The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 as a regiment, and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950. The unit undertakes a number of roles including covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and hostage rescue.
The corps presently comprises 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the regular component under the operational command of United Kingdom Special Forces, and 21 (Artists) Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve) and 23 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve), which are reserve units under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.
The Special Air Service traces its origins to 1941 and the Second World War. It was reformed as part of the Territorial Army in 1947, named the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles). The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, which is part of the regular army, gained fame and recognition worldwide after its televised rescue of all but one of the hostages held during the 1980 Iranian Embassy
KSK formed in 1996 to provide a dedicated Special Forces unit for Germany. Ironically, it was only after the Cold War ended that such a unit came to be. Roles for a solitary elite unit had been delegated to different departments. Counter terrorism, for example had been assigned to the police unit GSG-9. Reconnaissance to the Army’s Ferspaher (Long Range Reconnaissance), maritime duties to the Navy’s Kampfschwimmers (Combat Swimmers), and direct action to the Sonderwaffenbegleitkompanien (Special Weapons Escort Companies).
Upon its official activation on April 1, 1997, all such roles were incorporated into the KSK.
Entry requirements into the KSK are open to all ranks and are unique in the fact that civilians may attempt to join, provided they pass an 18 month Long Range Surveillance training cycle before selection for the unit begins.
All Candidates must be airborne qualified and Army officers under thirty and Sergeants and enlisted under 32.
Selection starts with a two-phase course. The first starts with three weeks of physical and psychological training, then enters into the second which involves a three-month endurance phase conducted in the Black Forest, which involves a SERE course with 100 kilometer march with heavy load, and a 90 hour cross country run, among other formidable tests. About 8-10% of the candidates pass, then move to a three-week international Combat Survival Course.
Completion of these phases sends the candidates off to a two to three year cycle of nearly 20 courses at 17 schools worldwide, for desert, jungle, urban amphibious, arctic, mountain and counter-terrorism training.