SAS and Elite Forces Guide Special Forces in Action: Elite Forces Operations, 1991-2011


In 1991, Coalition forces were active deep inside Iraq, hunting down SCUD missiles and their launchers before they could be fired. In 2011, special forces were responsible for the assassination of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. In the intervening 20 years, elite military formations played an increasingly important role in the policing of the modern world.


Special Forces in Action is a detailed account of the operations of the world’s special forces ...

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In 1991, Coalition forces were active deep inside Iraq, hunting down SCUD missiles and their launchers before they could be fired. In 2011, special forces were responsible for the assassination of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. In the intervening 20 years, elite military formations played an increasingly important role in the policing of the modern world.


Special Forces in Action is a detailed account of the operations of the world’s special forces from 1991 to the present day. From the Gulf War to the invasion of Iraq, via the war in Afghanistan, the search for war criminals in the Balkans, drug baron hunting in South America, hostage rescues in Africa, and the counter-terrorist initiatives since 9/11, the book brings the reader full details of the often clandestine and varied roles of the world’s elite soldiers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762782857
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Series: SAS Series
  • Edition description: Elite Forces Operations from 1991-2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,358,455
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

A military analyst of many years’ experience, Alexander Stilwell has written The Encyclopedia of Survival Techniques, The Elite Forces Manual of Mental & Physical Endurance and Special Forces Today, and regularly contributes to the International Defence Review. He lives near London.

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Read an Excerpt

Sierra Leone faces the Atlantic  Ocean and has one of the largest  natural harbours in the world next to the  capital, Freetown. The mountains that  surround Freetown were named by the  Portuguese navigators of the sixteenth  century the Serra Leoa, or Lion  Mountains. Most of the coast consists  of swamps and lagoons, the Peninsula  mountains around Freetown being an  exception.

Inland, the northern part of the  country is largely savanna, while the  south consists of rolling woodland  interspersed with hills that rise  abruptly from the forest. There is a  mixture of savanna and hill country  with some substantial mountains in  the northeast.

There are nine major rivers running  through the country, which are not  navigable in their inland sections. The  rivers contain crocodiles, alligators,  manatees and hippopotamuses.

The rainy season runs from May to  October and the dry season from  November to April. In general, the  climate is warm and humid.

The various villages now tend to be  arranged along a road and less  frequently in the traditional circular  manner. Freetown itself contains two  approaching helicopters.

A soldier of the 1st Battalion The  Parachute Regiment on patrol  near Yeliwor Island, Sierra Leone  in May 2000.

Operation Palliser  (British assault on RUF  forces)  Operation Khukri  (Operation to free  Gurkha Rifles at Kuiva)  Operation Basilica



Hostage rescue  in Sierra Leone

The SAS Hostage  Rescue Team flies into  Gberi Bana by Chinook.  3 The hostages are  rescued and evacuated.  4 SAS Land Rovers  provide fire support for  the rescue.  5 1 Para is inserted in  Magbeni to take on the  main West Side Boys  force.  6 1 Para Support  Company provide  mortar fire support.  7 A Sierra Leonean  Hind and British Lynx  provide top cover for  the operation.  Soldiers of the Australian SASR in a Land Rover Perentie Long Range  Patrol Vehicle after capturing Al-Asad air base as part of Operation  Falconer.


Australian Special Air Service  Regiment (SASR)

The Australian SASR was first established as the 1st Special  Air Service Company, Royal Australian Regiment in 1957. It  was later renamed the Australian Special Air Service  Regiment in 1964.  The Regiment is closely allied to its British and New Zealand  counterparts and they use the same winged dagger badge  with the motto ‘Who Dares Wins’. The selection processes  and roles are also similar.  Apart from the British SAS, the Australian SAS also has roots  in the Australian ‘Z’ special force of World War II fame as well  as the Independent Companies that operated in the Pacific.  The Regiment took part, alongside the British and New  Zealand SAS, in operations in Borneo in 1965 against  Indonesian incursions and insurgency. In 1966 the Regiment  deployed, again with the New Zealand SAS, to Vietnam where  it carried out a variety of reconnaissance missions.



US Army Special Forces in HMWWVs patrol south of Najaf after a heavy  battle with Iraqi forces the previous night, March 2003.

Combined Joint Special  Operations Task Force–West  (CJSOTF–West)

The core unit for CJSOTF–West was  US 5th Special Forces Group.  Additional forces were provided by  the British Special Air Service (SAS)  and by the Australian Special Air  Service Regiment (SASR). The  Australians also provided an  additional elite component in the  form of the 4th Battalion Royal  Australian Regiment (Commando),  operating as Task Force 64. There  was also a deployment of US Air  Force Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Command  Navy SEALs.

The mission was similar to that in  the 1991 Gulf War, the major  difference being that, unlike the  previous deployment, coalition forces  would be invading Iraq. The forward  reconnaissance provided by some of  the US ‘A’ Teams and their allied  counterparts would therefore have a  direct impact on the course of the  invasion.

Yet another component of special  forces in the western sector, known  as Task Force 20, worked with  intelligence agents to track down

Ba’ath Party Members and members  of the Fedayeen. They were also  tasked with interdicting other Iraqi  irregular activity. For example, a bus  was intercepted with several Iraqis  who were found to be carrying  money as rewards for the murder of  US soldiers.

The US Rangers operated in the  western sector, both to secure and  protect vital infrastructure assets  such as pipelines and to locate  possible sites for weapons of mass  destruction (WMD).



Australian SASR in Iraq The 1st  Squadron Group Australian SASR  deployed to western Iraq along with  elements of the British SAS and US  Special Forces. The SASR was  supported by the 5th Aviation  Regiment, operating CH-47 Chinook,  S-70A Black Hawk and MRH-90  helicopters.

Their major role in the primary  phase of operations was to track  down and destroy Iraqi Scud  launchers, either by direct action or  by calling in Close Air Support (CAS).

A U.S. Air Force Special Forces airman inspects the 7.62mm (.3in)  machine gun on an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter of 301st Rescue  Squadron.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

A brief history of special forces from World War II, leading up to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 by Iraqi forces.


2. The First Gulf War

The coalition’s special forces wreak havoc behind Iraqi lines, and eliminate the scud threat to Israel.


3. Somalia

US forces become involved in Somalia, trying to trace Mohammed Aideed. The rescue of US rangers depicted in Black Hawk Down is led by US special forces.


4. The Balkans

After the end of the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, NATO’s special forces are responsible for tracking down war criminals and bringing them to trial.


5. South America

The war against the drug barons of South America continues, and special forces are involved in tracing the movement of shipments of drugs and gathering evidence.


6. Sierra Leone

With the country on the brink of civil war, American and British special forces are used to preserve peace and safeguard what remains of an elected government. The rescue of British soldiers held hostage makes the headlines worldwide.


7. Afghanistan

After 9/11, the US led invasion of Afghanistan sees special forces used to provide guidance and training to the anti-Taliban warlords. Resistance quickly collapses as a result, and the ‘victory’ is relatively bloodless.


8. Iraq

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 sees American, British and Australian special forces to the fore again, operating deep behind the front lines and hunting down the key members of the Iraqi government.


9. Counter-terrorism

Particularly since 9/11, the fight against terrorism has become of paramount importance to many of the developed world’s governments. Most special forces units have increased in size – some dramatically so – as warfare becomes increasingly specialized.




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