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On the Special Reconnaissance Regiment

The Army's first new regiment in more than three decades begins operations today, Wednesday 6th April, to provide covert surveillance for Special Forces fighting the international terrorist threat. The Special Reconnaissance Regiment will draw on the experience of undercover soldiers who have conducted successful operations in Northern Ireland. Regimental badge of new Reconnaissance Regiment

The new unit, the first to be formed since the Ulster Defence Regiment in 1970, will have an international and domestic role to provide intelligence to fight terrorism. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said yesterday that the unit was been formed to meet a worldwide demand for "special reconnaissance capability". It will incorporate the surveillance skills learnt by the SAS and other units over decades of carrying out close target reconnaissance missions in enemy territory.

The formation of the regiment will free up a large portion of elite fighting troopers in the SAS and Special Boat Service to carry out the "hard end" of missions. The SAS is finding it difficult to recruit enough soldiers to pass its tough selection course. But an equally rigorous selection test is likely to be used by the new unit, whose troops will have to undertake the arduous task of acting behind enemy lines.

It will absorb the 14th Intelligence Company, nicknamed "14 Int", which was formed to gather intelligence on Ulster terrorists. Recruits undergo a rigorous selection course, equivalent to the Paras' "P Company" training, and are trained by the SAS in close quarter battle. The detachment, which is still operating in Ulster and the Balkans, recruited men and women from all three Services. At its height, 14 Int numbered about 200 troops. The new regiment could have up to 300 troops and will be based alongside the SAS. The new cap badge shows a Corinthian helmet with a sword inserted in the mouth and coming out of the back of the head. A scroll reads: "Reconnaissance".The Ministry of Defence said the cap badge design was related to the SAS and SBS badges, "ensuring conformity within the Special Forces Group.

"The Corinthian-style helmet, favoured by the ancient Greeks from the early 7th to 4th centuries BC. The helmet faces forward and suggests the viewer is being watched while the wearer behind the mask is anonymous."

The articles below should be read in conjunction with Chapter (15) of My Views on Terrorism ‘An overview of US and UK Security Services’.


New regiment will support SAS
New special force targets terror
Britain bolsters its special forces
Britain gets new intelligence regiment
Memo exposes Real IRA terror threat
The armed forces of the future

Taken from the BBC 5 April, 2005.
'New regiment will support SAS'

A new special forces regiment has been set up to support overseas operations - particularly in the fight against terror. Analyst Charles Heyman explains what he thinks the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) will do. Announcing the creation of the SRR on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence gave little away.

It spoke of a unit to "meet the growing need for special reconnaissance capability", adding that it would offer "a wide range of specialist skills and activities related to covert surveillance". The SRR will be between 500 and 600-strong, Mr Heyman says

Specific details were not up for discussion, because it could "compromise security".  Mr Heyman, a senior defence analyst for Jane's Consultancy Group and former Army major sees the regiment as principally supporting the SAS.  "The best way to describe the new unit would be halfway between the SAS and normal infantry," he said.  "The SAS is really organised, equipped and trained for highly surgical small unit missions.  "But at the end of the day, there's a gap between what the SAS can do, because there's so few of them, and normal infantry."

SAS priorities
Mr Heyman compares the role of the new unit, which he estimates will be between 500 and 600-strong, with the American Rangers formation, which operates in large groups.  "These groups can do things like take airfields and get behind the lines - the sort of things you need a lot of people for."  Mr Heyman speculated that the "backbone" of the SRR would be made up from one of the already existing parachute regiment battalions. The SRR could support the "very small" SAS numbers by "getting in and out of an operation", he added.

The new unit had been "necessary for a long time".  "The truth is it's very difficult for the SAS to keep up with all the demands placed on them. "With the new unit, you will be able to prioritise the really difficult things that only the SAS can do.  "You can give other operations to the SRR, thus freeing up the SAS."

Taken from the Scotsman 2005-04-06
New special force targets terror

Key points
• New special forces regiment created to combat international terrorism
• Special Reconnaissance Regiment operational as of today
• 300-400 people to be recruited from existing services

Key quote
"This regiment will provide improved support to expeditionary operations overseas and form part of the defence contribution to the government’s comprehensive strategy to counter international terrorism." - GEOFF HOON, DEFENCE SECRETARY

BRITAIN will today get its first new special forces regiment since the 1950s, with a brief to carry out covert operations against terrorists around the world.  The Special Reconnaissance Regiment is expected to play a key role in hunting down insurgents in Iraq and in the forthcoming UK-led operation against al-Qaeda remnants - including Osama bin Laden - in Afghanistan. Members will be expected to infiltrate terrorist organisations and identify targets to be attacked by other units. The SRR joins the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service in the UK special forces group at a time when other parts of the armed forces, including the Scottish infantry regiments, are suffering swingeing cutbacks.

Operational from today, the new 300 to 400-strong regiment will draw on existing forces for its members and can recruit from all three services.
Some posts will be open to women. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said that the regiment had been formed "to meet a growing worldwide demand for special reconnaissance capability". He said: "This regiment will provide improved support to expeditionary operations overseas and form part of the defence contribution to the government’s comprehensive strategy to counter international terrorism." Mr Hoon said the SRR would begin collecting covert intelligence on threats to British interests around the world.

The new regiment is in addition to the so-called Ranger battalion, which is being formed out of the Parachute regiment, and is part of a major enhancement of the UK’s special forces group launched in 2002 by the British government. It is the first time Britain has formed a regimental-sized special forces unit since the late 1950s, when the SAS was expanded and two regiments were established as part of the reserve Territorial Army. Military sources said it would draw heavily on the British army’s experience of conducting covert intelligence gathering in Northern Ireland. "We want to place electronic ‘bugs’ close to terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden and have agents within the ranks of global terrorist groups," said one army officer. "We got very good at doing this in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, and now we want to transfer this capability to the global war on terrorism." He added: "With terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only way to get a handle on what they are doing is by having high quality intelligence gathering capabilities that get really close to them. "The new SRR gives us that capability and it is going be one of the most active units in the British armed forces over the next couple of years." Once SRR surveillance teams have identified human targets, other units will then eliminate them. It is understood that the new regiment will be based alongside the SAS at Stirling Lines barracks, near Hereford. Although the early phases of training will be based on the SAS selection process, the main training will be very different. Arabic and other Middle East language skills are a top requirement for the recruits, allowing them to blend into Islamic societies on undercover operations.

Taken from Reuters 6th April 05
Britain bolsters its special forces

Britain has bolstered its special forces by adding an elite surveillance regiment to the core SAS and SBS regiments. The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) will provide covert surveillance for the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), as well as for regular troops.

"The creation of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment demonstrates our commitment to shaping our Armed Forces to meet the ongoing challenge of tackling international terrorism," said Defence Minister Geoff Hoon.

The regiment will be based at Hereford, the main headquarters of the SAS. The SRR's badge shows a Corinthian helmet in front of the special forces sword also used on the SAS and the SBS badges. The motto simply reads "reconnaissance". Greek warriors wore the Corinthian helmet between 7th and 4th centuries BC.

The helmet is facing forwards and suggests the viewer is being watched while the wearer of the helmet is hidden, a Ministry of Defence statement said. Last December, Britain announced the formation of a new Ranger regiment, designed to support the special forces, which would take personnel from the regular army, navy and air force.

Taken from the Washington Post 6th April 05
Britain gets new intelligence regiment

London, England, Apr. 6 (UPI) -- The British army launched a new covert regiment Wednesday to provide surveillance for Special Forces in anti-terror operations.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the Special Reconnaissance Regiment was formed to meet a worldwide demand for "special reconnaissance capability," The Telegraph reported. He said the regiment will free a large portion of elite fighting troopers in the SAS and Special Boat Service to carry out the "hard end" of missions.

Many of the soldiers in the fledgling unit are experienced undercover soldiers who have conducted successful operations in Northern Ireland. The unit has a target membership of about 300 soldiers, who will be dispatched to both domestic and international missions. The new unit is the first to be formed in Britain since the Ulster Defense Regiment in 1970.

Taken from DeHavilland Information Services plc.  2005-04-06

Memo exposes Real IRA terror threat

Irish dissident republican groups are planning a terror offensive on mainland Britain in the run-up to the general election, according to a government memo leaked to newspapers. On Tuesday, Tony Blair confirmed the poll will be held on May 5th. The memo from the security services warns civil servants of possible strikes by the Real IRA or Continuity IRA. The Real IRA bombed Omagh in August 1998, killing 29 people.

Last month, police warned that the City of London was under threat from a terrorist attack from the Real IRA and called on businesses to remain vigilant against suspicious behaviour. The leaked document - headed 'restricted information' - claims dissident groups pose a "substantial" threat and are planning to plant bombs or detonate incendiary devices.

"Reporting indicates that Irish republican dissidents are currently planning to mount attacks on the UK mainland," it reads. "Incendiary and small IED (improvised explosive devices) attacks have featured prominently in recent dissident republican campaigns in Northern Ireland, as have postal devices and shooting attacks.”Hoax calls have been made to amplify the disruptive effect of such attacks. "The threat from dissident Irish republicans in the UK mainland is therefore assessed to be: substantial level three."

The news came after defence secretary Geoff Hoon said a new Special Forces regiment was to be set up with a focussed remit to fight terrorism. The "special reconnaissance regiment" is to provide support for those fighting international terrorism. "The new regiment will help to meet the growing need for special reconnaissance capability." Security expert Paul Wilkinson of St Andrew's University is also of the view that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network may try to launch an attack in Britain in the run-up to the general election in a bid to advertise that terrorists were "still in business". The academic flagged up last year's rail bombings in Madrid, days before Spaniards went to the polls, as a case in point. In March last year, al-Qaeda bombed the Madrid railway system killing 191 people days before the Spanish elections.

Taken from the BBC 21 July, 2004 
 The armed forces of the future
The US has pioneered the use of modern precision weapons.
 Modernisation of the armed forces will see a new role for technology and flexibility for warfare "across spectrums".
One of the main aims will be to enhance the UK's ability to mount expeditionary warfare - operations in far-flung areas of the globe.
Defence priorities are continuing to shift with the prospect of fighting in central Europe now fading into memory.
Instead, difficult operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are the blueprint.
The UK is building two new aircraft carriers

Conservatives have concerns about the government's desire to press ahead with incorporating a US-style technological approach to defence, worry the emphasis will shift from skills and personnel to systems.  One of the buzz-words is "network-enabled", with defence chiefs hoping that vehicles and personnel can be fully connected to computers and advanced communication technology, as the Americans are doing.

Ian Kemp, news editor of Jane's Defence Review, said: "We can't afford the same level of technology as the US... but there will be integrated command and control systems, surveillance satellites, unmanned vehicles. "There will also be a much greater emphasis on precision strikes, Tomahawk missiles, or ground forces who have more precision strike weapons."  Mr Kemp said there would be less emphasis on the numbers of "platforms" and more on the weapons they had. One example of the new integrated technology is the Future Rapid Effects System, a new medium-weight armoured vehicle, which is both "network-enabled" and designed to be deployed by air. Mr Kemp described it as the "biggest programme the Army has ever undertaken".

Among the technology emphasised by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon were the £130m Soothsayer programme to monitor enemy radar and communications, the Watchkeeper unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and the Bowman radio system. Many of the new sensor systems and surveillance and precision strike technology will also be vital for counter-terrorism operations. The government has also indicated there will be an "enhancement" of special forces, although it is keeping the plans secret.

New planes
Mr Kemp said the British armed forces had already shown their flexibility and ability to fight across spectrums, ranging from the light forces used in the Falklands, to the heavy forces deployed in the first Gulf war. And the modernisation plans comes as the UK is increasing its ability to deploy forces abroad, with six new roll-on, roll-off ferries, and the leasing of four giant C-17 cargo planes, leased from the Americans, which can carry Apache attack helicopters or Chinooks around the world.

The MoD is also looking forward to the delivery, in 2010, of the A400 aircraft, midway between a smaller Hercules aircraft, and the C-17s. The new gear is all part of the aim to be deploy equipment quickly to difficult locations, such as Afghanistan, which is landlocked. While the radical changes go on, there will also be more conventional development of the armed forces, with work beginning on two modern aircraft carriers, which will hold the new Joint Strike Fighter developed by the US. Mr Kemp said there would continue to be scrutiny of the MoD's "smart procurement" process with pressure to deliver big projects more punctually and without over-running costs.

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