Special Reconnaissance Regiment
|Special Reconnaissance Regiment|
Cap badge of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment
|Active||6 April 2005 – present|
|Part of||United Kingdom Special Forces|
|Engagements||Dissident Irish Republican campaign|
|Director Special Forces|
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment, or SRR, is a special reconnaissance unit of the British Army. It was established on 6 April 2005 and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) under the command of Director Special Forces, alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).
The regiment conducts a wide range of classified activities related to covert surveillance and reconnaissance. The SRR draws its personnel from existing units and can recruit volunteers from any serving male or female member of the British Armed Forces.
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment conducts surveillance operations mainly concerning, but not limited to, "counter-terrorism" activities. It was formed to relieve the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service of that role and is believed to contain around 500–700 personnel. Media reports state they are based alongside the Special Air Service in Hereford.
The SRR was formed to meet a demand for a special reconnaissance capability identified in the Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter published in 2002 in response to the 2001 September 11 attacks.
The regiment was active during the Iraq War as part of Task Force Black/knight, although members of other British Special forces units were sceptical of the value of the regiment, by mid-2006 a handful of SRR operators were operating in Baghdad. They formed Special Reconnaissance detachments that were commanded by SRR officers the force was made up of Task Force Black/knight operators who carried out difficult surveillance missions throughout the city.
Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes
On 22 July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by armed police officers on a London Underground train at Stockwell tube station. Three media reports carry unconfirmed assertions by unattributed UK government sources that SRR personnel were involved in the intelligence collection effort leading to the shooting and on the tube train whilst the offensive action occurred. A partial Ministry of Defence response was reported by The Sunday Times.
War in Afghanistan (2001–2014)
On 27 June 2006, a 16-man unit from C Squadron, Special Boat Service and the SRR carried out Operation Ilois: an operation that covertly captured four Taliban leaders in compounds on the outskirts of Sangin, Helmand province. As they returned to their Land Rover vehicles, they were ambushed by an estimated 60 to 70 Taliban insurgents, with one vehicle disabled by Rocket-propelled grenade fire, the team took cover in an irrigation ditch and requested assistance whilst holding off against the Taliban force. The Helmand Battle Group had not been informed of the operation until it went wrong; a Quick reaction force made up of a platoon of Gurkhas responded but ran into another insurgent ambush; one SBS member was seriously injured in the ambush. After an hour (some sources say 3)-long gunfight, Apache attack helicopters, the Gurkha Quick reaction force and the 16-man unit, supported by a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt and 2 Harrier GR7s managed to break contact and return to the closest forward operating base; two of the four Taliban leaders were killed in the firefight whilst the other two escaped in the chaos. Upon reaching the forward operating base it was discovered that Captain David Patten, SRR, and Sergeant Paul Bartlett, SBS were missing – one was helping wounded out of a vehicle when he was shot and assumed killed, whilst the second went missing during the firefight. A company from the Parachute Regiment in an RAF Chinook took off to find them, a pair of Apaches spotted the bodies and the Parachute Regiment troops recovered them. One SBS member was awarded the MC for his actions in the ambush.
In March 2009, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde informed the Northern Ireland Policing Board that he had asked for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to be deployed in Northern Ireland to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) gather intelligence on dissident republicans. He claimed that they would have no operational role and would be fully accountable, as required by the St Andrews Agreement. Deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams condemned the move, whilst Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Ian Paisley, Jr. said the SRR "poses absolutely no threat to any community in Northern Ireland". The SRR troops were reportedly withdrawn in 2011, but were sent back to Northern Ireland in 2015 to help detect and prevent attempted attacks by the Real Irish Republican Army and Continuity Irish Republican Army.
In late 2015, it was reported there were approximately 60 Special Reconnaissance Regiment plain-clothed and unarmed surveillance troops operating in Northern Ireland, including in unmarked vehicles.
Yemen and Somalia
In April 2016, it was revealed that members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment were seconded to MI6 teams in Yemen to train Yemeni forces fighting AQAP, as well as identifying targets for drone strikes, along with the SAS, they have been carrying out a similar role in Somalia.
Personnel retain the uniforms of their parent organisations with the addition of an "emerald grey" coloured beret and the SRR cap badge. The cap badge shares Excalibur in common with the other UKSF units, in the case of the SRR being placed behind a Corinthian helmet, surmounting a scroll inscribed RECONNAISSANCE. The stable belt of the SRR is similar in style to that of the SAS, however, being midnight blue, it is darker.
- Russia – 45th Spetsnaz Regiment
- France – 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment
- Israel – Sayeret Matkal
- United States – Intelligence Support Activity
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