While this node has very briefly touched on the Australian SAS, I believe they deserve a full writeup, and this node seems the most relevant place for it.
The Australian SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) was activated in 1957, built in the same mould as the British SAS. They are the elite special forces unit of the Australian army, whose skills range across water, air and land operations. Based in Swanborne Barracks in Perth, they are protected by high secrecy, provided by the defense forces and government. Names of operatives are released ONLY once they have either retired, or have lost their life through combat.
The number of SAS members is a highly guarded secret, but rumor says that there are around 600 to 700 members. These members are divided up into 6 main squads, with several other minor squads. The main squads are:
The 'support' squads consist of:
- Base Squad
- Training Squad
- Several other 'specialist' support squads for the Sabre squads
The actual activites each squad participates in and their specific roles in the army
aren't known, aside from educated guessing, due to the high level of secrecy around the unit.
Due to the SASR being the highest rated unit in the Australian army, selection is extremely tough and demanding. Application is only open to those ranked Corporal or higher, and of those, less than 10% will ever be accepted. After initial application, applicants are sent an information pack on what is required of them and where the training will be hosted, which is currently at Polkobon Ranges in Western Australia.
The initial training group is a combined group of SASR applicants and 4RAR applicants (Australian Commando Division). After three weeks, those in training for the 4RAR break away and continue with their training elsewhere.Men not up to the task are also returned to their normal army divisions. After the 6 week initial training, anyone not up to the task is returned to their divisions, while the rest embark on a further 12 months training in all parts of the country. Some courses undertaken in this time are:
If any member fails even one of these courses, they are immediately returned to their regular army division. This serves to ensure only the best become SASR members.
In an effort to make the training as real as possible, the SASR training operatives use live ammunition in all exercises. This has the unfortunate side effect of an annual casualty rate of 3%. Indeed, the SASR have suffered many more deaths during training operations than when involved in actual conflict.
"Just how stressful and hazardous this training is can be appreciated from the following statistics. During the period 1979 to 1998 (twenty years), 2346 personnel served in SASR. Of those personnel, 25 have been killed, 770 have been injured (35 seriously) with a disability rating either permanent partial or permanent full. These statistics indicate a 32.8% injury rate for personnel serving in SASR."
Excerpt from a submission to the Australian government dealing with SASR pension eligibility
The training is in fact so good, American special forces personnel are regularly sent to train alongside the SARS (the exchange information form for US forces can be seen at the bottom of this page: http://www.specwarnet.com/oceana/sasr.html).
For the first decade, the SASR members main weapon was the M-16A1, however this was replaced by the M-4 Carbine after the Vietnam War. Lightweight and firing at up to 1,000 rounds per minute, in the hands of highly trained personnel, it is extremely lethal. It can also be fitted with a M-203 grenade launcher.
Another weapon carried by SASR personnel is the Minimi/M-249, which uses the same size ammo as the M-4, allowing 1 type of magazine to work between both weapons. Depending on the type of mission being carried out, they also use the full range of H&K sub machine guns such as the MP-5.
For rapid transport, the SASR use a specially modified Land Rover 110. Fast and built for rugged terrain, it has 2 machine gun mounts, one facing forward, the other backward, it is ideal for covering vast distances, such as those of the Iraqi desert, and for conducting short and sharp missions against the enemy.
Other weapons can be used, but are tailored to each individual soldiers role and preference.
The SASR have been involved in combat operations relatively soon after its full inception, beginning with troops being deployed to Borneo in 1963, where they spent long periods of time on patrol in the thick jungles that exist there, gathering intelligence and using guerilla tactics to defeat enemies. Immediately after, SASR troops were sent into Vietnam as part of the Australian troops commited to the war. Here they earned the nickname "Phantoms of The Jungle" from the enemy Viet Cong, due to their strong intelligence work deep behind enemy lines, as well as their well orchestrated ambushes and small offensives. They had an incredible kill ratio of 500 to 1, and won 4 Victoria Crosses for their service.
Their next main operation was (apparently) assisting in operations around Mogadishu, Somalia in 1994, (if anyone has information on this, please /msg me.), however some rumors exist that SASR members were in action during the 1991 Gulf War. This, however, has never been confirmed. They also played a major role in the East Timor peace keeping missions between 1999 and 2002, gathering intelligence on rebel movements and plans.
Most recently though, the SASR have participated in operations in Afghanistan and the current Gulf War. While their operations and actions in these 2 recent conflicts have been closesly guarded, they have received praise for their professionalism and calmness under extreme pressure. In one incident during Operation ANACONDA, a Navy SEAL fell from a helicopter and immediately came under heavy fire from enemies. A few hours later 2 rescue helicopters with reinforcements arrived, however one was shot down, stranding more troops in the crossfire. The SASR played a pivotal role in organising and executing a rescue operation. They saved the lives of 36 Americans. It is acts like this that have earned them the respect of the entire world.
The activities of the SASR in the current Gulf War are being very closely guarded by defense personnel, but it is believed that they were operating secret missions inside Iraq up to a week before the war officially begun, and have forever since been at the very front lines, gathering much needed intelligence, as well as directing air strikes and conducting small lightning raids on enemy positions such as anti aircraft guns and surface to air missle batteries.
It is little wonder that Australian Special Air Service Regiment are regarded as one of the best special forces units in the world. (Then again, being a proud Australian, I may be a bit biased)