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Close Target Recce image

Often refereed to as the bread and butter of the SAS, Close Target Recce's (CTR) provide the British military with essential intelligence on enemy positions, strengths and supply routes. So how are they done?

The first process is planning, followed by planning and then even more planning, every member of the patrol must know exactly what they are doing and what the objectives are.

How the patrol get to the target will vary, they could get helicoptered in near to the target, walk to it, parachute to it, or even canoe to it.

The patrol will make their way to the Emergency Rendezvous Point (ERV), the ERV will provide a lot of cover, be easy to conceal from the enemy and defend if necessary. It is also where the patrol will plan the specifics of the CTR and will meet should the teams be compromised.

If the CTR is only expected to last a couple of nights they are likely to stop at the ERV until nightfall, eat as much as they can (probably cold rations because they don't want the bad guys to spot a fire), leave their bergens behind totally camouflaged and make their way to their target.

The way in which the patrol breaks up varies totally on the situation, if you have an eight-man patrol the patrol may well break in half, four men guarding and 4 men observing each in a pair, so there may be two men guarding the ERV, two covering the observation posts (OP) and two men observing the front of the target and two observing the rear. And depending on the length of the CTR, which could be anywhere up to 10 days (or 30 in the artic), the paired teams may well swap over, but only at night.

Close Target Recce image

Close Target Recce

So it's night-time and the patrol is all in place, what happens now?Well in the OP (also called a 'hide') the two men will begin what is known as Hard Routine, they'll take it in turns to monitor the enemy using binoculars and recording everything with infra-red cameras, they'll probably swap over every hour but it is inadvisable that any one man sleep longer than 40 minutes, 40 minutes is long enough to restore the visions but much longer than that and they'll enter REM sleep and will be much more drowsy when they wake.

The OP will be very well camouflaged but provide the best view of the target possible, from there they will be recording everything they see but of particular interest are, troop numbers and personal weaponry, any defences that the target has; gun towers, gun pits, mine fields, patrols, lights etc, the layout of the target; which in some situations may mean them entering the target. They also need to map out the surrounding area; making note of natural and man made features and they need to be thinking about how best to attack the target. Intelligence must be detailed and accurate, bear in mind that the team doing the CTR may not be the strike team used to remove it.

The team will also 'laze' the target so that they can call in an airstrike and they may well leave bugging devices, either in the actual base, or remotely controlled hidden cameras around the base.

The CTR will continue until the necessary intelligence has been gathered and when finished the teams will extract to the ERV during the night and then bug out either to the next target or to the extraction point.

Back at base the patrol will go over the intelligence and construct a map of the area, map of the target and build a model of the area, the model, constructed out of the mud using string, coloured ribbons, flags etc will be built to scale (either 500m or 1000m) and will be used to visually communicate the information to other personnel. It is most important that someone is designated the job of destroying the plan in case of an attack, it is essential that that person acknowledge the order.

And that's it forget abseiling off of rooftops, blasting into enemy airfields and blowing everything up, laying in the dirt silently and covertly writing down everything the enemy does is really what the SAS is all about. "There's nothing glamorous about the work we do", Soldier I.

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Source & courtesy SAS Soldier X

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