Special Duties Unit

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Special Duties Unit
特別任務連 (Chinese)
Special Duties Unit (2021)
Active23 July 1974 – present
AgencyHong Kong Police Force
TypePolice tactical unit
Part ofPolice Tactical Unit
Headquarters1 Wu Tip Shan Road, Fanling
Motto"Strength, Discipline, Unity"
Common nameFlying Tigers[1]
OfficersOver 120[1]
SubunitsSee Organisations
Significant operation(s)See Known operations

The Special Duties Unit (SDU; Chinese: 特別任務連), nicknamed the "Flying Tigers" (Chinese: 飛虎隊), 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]


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

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 consists of the following as of 2014:[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 female officers to date.[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]

Mercedes-Benz Unimog armoured vehicle used by the SDU

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[13] 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, most of the SDU officers do not display the word "Police" on their uniforms.

The SDU mainly uses firearms manufactured in the United States and Europe, and its latest equipment primarily include the Glock 17 handgun,[2] the HK MP5 submachine gun, and the SIG Sauer SIG516 assault rifle.[13] Shotguns include 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][14] Accuracy International AS50[15] and SIG Sauer SSG 3000.

In 2020, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, placed restrictions on the sale of military equipment to Hong Kong following the passing of the national security law. As a consequence, an order of 1000 replacement MPX submachine guns and SIG516 assault rifles for the SDU and other units placed in early 2021 was cancelled by SIG Sauer, and the Hong Kong police will need to source firearms elsewhere for all units, including the SDU. [16]

The SDU has several land 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 to support its maritime operations; 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]

External image
image icon SDU team stack up for entry, various primary weapons, MultiCam uniform, Jankel vehicle and dog.[19]
  • 1992: During a raid, the Unit was met with heavy resistance by four jewel robbers armed with AK 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]
  • 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]
  • 2005: During the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005 in Hong Kong, the Unit was deployed to protect WTO delegates.[20]
  • 2014: In a heavily televised standoff, 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 suicide.[10][21]
  • 2019: During the Christchurch mosque shootings, two members of the Unit training in Christchurch helped respond to the shooting alongside local police by providing medical treatment to victims of the attacks.[22]
  • 2019-2020: During the anti-extradition protests, SDU operators as part of the Special Tactical Contingent (STC) took part in dispersing and arresting protestors.[23][24] STC officers were accused of using excessive force during arrests with an Amnesty International field investigation finding that the STC was responsible for "the worst violence" by the police force.[25] Apple Daily and New Tang Dynasty Television reported that SDU operators disguised as protesters provoked fights with protestors in order for them to be arrested.[26] Newtalk reported that SDU operators disguised as protestors committed illegal acts such as setting fire on the street as part of a false flag operation.[27] Police arrested a Hong Kong Museum of History employee for obstruction who uploaded photos to social media of a SDU observation post in the museum that was observing the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.[28][29]

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. No. 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 Flying tigers to mark 40th anniversary. Information Services Department (Television production). Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 3 August 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. 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. No. 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.[page needed]
  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 "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. No. 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. No. 661 – 11 to 24 August 1999. Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b Lan, Yao (11 January 2016). "Hong Kong Police College marks 10th anniversary(1/5)". Ecns.cn. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Accuracy International AXMC datasheet" (PDF). Accuracy International. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  15. ^ Mingpao
  16. ^ Cheng, Selina (16 February 2021). "Czech supplier says it will not sell arms to Hong Kong police after US order blocked by sanctions". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  17. ^ "New Armoured Personnel Carrier on the way". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force. No. 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. ^ "SDU: 40 years of ensuring HK terrorism-free". Offbeat – the electronic newspaper of the Hong Kong Police Force. No. 1021 – 13 to 26 August 2014. Hong Kong Police Force. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  20. ^ "HK in tight security for WTO ministerial conference". Xinhua. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  21. ^ "Hong Kong man kills himself after gunfight with police". AsiaOne. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  22. ^ "New Zealand terror attacks: Armed Hong Kong police joined the rescue operations, authorities confirm". 25 March 2019.
  23. ^ "警武器升級 疑飛虎狙擊手戒備". Ming Pao Daily News (in Chinese). 19 November 2011. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020.}
  24. ^ Leung, Christy (19 November 2019). "Police respond to more menacing mob attacks by bringing out lethal anti-riot weapons not used earlier in unrest". South China Morning Post. Yahoo News. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Hong Kong: Arbitrary arrests, brutal beatings and torture in police detention revealed". Amnesty International. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  26. ^ "飛虎扮示威者挑打鬥再拉人". Apple Daily (in Chinese). 11 August 2019. Archived from the original on 6 July 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  27. ^ "銅鑼灣放火暴徒 網友肉搜竟是飛虎隊假扮的". Newtalk (in Chinese). 12 August 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  28. ^ Wan, Cindy (19 November 2019). "Police up the ante with live rounds and snipers". The Standard. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  29. ^ "博物館前職員涉公開飛虎隊行動 否認阻差辦公受審". Oriental Daily (in Chinese). 22 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2021.