The US Navy SEALs vs the British SAS

Who’s the best at what they do and why?

Although both accomplish some of the same missions, the SEALs and SAS are very different organisations. Firstly, the SAS numbers around 300 ‘badged’ operators while the US Navy has over 8,000 SEALs divided into ten officially recognised Teams.

SEALs conduct a wide range of primarily maritime missions including beach reconnaissance, hydrographic surveys, and short duration raids and ambushes on coastal targets. Many are stationed at sea, where they support the Marines.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the SEALs have increasingly worked a long way from the water in places like land-locked Afghanistan, where they have carried out the full spectrum of special operations. This includes training local forces and long reconnaissance missions like that portrayed in the film and book Lone Survivor.

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A more apt comparison is perhaps between the SAS and SEAL Team 6, often referred to by their cover name as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Team 6 are the elite of the SEALs, trained in many of the same skills as the SAS, who they often operate alongside.

In fact, SEALs from Team 6 worked in conjunction with the British SAS to rescue a number of hostages in eastern Afghanistan back in 2012, on a mission called Operation Jubilee. The hostages were held in two cave complexes that were assaulted by a joint force of SAS and SEAL operators, freeing
the hostages unharmed and killing all 13 insurgents.

SEAL Team 6 and the SAS both train extensively in direct action missions targeting enemy leadership – such as the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011 – covert reconnaissance and counter- terrorism. Both units rotate duty in their respective countries as the national counter- terrorist stand-by force, ready to rescue hostages or intervene should terrorists get their hands on a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

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While ‘regular’ SEALs could carry out a hostage rescue, they receive only limited training in the advanced close quarter battle skills required. Team 6 and the SAS are both also extensively trained to conduct deniable undercover operations where their very presence is unacknowledged.

Written by Leigh Neville

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