Operation Marlborough

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Operation Marlborough
Part of Iraq War
Date July 2005
Location Baghdad, Iraq
United Kingdom SBS Iraqi insurgents
Casualties and losses
None 3 dead
british special forces » special air service » sas operations » operation marlborough

SAS - Operation Marlborough

In July of 2005, an SAS sniper team took up position in the heart of Baghdad. The men were from Task Force Black, a special unit made up of British SAS & SBS along with US Tier One Special Operations units such as Delta Force. They were about to deal a deadly blow to the insurgency.

Just before dawn rush hour in the Iraqi capital, a 16-man SAS troop set up around a domestic residence. The core element of the troop consisted of 4 sniper teams, each armed with L115A (AWM) sniper rifles chambered in .338 lapua. Each team comprised a shooter and a spotter. The rest of the troop provided security, protecting the shooter/spotters and ensuring that all possible escape routes from the house were covered. Troops from Task Force Red, an SFSG quick reaction force, were situated close by in case things went wrong.

High above the city, a US predator spy drone kept the house under video surveillance, beaming its imagery back to the Task Force Black HQ. In addition, listening devices had secreted inside the house and were being monitored by Arabic-speaking translators.

Intelligence supplied by double agents run by MI6 had identified the house as a base for suicide bombers. It was believed that 3 insurgents, each with home-made explosives strapped to their chests were planning to leave and hit targets in the city, most likely cafes and other public establishments.

The SAS considered storming the building but it was decided this was too risky. If any of the insurgents detonated a bomb inside the building its blast would be amplified within the structure. It was decided to engage the insurgents as they exited the house. There would be civilians close by so it was essential to shoot all 3 bombers simultaneously to prevent any of them from detonating their explosives.

l115a The L115a fires the .338 lapua round and can engage targets up to 1100 meters away. It was just past 8am when the insurgents stepped outside onto the street. The command was given over the radio to engage. Simultaneously, 3 SAS snipers opened fire (the 4th was held in reserve to act as a backup). Each insurgent was hit in the head and killed instantly. The .338 lapua round can crack an engine block from hundreds of meters away and thus was utterly devastating against human targets.

Operation Marlborough was a rare successful pre-emptive act against the Iraqi insurgency, one that was the result not just of the SAS's expertise but also of the intelligence gathered by MI6.

Operation Marlborough was the code name of a mission carried out by M squadron Special Boat Service (SBS). The mission involved an SBS sniper team from Task Force Black,[citation needed] in Baghdad, Iraq in July 2005 with 16 men from G Squadron SAS, Special Air Service (SAS). The SBS sniper teams were each armed with .338 Lapua Magnum chambered L115A AWM sniper rifles. Escape routes were watched by the remaining members of the group in case of immediate emergency or escape if and when needed. As back up, Task Force Red, a Special Forces Support Group quick reaction force, was nearby.[1] The sniper team's mission was to kill terrorist insurgents wearing suicide vests laden with explosives that intended to target cafes and restaurants frequented by members of the Iraqi security forces, as gathered by intelligence obtained by Iraqi double agents working for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the CIA.[2]


A similar AWM used by the SBS sniper teams of Operation Marlborough

As the mission commenced, a United States predator spy drone (UAV) had the target building under video surveillance, sending its imagery back to the Task Force Black Headquarters. Listening devices had been placed inside the building and were being monitored by Arabic-speaking translators.[1]

The SBS and SAS troops arrived by a combination of RAF Pumas and Humvees. A unit of American Rangers acted as a cordon for the operation. The SBS hit the compound and were immediately faced with a suicide bomber, the bomber detonated too early to kill any of the commandos. As the SBS commandos started to room clear an RAF Puma with snipers on board took out another suicide bomber with their L115A3. The SBS also killed another suicide bomber in the house. The operation was the first major success for Task Force Black


  1. ^ a b "SBS – Operation Marlborough". Elite UK Forces. July 2005. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  2. ^ Sean Rayment (20 November 2005). "Revealed: SBS mission to kill a Baghdad suicide squad". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 17 August 2010.