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Secrets of the SAS
Inside the World’s Most Effective Special Ops, Secret Problems
That Threaten The British Army SAS
359 pages; 17 chapters and 7 appendixes
The British Army SAS (British Special Air Service) is the most experienced and probably most
effective western special forces organization. While it is true that the US Special Forces are more
effective in certain categories, few military experts question the statement, “the SAS is the most
reliable; it gets the job done.” Yet, the British Army SAS has some very real command
problems and selection problems, mainly among their NCOs. This book is full of secrets about
the British Special Air Service. In this book, there are secrets about the way the British Army SAS
has fought the IRA (Irish Republican Army), and in such diverse locations as Cambodia, the
Falklands, and South America (where they participated in the drug war). Fully half of the book is
devoted to the British Special Air Service’s few glory-filled moments in the Gulf War, and
the many other moments of incompetence, morale, and command problems. Secrets of the SAS
is the first book that brazenly depicts the British Special Air Service (22nd Special Air
Service Regiment) as it really is, warts and all.
“The first thing the SAS team did was to take the small amount of data it had, and begin making bad decisions (Andy
McNab book). They quickly selected their operational site from the air navigation maps provided. Then they decided to
go in on foot after being dropped off by helicopter twelve miles from their operational site. They planned no preliminary
reconnaissance of any sort. Instead they depended upon LUCK; at least that's how they solved the problem of locating
one of their targets. As the SAS team leader said: “With LUCK, the cables would run alongside the MSR, and every 5
miles or so there would be inspection manholes. We didn't know if we would find a signal-booster system inside of the
manholes, or what." (Andy McNab book) For navigation in the desert they planned to depend upon an unreliable
Magellan Satellite Navigation system.
For their escape and evasion plan, the SAS team first recognized that they would be 185 miles from their Saudi base and
75 miles from the nearest friendly neighboring country border. They had no information on the border areas.
Then the SAS team made the stupidest decision of all. They decided to forgo secondary mobility in favor of foot
movements. They ruled out taking vehicles because vehicles supposedly had two major disadvantages: (1) The fuel they
could take would be limited. (2) The vehicles would be hard to hide. They were dead wrong! Only by taking four vehicles
could they hope to carry all of their supplies and fuel. Certainly the World War II Long Range Desert Force that fathered
the SAS concept equipped its desert combat teams with a profusion of light vehicles.
The SAS leadership let the bad decision of Andy McNab (described in the Andy McNab book) stand and it ultimately
cost the needless death of several men of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment. Each man in that eight-man SAS
reconnaissance/raid team carried 209 pounds of personal equipment into the Iraqi operational area, not including the
weight of his weapon. In addition, there was another ton of “team equipment” that could not be carried on their backs.
The heavy loads were cached within the operational area but each man had to ferry his heavy load to the cache site after
landing from the insertion helicopter.
To illustrate how wrong-headed the SAS team leader Andy McNab actually was, one of McNab’s statements in his book
describing his operation must be recalled. "I was so glad that we hadn't had vehicles with us. We were unlucky not to
have them when we got compromised, obviously, but we were lucky now because vehicles might have linked us to the
Regiment " (22nd Special Air Service Regiment).“
Excerpt from Secrets of the SAS
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