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Special Boat Service

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Part of U.K. Special Forces, the Special Boat Service (SBS) is part of the Royal Marines, specializing in amphibious raids, at-sea boarding operations, and special reconnaissance. Like the United States Navy SEALs, however, they now operate well inland if required, but retain their specialized water capabilities.

The unit is headquartered in Poole, Dorset. While it is administratively a Marine unit, candidates from all of the U.K. military can volunteer for the selection process. There are four-active duty squadrons and a reserve element. While the total strength is classified, it is believed to be in the 200 to 300 range. They maintain lower visibility than the Special Air Service (SAS).

Of the squadrons,

  • C and X are most qualified in land as well as sea operations
  • M squadron are the specialists in maritime counterterrorism, involving such missions as clandestine boarding of ships
  • Z squadron made up of qualified divers, qualified both in boats and small submarines

In the Falklands War, SBS would most often deploy from submarines while SAS would infiltrate from helicopters. They are believed to operate as deep reconnaissance elements for regular Royal Marine units in the Afghanistan War (2001-).