The Special Duties Unit (Abbreviation: SDU; Traditional Chinese: 特別任務連, nicknamed 飛虎隊 “Flying Tigers”) is a secretive and elite paramilitary police unit of the Hong Kong Police. Established in July 1974, it is a sub-division of the Police Tactical Unit (PTU). Its primary functions include counter-terrorism, anti-narcotic raids, hostage rescue and other crimes (usually involving firearms) which are deemed too dangerous for local police to handle. The unit holds regular training exercises with similar units from around the world.
Origins & History
The establishment of SDU can be traced back to an incident on March 13, 1971, when a plane from Philippine Airlines was hijacked and landed in Kai Tak Airport. Though the incident was resolved peacefully, the Hong Kong Police Force became concerned that a similar incident will occur in the future. A “marksmen squad” (神槍手隊) was assembled in 1973 and later re-organized into the Special Duties Unit in 1974.
The unit is modeled after the British SAS. When SAS personnel came to Hong Kong in 1978 to refine their CQB techniques as well as training syllabus, SDU received their training from the SAS.
In its 30 year history, the SDU has evolved into a unit capable of conducting operations through air, land and sea. It consists of a support group, administration group and the action group. The action group is the core of the unit, further categorized into the land assault team, the water assault team and the sniper team.
The SDU Water Team
SBS operators also helped SDU develop its own specialist marine attack unit (known as the Marine Counter Terrorist Team; nicknamed: 水鬼隊 “Water Devils”) after an incident in the early 1980’s. Due to its highly specialist nature, the Marine Counter Terrorist Team has achieved an almost legendary reputation and has thus often been compared with the United States Navy SEALs. An SDU sniper in the team was seriously injured when having joint training with SEAL Team 6 in 1991, during a ship-boarding exercise.
The Marine Counter Terrorist Team was later disbanded in 2000, due to the fact that all current SDU operators are equally trained and proficient in maritime operations.
Training & Selection
To maintain the SDU’s high standards, recruitment exercises are not open to the general public. To even qualify for the recruitment, one must have a minimum two years service in the Hong Kong Police, and to be both a non-smoker and non-alcoholic. The selection process is very stringent, with a high drop-out rate; out of approximately 30,000 police officers in Hong Kong, only about 100 are selected to enlist in the SDU.
The officers in the unit maintain a high degree of secrecy and only the closest family members know their true identity.
Interestingly, the SDU does not enforce a retirement age, due to the unit’s emphasis on overall personal capability rather than physical prowess alone; an officer only retires when he wants to.
The officers in SDU enjoy a comparatively high salary, a typical officer can expect to afford an expensive car or other luxuries in his first year of service. At their retirement, they are paid a lump sum of HK$2,000,000 and still receive a monthly pay-check. Henceforth, even though the life of a SDU officer is a dangerous and lonely one, it is at least financially stable.
Colt M10 (Early 70’s – late 70’s)
Browning Mk3 (Late 70’s – early 90’s)
Glock 17 (Early 90’s – now)
MP5A3 (Early 80’s – now)
MP5A5 (Early 80’s – now)
MP5SD3 (Early 80’s – now)
AR-15 (Early 70’s – early 80’s)
XM-177 (1982 – 2000)
MC-51 (1992 – 1996)
M-4 (2001 – now, as medium range sniper rifle)
G-36KV (2001 – now, as medium range sniper rifle)
G3SG-1 (Early 80’s – early 90’s)
PSG-1 (Late 80’s – 2005)
L42A1 (Early 80’s – 90’s)
L96A1 (Early 90’s – now)
SR-25 (Late 90’s – now)
SSG-2000 (Early 90’s – now)
During a robbery in 1992, four robbers with AK-47 assault rifles battled the SDU, causing them some casualties with 7 operators injured. As a result of this incident, their CQB technique was further refined in order to fit Hong Kong’s unique urban environment, and new equipment were added to the SDU’s arsenal.
Before Christmas Eve of 2003, the most wanted person in Hong Kong was arrested in a joint raid between the SDU and Criminal Intelligence Branch (CIB, Team D). No shots were fired during the raid.