Japanese Special Operations

Special Boarding Unit

The Special Boarding Unit (特別警備隊 Tokubetsukeibitai) is a special forces unit established by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces on March 27, 2001 in response to a previous spy ship incursion that occurred on the Noto Peninsula in 1999. The unit was created to perform similar roles to those undertaken by American Navy SEALs and the British SBS. Its structure is based on the SBS.

Their field involve maritime anti-terrorist duties, including operations where arms are known to be involved. However, their duties and responsibilities overlap with those of the Special Security Team, the Japan Coast Guard’s counter-terrorist unit.

Since the SBU is a special forces unit, any kind of matters regarding personnel, training and weapons are highly classified.


After a failed Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces mission to stop North Korean spy ships that were in the territorial waters of the Noto Peninsula, the SBU was established with its headquarters based in Etajima, Hiroshima. The unit had conducted some covert training in Etajima without any public knowledge after its creation, including exercises on boarding tactics to enter ships.

Training was completed in 2000, a year after the SBU was created. A reported ship that illegally entered Amami Ōshima was seen nearby, which led to the mobilization of the SBU.The ship, however, was said to have been scuttled while the unit waited for orders from the Japanese Defense Agency. The unit had made its existence known to the public during a training exercise, which involved the deployment of Howa Type 89-armed SBU operators via RHIBs and SH-60J helicopters.

When the unit was created, it had requested training with the US Navy SEALs, but had not been able to do so due to schedule problems. To resolve this, the SBU had requested training assistance from the SBS to help in founding the unit.

Due to the nature of their duties and responsibilities, an amendment had been passed to raise their salaries.

It was announced recently by Yasukazu Hamada that the SBU will be possibly deployed for its first mission to Somalia to engage in anti-Somali piracy operations. They would operate as a first-line defense against Somali pirate attacks.

Foreign Relations

The SBU has been involved in matters involving Asia-Pacific Defense, with representatives sent to the Asia Pacific Defense Forum Summer 2002 and the Asia Pacific Defense Forum 2004.


SBU candidates are schooled at the Naval Academy Edashima for around 36 weeks including the Special Security Program, which is taken for a year and 3 months before one is recruited to the unit. The basic education is done at the school while the rest is done with the unit prior to recruitment.


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