces, undoubtedly including Delta Force.
For plainclothes missions, where concealment is a major factor, the super-compact UCIW and Glock-19 are especially effective in close-range engagements. The compact, well-balanced, and battle-proven Glock-19, in particular, was already the favored handgun of the U.S. Special Forces, Delta Force, the CIA, the FBI, Air Force Special Operations Command, and more-recently, the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, and U.S. Navy SEALs. It was already in widespread, international use with the Australian Special Operations Command, French Army Special Forces Brigade, Iraqi security forces, Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), Swiss Police, Yemeni armed forces, and countless other organizations.
The rugged, American-made, Blackhawk UK-SFK (United Kingdom-Special Forces Knife), now discontinued by the manufacturer, but still available for online purchase (about $155) in limited numbers, was specifically designed for British Special Forces units, and Sheffield Knives of Sheffield, England, still produces the venerable, combat-proven, SHE006 Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger, 3rd Pattern, of World War II fame, for the Royal Marine Commandos (officially) and SAS (unofficially.) Scorpion Knives of Sheffield also makes a wide variety of military and survival knives, including Fairbairn-Sykes models, and the UKSF certainly carry various privately-owned knives on operations in the field.
Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, eight more military qualification badges, two command badges, 19 U.S. military medals, and three foreign medals. He also earned four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.webs.com.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: By Vladimir Dudak - my personal camera BENQ DC740, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3019563