South African Special Operations

South African Police Service Special Task Force (SAPS STF)


The South African Police Service Special Task Force (SAPS STF) is the special operations element of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The STF is considered to be among the best of such units in the world. Its formation was based on the Israeli Sayeret Matkal. The STF has a formidable reputation in counter terrorism, counter insurgency and hostage rescue. The STF, like their military special forces counter parts, are internationally regarded has being deadly exponents in the art of bush warfare.


The Task Force falls under operational control of the Division: Operational Response Services and is responsible for dealing with all high-risk operations, such as hostage situations on land, sea and air, including rescue-related operations.


All Task Force applicants are volunteers and have to comply with stringent physical requirements before being admitted to the basic training and selection course. The basic training course is twenty-six weeks long and includes weapons, rural and urban combat as well as basic parachute training courses. Compulsory advanced courses include special skills such as diving, VIP protection, explosives and medical training. The total initial training period is nine months, but completing all the requisite advanced courses to become a fully-fledged Special Task Force operational member may last up to three years.

Membership of the Special Task Force open to all male and female SAPS members with the rank of constable, sergeant or inspector.



Vasbyt will take place at Verdrag from 16 to 20 April 2006 (for Course 27 of 2006) and from 3 to 7 December 2006 (for Course 28 of 2006).
The Selection -Vasbyt has a four-fold purpose:
Proving that the candidate has the physical ability and mental strength to complete the STF training
Proving that the candidate will have the cognitive level to grasp and understand the STF subject matter within the allocated time
The candidates’ perception of their physical and mental limitations are extended during Vasbyt. The candidate will be able to call on this experience when confronted with physically or mentally challenging situations in the operational arena.
Contributes to the esprit de corps of the STF operators, forming a bond regardless of race, culture, religion or gender

After they have been selected for Selection-Vasbyt, candidates will start the STF Training Course of the which the duration is 28 weeks of training, excluding breaks. The STF Training Course includes weapon training, basic rural operations training, urban operations training, parachuting training and hostage release training.

Members are trained for proficiency in:

  • assault rifles
  • shotguns
  • submachine guns
  • pistols
  • fitness and strength
  • unarmed combat

Members are trained in:

  • support weapons
  • grenade launchers
  • foreign weapons
  • minor explosive devices
  • pyrotechnics
  • bush craft
  • battle craft
  • navigation
  • heavy vehicle ops
  • follow-up ops
  • observation posts
  • helicopter deployments

Members are trained to:

  • secure dangerous suspects (high-risk warrants)
  • securing dangerous barricaded suspects
  • cash-in-transit heists
  • robberies
  • other high-risk urban operations
  • urban helicopter deployments
  • basic planning, command and control of urban ops

Members are trained to deploy by:

  • basic static line
  • static line with equipment
  • static line night parachuting
  • basic free fall
  • free-fall at night
  • free-fall with equipment

Members are trained in
advanced individual/team movement
hostage assault planning, command and control
tactical assaults on:

  • Aircraft
  • Trains
  • Vehicles
  • Small water vessels

(2 years to complete whilst working operationally at one of the STF units)
The Training Cycle includes:

  • chemical and biological defense
  • explosive identification and breaching
  • medical Level 3
  • advanced VIP Protection
  • emergency diving
  • advanced rural tactics and survival


  • sniper course
  • advanced Medical Ordinance (level 6)
  • advanced tracking
  • skipper’s course
  • high-speed driving
  • 4×4 driving
  • operational commanders’ training

Many other courses, depending on the individuals skills and interests.

In 2004 it was reported that the SAPS STF may have lost nearly 60 percent of its active members to private companies recruiting security personnel to work in Iraq.


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