British Special Boat Service joins U.S. strike force in Persian Gulf

Members of the British elite Special Boat Service (SBS) have allegedly joined UK registered oil tankers sailing to the Persian Gulf, The Sun reports. Once there, they will be tasked with monitoring Iranian military activity around the island of Qesham which is home to the country's naval gunboats, claims the Sunday Express.

British Special Boat Service joins U.S. strike force in Persian Gulf
Blazer crest of the Special Bot Service (Picture source: manufacturer)

After the two SBS crews have passed through the Strait of Hormuz, it is reported they will be airlifted off by Royal Navy Merlin helicopters operating out of Oman. The supposed military move comes as the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group arrived for patrols in the Arabian Sea. The U.S. has already deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52H bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

The Special Boat Service (SBS) is an elite special forces unit of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. The SBS can trace its origins back to the Second World War when the Army Special Boat Section was formed in 1940. After the Second World War, the Royal Marines formed special forces with several name changes (Special Boat Company was adopted in 1951 and re-designated as the Special Boat Squadron in 1974) until on 28 July 1987 when the unit was renamed as the Special Boat Service after assuming responsibility for maritime counter-terrorism. Most of the operations conducted by the SBS are highly classified, and are rarely commented on by the British government or the Ministry of Defence due to their sensitive nature.

The Special Boat Service is the maritime special forces unit of the United Kingdom Special Forces and is described as the sister unit of the British Army 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS), with both under the operational control of the Director Special Forces. In October 2001, full command of the SBS was transferred from the Royal Marines to the Royal Navy, while the green beret remained with the Marines. On 18 November 2003, the SBS were given their own cap badge with the motto "By Strength and Guile". This follows opening recruitment from only the Royal Marines to all three services of the British Armed Forces. The SBS has traditionally been manned mostly by Royal Marines Commandos.

The principal roles of the SBS are Special Reconnaissance (SR), including information reporting and target acquisition; Offensive Action (OA), including direction of air strikes, artillery and naval gunfire, designation for precision-guided munitions, use of integral weapons and demolitions; and Support and Influence (SI), including overseas training tasks. The SBS also provides an immediate response to Military Counter Terrorism (CT) and Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) teams.

The operational capabilities of the SBS and the SAS are broadly similar. However, the SBS (being the principal Royal Navy contribution to UKSF) has the additional training and equipment required to lead in the maritime, amphibious and riverine environments. Both units come under the operational command of HQ Directorate of Special Forces (DSF) and undergo an identical selection process. They enjoy significant interoperability in training and on operations.

All of the SBS's four squadrons, C, Z, M and X, are configured for general operations,[10] and rotate through the Maritime Counter Terrorism Role, also known as Black Role. The SBS also operates on land, with recent operations in the mountains of landlocked Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq. Their main tasks include intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism operations (surveillance or offensive action), sabotage and the disruption of enemy infrastructure, capture of specific individuals, close protection of senior politicians and military personnel, plus reconnaissance and direct action in foreign territory.