United Kingdom Special Forces Selection

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United Kingdom Special Forces Selection is the selection and training process for members of the United Kingdom's three regular Special Forces formations: 22 Special Air Service, Special Air Service Reserve, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the SBS (Reserve). Members of the SAS and SBS undergo common selection up to the award of a sand-coloured beret to SAS Troopers whereupon SBS candidates undergo further selection to qualify as Swimmer Canoeists and SAS personnel undergo further specialist training. Until the late 1990s candidates for the SAS and SBS underwent selection under the auspices of the prospective unit.

Selection is reported to be one of the most demanding military training courses in the world with a reported pass rate of less than 10%. It is a test of strength, endurance, and resolve over the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley in Wales, and in the jungle of Belize, taking around six months to complete.[1]

Selection is held twice a year regardless of conditions.[1] Personnel must have a level of prior regular or reserve military experience and for regulars must have at least 39 months of service remaining on completion of selection as well as not exceeding the age of 35. Candidates are limited to a maximum of two attempts with personnel failing being Returned to Unit.[1]

Selection is broken down into a number of phases, beginning with a Briefing Course several weeks in advance of commencement.

Special Forces Briefing Course (1 week)[edit]

POBC and SFBC are designed to give officers and ratings/ORs interested in volunteering for Service with UKSF a clearer understanding of what is involved, what UKSF expects of its officers and soldiers and how to prepare properly for UKSF Selection. The POBC or SFBC are not a method of pre-selection nor is there any obligation to attend a subsequent Selection Course by individuals. To get the most out of these courses, volunteers should aim to attend a course as early as possible, ideally between six and nine months prior to the intended Selection course. Early attendance enables any preparation advice gained during the course to be implemented. Over the week, potential candidates are briefed in detail on Special Forces employment and on the activities during selection. Candidates undertake a map and compass test, a swimming test, a first aid test and a combat fitness test. There are also numerous "DS walkabouts" and runs in the hills. Candidates will be notified of the likelihood of failure on selection and provided with a training programme to prepare for the process.

SAS SFBC[edit]

The SFBC, run by 22 SAS, is held in the UK five times a year and is designed to give ratings and other rank UKSF aspirants an insight into the preparation and selection process for UKSF Selection and subsequent career progression in the SAS. This course should be regarded as the first step in the selection process

SBS SFBC[edit]

The SBS run five SFBC a year, the course lasts five days and involves the following,

  • Presentations on the organisation, role and training of the SBS.
  • Advice on preparation and training for UKSF Selection.
  • Assessment of individual levels of robust fitness and navigational ability.
  • Conduct of UKSF swim assessment and SBS dive acquaints.
  • An individual interview will include advice on the recommended Selection course that should be attended, career implications of a tour with the SBS and pre-course preparation advice.
  • Officer career advice and estimate revision.
  • Army Basic Combat Fitness Test (BCFT). The Battle Swimming test (BST) and for SBS candidates only - a 600m freestyle swim in 15 minutes and a 25 m underwater.
  • Introduction to the Klepper canoe, progressive paddles up to a Course Performance Standard (CPS) of 23 mile canoe in 8 hours open sea and a 6.4 portage run (55 Kg).
  • Six progressive air oxygen dives culminating in a CPS dive.

Aptitude Phase (hill phase) (4 weeks)[edit]

Based at Sennybridge Training Camp in Wales, personnel are exposed to the Brecon Beacons and the Elan Valley where weather conditions are demanding and unpredictable.[1]

The Aptitude Phase is designed to select those individuals who are suitable for SF training. The initial three weeks are devoted to gradual physical training and progressive exercises designed to develop physical and navigational ability.[2] Volunteers will be expected to complete the Basic Combat Fitness Test (Infantry) on the first day of the course. Exercise HIGH WALK will take place on Day 6 and takes the form of an escorted hill march over approximately 23 km.[1] As with all assessment marches, additional time may be added for inclement weather conditions. Exercise HIGH WALK identifies those individuals who are not adequately prepared to continue on the course. All other training during this initial period is directed at preparing volunteers for "Test Week", which is the fourth and final week of Aptitude. "Test Week" consists of five timed marches of between 23 and 28 km conducted on consecutive days followed by a final endurance march of 64 km known as “the long drag”; this must be completed within 20 hours.

Bergan weights carried during "Test Week" increase from 40 lb (18 kg) to 59 lb (27 kg) for the endurance march; in addition, water, food and a rifle are carried on all marches.[1] The marches consist of two based in the Elan Valley and three in the Brecon Beacons, prior to undertaking the long drag. Volunteers are also required to pass the UKSF swimming test that consists of high-water entry (10m), water entry (3m) wearing webbing and carrying rifle followed by a 25m swim and kit handout, treading water for 5 minutes followed immediately by a swim of 200 metres wearing combat 95. The test finishes with an underwater swim of 10 m including a retrieval of a small weight.[1]

Jungle, TTP and SOP training (9 weeks)[edit]

Those who pass the Aptitude Phase will undertake an intensive period of instruction and assessment of SF Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), including SF weapons and SOPs (standard operating procedures). The majority of this period is spent in the jungle, an environment that is suitable for SF training and ideal to achieve the purpose of this phase. Much of the training is aimed at discovering an individual's qualities. The suitability of volunteers is assessed by their reaction to, and ability to cope with a series of situations when under physical and mental pressure, and by close observation by instructors at all times.[2] Volunteers generally underestimate the physical demands of this phase of training and many arrive with a poor standard of basic personal military skills. Part of the TTP and SOP training lasts for 3 weeks and is conducted around the UK. It involves training on UKSF and foreign weapons as well as the standard operating procedures, tactics and techniques of UKSF.

Employment training (14 weeks)[edit]

Employment Training: Those selected then undertake a subsequent period of Employment Training that will provide the additional individual skills necessary for SF service. This period includes the ACSIC (Army Combat Survival Instructor Course) and the SF Parachute Course at RAF Brize Norton. All volunteers must attend and pass ACSIC and those who may have attended a previous course will still be required to pass the entire course again as part of the Selection process.[1] Only on successful completion of Employment Training will volunteers be "badged" and posted to an operational Sabre Squadron within the SBS or 22 SAS.

Employment Training consists of surveillance and reconnaissance training (2 weeks), army combat survival (2 weeks), SF parachute training (4 weeks), Counter terrorist course (3 weeks), signals training (1 week), patrol training and squadron induction training (2 weeks). There is also a 1 week officers week for potential officers. [3]

Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract (4 weeks)[edit]

Personnel undertake Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract training.[4] The test stage for this training phase requires the candidates to undergo an evasion exercise, dressed in greatcoats to restrict movement and operating in small groups. A Hunter Force from the Special Forces Support Group provides a capture threat.

All personnel are required to undergo a Resistance To Interrogation stage for 36 hours; should a candidate reach the objective without capture they will still be subjected to this element. Candidates are placed in physically and mentally uncomfortable positions and must stick to their lines and not give away sensitive information.

Only on successful completion of Employment Training will volunteers be "badged" and posted to an operational Sabre Squadron within 22 SAS. Personnel joining the SBS will conduct additional boat and dive training to achieve the Swimmer-Canoeist (SC) qualification prior to joining an operational squadron. Only on completion of these various other phases of this section of Continuation Training will the candidate be posted to an operational Sabre Squadron or SBS Squadron.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "UK Special Forces Selection". 2014-07-23. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  2. ^ a b "SAS Selection | How To Join The SAS". www.eliteukforces.info. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  3. ^ "Amazon.co.uk: SAS in Action (Parragon Gift Books): Books: Christopher Chant". eb.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  4. ^ "JOINT WARFARE PUBLICATION 3-66 JOINT PERSONNEL RECOVERY" (PDF). Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Extraction. SERE is an inclusive term (of US origin) that has recently superseded phrases previously used such as Escape and Evasion and Conduct After Capture. It encompasses all practical and theoretical measures required to prepare personnel for isolation, captivity and recovery.