Special Boat Service (SBS) – Organisation

The Special Boat Service is organised into 4 regular squadrons :

  • C & X Squadron – the 2 ‘green’ SBS squadrons are specialised in amphibious techniques but can carry out a range of operations on dry land
  • M Squadron – specialising in maritime counter-terrorism (MCT)
  • Z Squadron – experts in the use of mini-subs and surface boats

For reasons of security, the exact number of regular, active SBS ranks is not made public, however the number is speculated to be between 200 & 250.

Other elements within the SBS include:

Training Wing.

Carries out all training not covered by an SBS recruit’s initial continuation training with the SAS.

Operational Research & Devlopment

Like the SAS Operations Research Cell, this special sub-unit of the SBS is responsible for devloping and evaluating equipment and procedures that to pertain to the SBS’s role. This may include things liek the development of waterproof flashbangs for the MCT role or testing a new SDV.


A reserves element, SBS(R) augments the regular SBS, with individual SBS(R) members working integrated into regular SBS formations..

SBS Command Structure

The Special Boat Service is usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel.

Whilst technically part of the Naval Service (Royal Marines and Navy) order of battle (ORBAT), the SBS comes under the umbrella of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), commanded by the Director Special Forces (DSF). UKSF is a directorate that combines several units under one command structure. The SBS, along with the British Army’s 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are the so-called ‘teir one’ special forces. Tier one special forces are supported by 21 and 23 SAS (reserves), the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), 18(UKSF) signals and the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW).

Each SBS squadron is commanded by an Officer, usually a Royal Marines Major or Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander. Recent reports have stated that a lack of Officers from the Naval Service wishing to command SBS units has led to a number of SAS Officers being drafted in.

Squadrons are organised into 16-man Troops, each usually commanded by a Captain. Troops are often broken down into 4-man patrols, 2-man canoe teams or 8-man teams (a typical boat-full). In recent Afghanistan operations, the SBS has reportedly been operating in larger teams, sometimes at full Squadron strength – see the page on Hunting Mulla Dadullah for an example.