Special Duties Unit

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Special Duties Unit
Hong-Kong-Police-Force-Special-Duties-Unit-Insignia- 57.jpg
Special Duties Unit Insignia
Active July 23, 1974 - present
Country Hong Kong
Type Paramilitary/Civilian Law Enforcement
Role Counterterrorism, hostage rescue, VIP protection, underwater operations.
Size Over 140 officers
Part of Hong Kong Police Force
Nickname(s) Flying Tigers
Motto(s) "Strength, Discipline, Unity"
Ian Christopher Strange
Tiger head with wings on either side

The Special Duties Unit (Abbreviation: SDU; Chinese: 特別任務連, nicknamed Flying Tigers 飛虎隊) is Hong Kong's main elite paramilitary special operations unit, and part of the Hong Kong Police Force.

Established in 1974 by the British Hong Kong government and trained by the Special Air Service (SAS), the SDU is arguably one of Asia's finest and most well-known special operations units. Officers in the Unit take on both law enforcement and paramilitary roles in sea, air, and land. The Unit's primary functions include counterterrorism, hostage rescue, underwater operations, and responding to active crimes involving firearms. Membership in the Unit is highly secretive and known only to close family members, thus all officers wear masks during operations to protect their identities.

The SDU is a subdivision of the Police Tactical Unit (PTU) of the Hong Kong Police Force, and is headquartered in Fanling.[1] The current commanding officer of the unit is Superintendent Ian Christopher Strange.


The establishment of the SDU can be traced back to an incident on March 13, 1971, when a Philippine Airlines flight was hijacked and forced to land at Hong Kong's old Kai Tak Airport. Though the incident was resolved peacefully, the Hong Kong government became concerned that a similar incident would occur in the future. A Sharpshooter Team was assembled in 1973,and reorganized in 1974 into the unit known today.[2]

The Unit was organized with assistance from members of the British SAS, and maintains close ties to similar units in many countries. After the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997, the Unit not only continues its training exchanges with many European, North American, and South-East Asian special operations units and police forces, but has also begun to form closer ties with China.


The Unit consists of the following sections and teams:[3]

  • Operations Section
    • Assault Team: Further organized into multiple smaller squads
    • Sniper Team
  • Training and Support Section
    • Training Team: Oversees regular training and recruitment
    • Support Team
      • Maritime Counterterrorism Boat Team: Provides sea transportation for the assault team, and maintains the Unit's fleet of small vessels
      • Medical Support Team: Consists of combat medics who perform operations along the assault team
  • Administration Section
    • Communications Team: Provides intelligence and mission coordination to the Unit
    • Armory: Maintains the Unit's weapons and equipment
    • Close Quarters Battle House: Maintains Asia's most advanced training simulation facility
    • Transportation Team: Maintains the Unit's fleet of land vehicles

Selection and Training[edit]

To maintain the Unit's high standards, recruitment exercises are not open to the general public. To qualify for recruitment, one must have a minimum of two years of service in the Hong Kong Police Force and preferably have served in the PTU.[4] One must also be a non-smoker and non-drinker. The selection process is very stringent, with a drop-out rate of over 75%. The Unit also organizes frequent training exercises with other similar units from around the world to maintain its high standards.

The Unit does not enforce a retirement age, due to its emphasis on overall personal capability rather than physical prowess alone. An officer only retires when he or she wishes to resign, or has become incapable of fulfilling his or her duties.

Equipment and Weapons[edit]

Mercedes-Benz Unimog armored vehicle used by the SDU

SDU officers currently deploy in olive green for urban operations and MultiCam for rural operations, replacing the navy blue jumpsuits worn throughout most of the Unit's history. Officers may also deploy in plain clothes during a rapid response when there is no time to change. Unlike many similar units around the world, all SDU officers wear balaclava hoods or gas masks at all times to protect their identities. Also unlike many similar police units, SDU officers do not wear patches or display the word "Police" on their uniform.

The Unit is currently equipped with the following weapons and equipment:[5]


  • Ops-Core FAST ballistic helmet
  • MICH 2000, 2001

Eye protection

  • Bolle X500, X800
  • Various Oakley goggles and glasses
  • ESS ballistic glasses

Balaclava hood

  • Fire resistant with one-hole opening

Battle Dress

Combat Boots

  • Adidas GSG9
  • Crispi SWAT HTG


  • Avon FM12
  • MSA Advantage 1000 CBA-RCA

Tactical Vests

  • MSA Paraclete Releasable Modular Vest
  • Tactical Tailor Fight Light Plate Carrier
  • Blackhawk Omega Tactical Vest


Submachine Guns

  • Heckler & Koch MP5[6] (several variants)

Assault Rifles


Sniper Rifles


Recent notable 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.

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.

When the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005 was held in Hong Kong, the Unit was deployed to protect WTO delegates.[9]

In a heavily televised standoff in 2014, the Unit was deployed to a flat in a residential skyscraper in Kowloon Bay after a disgruntled man armed with a heavy-caliber 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 repelled 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""Flying Tigers" Roar for Consular Corps". Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  2. ^ "Unofficial SDU History Page" (in Chinese). Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  3. ^ "SD". police20020.tripod.com. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  4. ^ "Unofficial SDU Training Page". Archived from the original on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  5. ^ "INFOGRAPHIC: Flying tigers". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2017-01-19. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Unofficial SDU weapons and equipment page". Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  7. ^ http://www.singtao.ca/tor/2008-11-14/1226649576d1427462.html
  8. ^ New Armoured Personnel Carrier on the way
  9. ^ "HK in tight security for WTO ministerial conference". Xinhua. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  10. ^ "Hong Kong man kills himself after gunfight with police". AsiaOne. Retrieved 2017-01-19.