The 18th (United Kingdom Special Forces) Signals Regiment, ‘the Regiment’, was created in April 2005, along with the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). These changes reflected an expansion and re-organisation to cope with the twin demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with ongoing operations against terrorism.
The Regiment employs both Royal Signals soldiers in trade and Special Forces Communicators (SFC) and will be based at Hereford as part of Army 2020.
On 19 April 2019, it was announced that the SFC would become established “as a trade within the R[oyal Corps of] Signals and the formation of the Army SFC Branch alongside the RM SFC Specialisation.” (Soldier, 2019, p.3).
1.1 Women and the 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment
In accordance with current Government policy on the employment of women in the UK military, service in 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment is only open to male volunteers. However, appointments do exist for women within the Army units that support the Regiment, for example Human Resources.
On 08 July 2016, the MOD announced that all Ground Close Combat Roles (RAC, Infantry, Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment) would be opened to women by 2018 (British Army, 2016).
The Regiment delivers the military communications and information systems (CIS) capability to enable UKSF operations worldwide in support of government, Foreign, Security and Defence Policy. As such, the Regiment fulfils several roles:
- Providing highly secure communications for UKSF operations;
- Providing electronic warfare and signals intelligence for special forces operations; and
- Intercepting and monitoring enemy communications at short range in difficult circumstances for strategic purposes.
The Regiment, commanded by a Colonel (OF-5), is in fact an umbrella organisation for other UKSF signals units, some of which have a long history, as highlighted in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Organisation of 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment
4.0 UK Special Forces Communicator Course
The Regiment runs its own selection course, separate from the joint SAS/SBS UKSF Selection course, which is known as the UK Special Forces Communicator course (UKSFCC) (The Wire, 2015). Due to the nature of the course, the potential SFC must be fit, motivated and have the ability to assimilate the skill set required to operate and maintain modern CIS in a close support role with UKSF units.
The SFC course with 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment is open to all male volunteers from any part of the Regular Armed forces (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and the Royal Air Force) as well as Army Reserve candidates (The Wire, 2015). There is no upper age limit.
To apply aspirants should the 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment Recruiting and Induction Cell (RIC) for specific personal advice. Prior to attending an SFC Briefing Course all aspirants should conduct preparation and training as advised by the Recruiting and Induction Cell (i.e. map reading, practical navigation, physical development and basic CIS revision).
4.2 SFC Preparation Course
All applicants attending the SFC course have the option of attending one of the two SFC Preparation Courses run per year. The aim of the 3-week course is to better prepare applicants for the aptitude and CIS phases of UKSFC selection while providing further preparation advice.
4.3 SFC Briefing Course
All applicants must attend one of the four mandatory briefing courses held every year before they can apply for the SFC course (The Wire, 2015). The aim of the 1-week course is to brief aspiring SFC volunteers on the UKSFC selection process, service within 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment and to assess their potential in order to give pre-selection preparation advice. On completion of the Briefing Course applicants have 12 months to attend an SFC course.
4.4 Course Dates
Dates of courses covered in this article are published annually in the relevant Defence Instructions and Notices (DIN) which can be found by searching defnet for ‘UKSF Selection Application Instructions’.
Alternatively, course dates can be obtained from the UKSF Recruitment and Induction Wing (Soldier, 2019).
4.5 Course Outline
The 6-month (25-week) UKSFCC is designed to test both physical and mental aptitude (The Wire, 2015; Soldier, 2019), and is run twice each year in May and November.
As SFCs may be required to accompany SAS/SBS personnel on operations, they are HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) and firearms trained to SF standards. As such, the UKSFCC comprises:
- Technical Trade Assessment (1-week);
- General Support Communications (6-weeks);
- Physical Aptitude (5-weeks);
- Close Support Communications (5-weeks);
- SF SERE Training (4-weeks);
- Military Training (3 weeks); and
- SF Parachute Training (3 weeks).
4.6 SF SERE Training
At some point during training candidates will undergo SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract) training which is 4-weeks in duration. SERE training has been based at RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay, since 2008.
SERE is an inclusive term (of US origin) that has superseded terms such as Escape and Evasion and Conduct After Capture. SERE encompasses all practical and theoretical measures required to prepare candidates for captivity, isolation and recovery (MOD, 2012). All candidates must attend and pass the 2-week Army Combat Survival Instructors Course as part of SERE training. Candidates who may have attended the course before will still be required to pass the course as part of the Selection process.
The test for this phase of training involves an evasion exercise in which candidates, operating in small groups and wearing greatcoats to restrict movement, attempt to reach a final objective. A Hunter Force from the Special Forces Support Group provides a credible capture threat.
Upon capture all candidates are required to undergo a Resistance to Interrogation element, which lasts approximately 24-36 hours. In the event that a candidate does reach the objective without capture, they will still be subjected to this element.
Candidates are placed in physically and mentally uncomfortable (stress) positions, deprived of food, water and sleep, and subjected to white noise. Candidates are then interrogated and must only give their serial number, rank, name and date of birth. All other questions must be answered with the stock reply of: “I cannot answer that question”, so that candidates do not provide the interrogators with any sensitive information.
4.7 SF Parachute Course
Employment training includes the SF Parachute course at RAF Brize Norton which is mandatory for all students and involves parachute training such as:
- Parachuting static line (for those not parachute qualified);
- High altitude high opening (HAHO); and
- High altitude low opening (HALO): HALO freefall insertions allow Special Forces to be deployed from altitudes of 25,000ft or higher, taking advantage of a low radar profile.
The regulations for recruitment and retention pay, previously known as additional pay or Special Forces pay, are laid down in JSP 754 Tri-Service Regulations for Pay and Charges Chapter 6 Sections 13, 14 and 16.
Since 01 April 2011 the type of recruitment and retention pay (RRP) an individual receives is dependent on:
- RRP (Special Communications) (RRP(SC)), based on qualifying post and unit;
- RRP (Special Forces Communications) (RRP(SFC)), based on qualifying post and rank; and
- RRP (Special Intelligence) (RRP(SI)), based on class and time in service.
Upon successful completion of the course SFCs will receive a £4500 golden handshake plus £17.57 (Signaller to Corporal) or £20.60 (Sergeants and above) additional pay per day (The Wire, 2015).
As of September 2019, “Upon completion of Selection and assignement to 18 (UKSF) Sig Regt SFCs are paid NEM Supplement 3 as well as SFC Recruitment and Retention Pay.” (Soldier, 2019, p.3).
4.9 Career Progression
As of September 2019, “Qualification as an SFC now offers career progression from LCPL – WO1 and beyond to Lt Col within UKSF.” (Soldier, 2019, p.3).
5.0 Exercise Support and Unit Presentations
Where appropriate, the 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment Recruiting and Induction Cell can provide equipment and expertise in niche areas for unit battle camps and exercises.
6.0 Useful Information
- DIN (Current year) 01 Personnel (Volunteers for UKSF)
- DIN (Current year) 07 Training (UKSF Selection course dates)
- Army: AGAI Vol 2 Chapter 43
- R SIGNALS PD 206
- Army net: http://www.armynet.co.uk
- 18 (UKSF) Sig Regt Recruiting Cell
British Army (2016) Ground Close Combat Roles Open To Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/news/28632.aspx. [Accessed: 08 August, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2012) Joint Warfare Publication 3-66: Joint Personnel Recovery. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/joint-warfare-publication-3-66-joint-personnel-recovery. [Accessed: 14 July, 2014].
The Wire (2015) 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment. The Wire: The Magazine of the Royal Corps of Signals. April 2015, pp.52.53.
Soldier. (2019) Special Forces Communicator Branch. Soldier: The Magazine of the British Army. September 2019, pp.3.