Special Duties Unit

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Special Duties Unit
Active23 July 1974 - present
BranchHong Kong Police Force
TypePolice tactical unit
Law enforcement
Underwater search and recovery
SizeOver 120 officers[1]
Part ofPolice Tactical Unit HQ
Nickname(s)Flying Tigers[1]
Motto(s)"Strength, Discipline, Unity"
Tiger head with wings on either side

The Special Duties Unit (SDU; Chinese: 特別任務連; nicknamed 飛虎隊, or "Flying Tigers") is the elite tactical unit of the Hong Kong Police Force tasked with countering terrorist attacks, hostage rescue, underwater search and recovery, and tackling serious crime involving firearms.[2][3][4] The SDU is a subdivision of the Police Tactical Unit which is part of 'A' Department (Operations & Support).[5] The SDU is based at the Police Tactical Unit Headquarters in Fanling.[1]


The SDU was established in 1974 by the British Hong Kong Government in response to the ever-increasing threat of international terrorism.[1][6] The SDU, then consisting of ten odd members, used existing police weaponry and devised their own tactics.[1][7] In early 1978, the British Special Air Service sent an advisory team to Hong Kong, which was initially to evaluate the SDU and subsequently trained two land assault teams resulting in considerable changes to SDU equipment and tactics.[1][8] In 1982, the British Special Boat Service sent an advisory team to Hong Kong to establish a water assault team including training in military diving.[8] The water assault team was later disbanded in 2000, with the assaults teams now integrated as new training standards required all officers to be equally trained and proficient in maritime operations.[citation needed]

External image
Diver wearing rebreather equipped with H&K MP5 in the mid-1990s.[9]

After the handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997, the SDU not only continues its training exchanges with many European, North American, and Asian police tactical units and military special forces units but has also begun to form closer ties with Mainland China.[citation needed] Between 1974 and 2014, the SDU had participated in 162 missions and conducted 335 dive searches.[2]


The Special Duties Unit consists of a support group, administration group, and the action group. The action group is the core of the SDU, further categorized into the assault team and the sniper team. The SDU structure is:-[10]

  • Administration Group (Headquarters) which is responsible for all administrative works, as well as providing intelligence to operations
    • Action Group
      • Assault Teams
        • Team A, Team B, Team C (Training of SDU officers)
        • Sniper Team
      • Boat Team: Provides sea transportation for the assault team, and maintains the SDU fleet of small vessels
    • Support Group
      • Medical Support Team: Consists of combat medics who perform operations along the assault team[11]
      • Transportation Team: Maintains the SDU fleet of land vehicles

The SDU has five Belgian Shepherd dogs.[10]

Selection and Training[edit]

A volunteer for the SDU has to successfully complete an 11-day selection course known as Hell Week which is held annually that has a success rate of only 25%.[2] After successfully completing selection, the applicant is required to complete a nine-month training course that includes weapons handling and marksmanship, tactical movement, unarmed combat, breaching, climbing and roping, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents, and combat medicine.[7][2] Applications are open to women officers, with no women to date serving in the SDU.[3][12] Between 1974 and 2014, 383 officers had served in the SDU.[2]

Prior to 1998, the SDU selection course was 10 to 14 days in length with most of the emphasis placed on physical endurance.[12] In 1998, this changed to a basic four-day selection course with more emphasis on mental attributes than physical ones.[12] Those who successfully passed the basic selection course were given a five-week build-up course followed by a week-long advanced selection course.[12] The course concentrated on weapons handling and use, elementary close-quarter battle, camouflage and concealment, physical fitness, observation and commentary, first aid, and map reading.[12] For the period 1998–99, 44 officers applied with 14 selected.[12]

Equipment and Weapons[edit]

External image
SDU team stack up for entry, various primary weapons, MultiCam uniform, Jankel vehicle and dog.[13]

SDU officers deploy in Crye Precision G3 combat dress of various camouflage patterns depending on the environment. Officers may also deploy in plain clothes during a rapid response when there is no time to change. Armor and accessories include Ops-Core FAST ballistic helmets[14] with attachable night-vision scopes and ear protection, MSA Advantage 1000 CBA-RCA respirators,[2] and Dräger LAR V rebreathers (for tactical diving).[12] Unlike many similar units around the world, SDU officers do not display the word "Police" on their uniform.

Restrictions exist in the sale of firearms from China to Hong Kong, thus the Hong Kong Police has always purchased firearms and equipment from other countries. The SDU primarily uses weapons manufactured in the United States and Europe, and is currently equipped with the Glock 17 handgun,[2] the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun (several variants)[2] and several assault rifles including the SIG Sauer SIG516,[14] Heckler & Koch G36KV[15] and Knight's Armament Company SR-16.[10] Shotguns used are the Remington 870[10] and Benelli M1 Super 90. Snipers rifles used are the Remington 700, Knight's Armament Company SR-25, Accuracy International AXMC .338[2][16] and SIG Sauer SSG 3000.

Mercedes-Benz Unimog armoured vehicle used by the SDU

The SDU has several vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5000 armoured personnel carrier,[17] the Jankel Guardian Tactical Intervention Vehicle based on a Ford F-450 chassis,[2] Mercedes-Benz Vario van and Man LE14.224 truck. The SDU has two types of watercraft the FB Design RIB 55 feet (17 m) high speed interceptor and Zodiac inflatables.[18][2] The Government Flying Service provides aviation support with Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma and Eurocopter EC155 helicopters.

Known Operations[edit]

During a raid in 1992, the Unit was met with heavy resistance by four jewel robbers armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades. Seven officers, including members of the Unit, were severely injured from a grenade blast. As a result of the incident, the Unit's Close Quarters Battle techniques were further refined to fit Hong Kong's unique urban environment and new equipment was added to the unit's arsenal. All suspects were apprehended.[10]

In 2003, Kwai Ping Hung, the most wanted person in Hong Kong, was arrested in his flat in a raid by the Unit with no shots fired. This was the most high-profile arrest made in Hong Kong's history.[10]

When the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005 was held in Hong Kong, the Unit was deployed to protect WTO delegates.[19]

In a heavily televised standoff in June 2014, the Unit was deployed to a flat in a residential skyscraper in Kowloon Bay after a disgruntled man armed with a heavy calibre pistol shot and killed another man in the building and barricaded himself in the flat. Multiple shots were exchanged, along with the use of flashbang grenades, which were clearly seen and heard on live television. Several SDU officers breached the flat through the front door while others rappelled from the roof of the skyscraper and entered the flat through the windows. By the time the officers reached the man, he had shot himself. The man later died from his self-inflicted injury.[10][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f ""Flying Tigers" Roar for Consular Corps". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Royal Hong Kong Police (610 – 25 June to 15 July 1997). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Flying tigers to mark 40th anniversary. Information Services Department (Television production). Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Elite Flying Tigers police squad still soars after 40 years in action". South China Morning Post. 30 August 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  4. ^ "【張德江訪港】海陸嚴防 飛虎水鬼隊潛維港". Apply Daily (in Chinese). 17 May 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  5. ^ "'A' Department (Operations & Support)". Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  6. ^ "香港警隊三大特別部門" [Special Department of Hong Kong Police Force] (in Chinese). Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b "SDU: 40 years of ensuring HK terrorism-free". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force (1021 – 13 to 26 August 2014). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  8. ^ a b Katz, Samuel M. (1995). The Illustrated Guide to the World's Top Counter-Terrorist Forces. Hong Kong: Concord Publication Company. ISBN 9623616023.
  9. ^ "A very special duty – SDU". Royal Hong Kong Police. Archived from the original on 17 June 1997.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "INFOGRAPHIC: Flying tigers". South China Morning Post. 30 August 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  11. ^ "First Force paramedics graduate". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force (688 – 27 Sep to 10 Oct 2000). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "Recruitment refined for SDU hopefuls". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force (661 – 11 to 24 August 1999). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  13. ^ "SDU: 40 years of ensuring HK terrorism-free". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force (1021 – 13 to 26 August 2014). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b Lan, Yao (11 January 2016). "Hong Kong Police College marks 10th anniversary(1/5)". Ecns.cn. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  15. ^ 警訊 - 全新飛虎隊SDU特輯HD version.mpg (Television production) (in Chinese). 27 November 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Accuracy International AXMC datasheet" (PDF). Accuracy International. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  17. ^ "New Armoured Personnel Carrier on the way". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force (889 – 25 February to 10 March 2009). Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  18. ^ "RIB 55'". FB Design. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  19. ^ "HK in tight security for WTO ministerial conference". Xinhua. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  20. ^ "Hong Kong man kills himself after gunfight with police". AsiaOne. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2017.