Boats Of The Special Boat Service

The following is a selection of the various surface boats used by the SBS. The SBS use a range of inflatables, rigid inflatables and other craft ranging in size, range and troop carrying capacity. Boats are used to insert and extract operators from the shoreline, patrol inland waterways and in the ship boarding / maritime counter-terrorism role.

  • Klepper Canoes »
  • Inflatable Raiding Craft »
  • Arctic 28 Rigid Inflatable »
  • Arctic 22 Rigid Inflatable »
  • Pacific 22/28 Rigid Inflatables »
  • Rigid Raiding Craft »
  • Fast Intercept Craft »
  • VSV – Very Slender Vessel »
  • Stealth Boat »
  • Gemini Rigid Inflatables »
  • Avon Rigid Inflatables »

Mini-subs and Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs)

2/4/6 man mini-submarines are used to transport SBS sabotage teams into enemy shorelines and harbors or to clandestinely approach MCT objectives. The mini-subs are launched from submarine motherships, often many miles from the final objective. The SBS have used a mixture of home-grown SDVs and off-the-shelf U.S. models.

It’s reported by Jane’s Fighting Ships that the SBS bought at least 3 Mk VIII Mod 1 SDVs from US manufacturers in 1999. These battery-powered mini-subs are able to carry 6 SBS frogmen up to 36 nautical miles.

According to reports, the SBS’s ability to deploy SDVs ended when HMS Spartan, the only UK submarine equipped with the dry dock facilities required for SDV operations, was withdrawn from service in 2006. New ‘Astute’ class submarines with suitable dry docks will come into service in 2009. Until then, the SBS will have to find other ways to sneak ashore.

Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs)

DPVs are eletrically powered, propellor-driven units designed to pull one or two frogmen along underwater. Divers clip or hold on to the unit while travelling. The Exact types of DPVs employed by the SBS are not publically known.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV)

The underwater equivalent of airborne UAVs such as the Predator drone, the newly developed Talisman UUV from BAE systems is a remote controlled stealth submarine that has the capability to perform shoreline reconnaissance. The SBS would use the Talisman to complement their own missions or even to go into situations when the risks may be deemed to high, or conditions unsuitable, for human operators.

Collapsible ladders

hooked ladders that can be unfolded to allow access to docked vessels by swimmers below.

Caving Ladders

carried by assault teams, these are long thin ladders attached to poles that can be shot up from RIBS, hooking onto the ship’s railings

Grappling Hooks

climbing ropes with hooks propelled by either rocket or compressed air.

LAR V Draeger

a compact self-contained closed-circuit ‘re-breather’ system designed for use in shallow waters. As with most military rebreathers, the Draeger recycles the exhaled oxygen which eliminates the bubble produced by traditional SCUBA gear, making the wearer much harder to detect.

Divex Shadow

It has been reported that the SBS are now using Divex Shadow series of rebreathers. The Shadow oxygen rebreather has a duration of up to 6 hours. The Shadow is compatible with the Divex Digicom 3000m Diver Through Water Communications system and Divex Stealth Full Face Dual Mode Mask. A more advanced model, which can be used at lower depths, the Shadow Excursion, uses an oxygen/nitrox mix. The Full Face mask that comes with the Shadow can quickly interface with on-board air supplies found on SDVs.


Swimboards are hand-held units that contain an illuminated compass for underwater navigation. Additonal equipment such as depth guages, timers and divers watches can be attached to the board.

Quad Bikes

4×4 quad bikes allow rapid transport over both rough terrain and to areas otherwise inaccessible to larger vehicles. The SBS used Honda quad bikes to move around the Iraqi desert and to traverse mountain paths in Afghanistan.


The venerable Landrover, mainstay of the British military for many decades, is prized for its reliability and versatility. Besides passengers, the vehicles can carry a lot of equipment and can be fitted with various weapons systems such as GPMGs and .50 machine guns, automatic 40mm grenade launchers and Milan anti-tank missile launchers.