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The Guns of Delta Force

By: Warren Gray

“We sleep soundly in our beds, because rough men stand ready
in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.”

— Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 1942.
(Also attributed to George Orwell)

The U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Airborne), or 1st SFOD-D(A), more-commonly known as “Delta Force,” Task Force Green, or the Combat Applications Group (Airborne) (CAG), was established on November 19, 1977, as our nation’s first full-time, counterterrorist (CT) unit, in the wake of a daring, hostage-rescue operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, the previous month by Germany’s elite, GSG 9 police CT commando force. At that time, just the British, Germans, and Israelis had specialized, CT forces, so Delta was only the fourth such organization in existence worldwide.

Three years later, the U.S. Navy formed SEAL Team 6, also known as ST-6, SEAL Team “Shhh,” simply “Six,” or later, as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), as a second, American CT unit.

From its inception, Delta Force sought the very best weapons for its unique requirements, beginning with Walther MPL and MPK 9mm submachine guns, which were among the finest available at the time, although they fired from an open bolt, which allowed dirt to enter the chamber area, and the slamming bolt reduced first-shot accuracy. These weapons were carried on the ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw, the unit’s first operational mission, during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980.

The initial handguns were Colt M1911A1 Government Models in .45 ACP, the standard, U.S. Army service pistol, but Delta’s were highly-customized and accurized by unit armorers. Even after the Beretta M9 in 9mm became the new, military standard in 1985, Delta continued to use their .45s, due to the demonstrated, superior stopping power of the venerable, big-bore round. As the Colts eventually wore out, they were replaced in subsequent years by factory-customized, M1911 variants such as the Wilson Combat CQB, Caspian Arms models, and the STI Tactical, all chambered for .45 ACP. Delta also briefly experimented with the excellent H&K USP45 about 2007, as employed by German Special Forces as the P12, but it was not widely distributed.

Meanwhile, the Walther submachine guns were quickly replaced as the unit experimented with older, hard-hitting, M3A1 “Grease Gun” weapons in .45 ACP, which were also used on Operation Eagle Claw, including some suppressed variants, but they soon settled upon the wide range of superb, Heckler and Koch MP5 models, which fired from a closed bolt, and were therefore much more accurate and reliable under dusty, combat conditions. During this period, however, international terrorists began wearing body armor, which defeats most pistol-caliber rounds, including the 9mm and .45 ACP.

As a result, Delta Force operators began switching to compact weapons chambered for 5.56mm rifle rounds, such as the Colt CAR-15 of Vietnam War fame, Colt M4 Commando, and Colt M4A1 carbine by the mid-1980s. They also experimented with the new, Beretta M9 pistol during this period, but still overwhelmingly preferred their trusty .45s.

At least one suppressed, wooden-stocked, DeLisle Commando carbine in .45 ACP (produced during World War Two) was seen in their inventory in 1986, as was a vintage, integrally-suppressed, Welrod Mk. I pistol from the same period, so Delta was collecting very effective weapons that were no longer widely available. Small quantities of Walther PPK/S pistols in .380 ACP have also been used as backup weapons in the past.

The various, customized, M1911A1 clones were all fine handguns, but they were still basically an old design with a lot of parts, achieving their best accuracy with very tight tolerances for the barrel and slide. They worked well in most combat environments, but the ever-present, dirt, dust, and grit of Afghanistan proved to be their undoing. After five to six years of recurring malfunctions with their .45s there, Delta Force decided to change not only their issued handguns, but their primary caliber, as well.

Meanwhile, in 2004, Delta officially adopted the HK416 carbine, originally called the H&K M4, which was specifically designed for Delta Force as a result of their recent, unsatisfactory, combat experiences in Afghanistan with the Colt M4A1. The M16 rifle and M4 carbine series use a direct-impingement operating system, which blows sooty, carbon gasses onto the breech face, into the chamber area, and into the top of the magazine, resulting in carbon fouling over time, and leading to jams and other malfunctions. In contrast, the HK416 employs a gas-piston operating system, which vents the sooty gasses into the handguard area above the barrel instead, for much-cleaner and more-reliable operations. It is often used with an EOTech EXP S3 (or similar) holographic, red-dot, sighting system, a $700 addition, for rapid target acquisition.

This top-quality, German-made weapon was offered in several different barrel lengths, but the most-popular variant is the short, assault carbine (#D10RS) with 10.4-inch barrel, usually mounting a suppressor to minimize muzzle flash and blast.

This was the weapon that killed the notorious, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011, in the capable hands of Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert James O’Neill of DEVGRU. Since 2009, this has been produced as the newer, HK416A5 model, with an 11-inch barrel for greater muzzle velocity and slightly-reduced flash. A number of different types of ammunition have been tested, but the Black Hills 77-grain OTM (Open-Tip Match) with Sierra MatchKing bullets seems to be the most-preferred load.

Other assault rifles used in limited numbers have included the FN SCAR-L (Mk.16) in 5.56mm and FN SCAR-H (Mk. 17) CQC in 7.62mm, also favored by Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Air Force combat controllers, but the short-barreled, HK416 carbine remains the undisputed, favorite weapon.

In 2006 and 2007, Delta began using Glock-22s in .40 S&W-caliber, later offering some STI 2011s for those diehards who still preferred the M1911-style weapon. It’s hard to believe that the basic, Glock design is now 40 years old, but Glocks remain simple, rugged, exceptionally-reliable pistols, regardless of caliber. Their sterling reputation in military service was established in 1991 during the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm).

A Navy SEAL team traversing the coastal marshes of Kuwait was ambushed, and their vehicles were overturned, tossing all of their weapons into the gritty, sandy marsh. The SEALs came under intense fire from Iraqi troops, but their M4A1 carbines and Beretta M9s all failed to operate in the gooey muck. In fact, the only weapons that still fired were the non-standard, officially-unauthorized Glock-17s and Glock-19s that they possessed. In addition, an entire, U.S. Navy F-18C Hornet fighter squadron rejected their issued Beretta M9s, and privately purchased Glock-19s instead, as their self-defense/survival weapons in case of being shot down behind enemy lines.

This author has always been a .45 ACP fan, having previously owned a Colt Combat Commander, and later, a ParaOrdnance P12-45, both of which were moderately customized for improved reliability and performance. But, as Delta Force came to realize, these were older, complicated designs, prone to jamming when accurized and custom-tuned to tighter tolerances. I switched to the much-simpler Glock-17 in 1986, then the compact Glock-19 in 1990, both of which are truly exceptional handguns. But I still wanted more stopping power than the 9mm round offered, so I also acquired a compact Glock-23 in .40 S&W in 1991, while wishing that Glock would eventually manufacture a smaller, .45 ACP model at some point. They did, but not until 1997.

Noted gun writer Jeff Cooper, a diehard, M1911A1 aficionado, once grimly observed that, “Any situation I can’t handle with eight rounds of .45 ACP, is a situation I can’t handle.” Accordingly, American gun writer Massad F. Ayoob related the amazing, true story of an off-duty policeman in South Africa, who walked into his local bank one day in the late 1970s, armed with a Spanish-made, Star PD compact, M1911-style pistol in .45 ACP (smaller than a Colt Commander), loaded with just six rounds of Speer Lawman 200-grain (#SPE4477) “Flying Ashtray” JHPs (no longer produced.)

Five heavily-armed robbers suddenly burst in, brandishing AK-47s, and ordered everyone onto the floor. They began searching the customers, and the policeman knew that they would find his concealed gun and probably kill him. Realizing that he had nothing to lose, he stood up and calmly started firing with cool deliberation and admirable speed at the armed robbers, emptying his six-round magazine within the span of about four seconds. All five perpetrators were killed instantly, stopping the robbery, saving innocent lives, and clearly demonstrating the awesome stopping power of the .45 ACP round with hollowpoint bullets.

In fact, General Austin “Scott” Miller, the current commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) since 2018, who previously commanded the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from 2016 to 2018, and was a member of Delta Force from 1992 to 2005, then their commanding officer from 2005 to 2007, was photographed in Afghanistan in May 2019 wearing a highly-customized, M1911A1-style, .45 ACP pistol at his side as his officially-issued weapon. But, he has also been seen carrying a Glock-19 with a threaded barrel. These were both Delta Force weapons.
Press photographs taken at a Delta CT exposition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in April 2012 showed that they continued to use the Glock-22 and Glock-23 during that period, but by then they were discovering that the high-pressure, .40 S&W round, which was designed primarily for police usage, was simply too hard on their Glocks when fired in volume on a daily basis, averaging 250 rounds per gun, per day.

As a counterterrorist unit, Delta was fully-authorized to use jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) ammunition in any caliber they chose, whereas most military units used, and still use, full-metal-jacket (FMJ) ammunition. Article IV of the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibited the use of hollowpoint bullets against uniformed troops in combat, but terrorists don’t wear uniforms, and the United States was not a signatory to Article IV, anyway, so JHP bullets have always been perfectly legal for American troops.

In actual combat and civilian shooting incidents, 9mm FMJ bullets have been about 34-percent effective in one-shot stops against the enemy, while .45 ACP FMJ rounds were 62-percent effective, hence Delta’s marked preference for the .45. But modern, JHP bullets have changed the equation, raising the very best 9mm rounds to 83-percent, and the best .45s to about 96-percent. This is a much smaller difference than in the past, and the 9mm achieves this record with higher-capacity magazines and less recoil.

Although technically a U.S. Army unit, Delta Force also recruits and accepts operators from the other service branches. During the bloody assaults in Benghazi, Libya, against the U.S. Consulate and the CIA annex on September 11-12, 2012, two Delta Force members displayed exceptional valor in combat against insurgent terrorists (part of Operation Juniper Shield).

We may never know all of the sordid details, because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff intentionally deleted and destroyed 33,000 classified emails pertaining to this critical incident, but Army Master Sergeant David R. Halbruner was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the Army’s second-highest award for heroism. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Tate Jolly of North Carolina, also a Delta operator in Benghazi, received the Navy Cross for this same, intense action.

Halbruner’s DSC citation reads, in part, “For extraordinary heroism in action...at Benghazi, Libya...Master Sergeant Halbruner continually exposed himself to fire as he shepherded (25 to 30) unarmed civilians to safety and treated the critically wounded...His...courage was an inspiration to all.” Gunnery Sergeant Jolly’s Navy Cross citation uses exactly the same wording, for the same daring deeds, except that his name and rank are used in place of Halbruner’s.

Delta Force soldiers typically wear Crye Precision MultiCam field uniforms and related gear. Army personnel in Delta wear the dark-green, Special Forces beret in garrison, with the Army Special Operations Command (ARSOC) beret flash and shoulder patch, and the Gentex Ops-Core FAST MT Special Operations Forces ballistic helmet on operations. Their footwear includes Merrell Moab (photographed on Delta operators in April 2012, and on Air Force combat controllers in Afghanistan) or Moab-2 (since 2017) hiking boots (worn daily by this author for many, many miles), or similar, lightweight, water-resistant boots from other manufacturers. Civilian clothing is also often worn on CT operations outside of the current war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Delta snipers have used a large variety of weapons over the decades, including scoped, M14 rifles as recently as the infamous, “Black Hawk Down” incident (Operation Gothic Serpent) in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 3, 1993. Since then, more-modern, sniper rifles have included the M110 SASS in 7.62mm NATO, the M110A1 CSASS (HK417A2 Sniper), also in 7.62mm, M2010 ESR in .300 Winchester Magnum, Mk. 22 ASR (Barrett MRAD, $17k) in .338 Norma Magnum, and the Barrett M107A1 (M82A3) in .50-caliber (used primarily as an anti-matériel weapon for stopping vehicles and aircraft).

A Delta Force sniper team consisting of Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon (the team leader) and Sergeant First Class Randall D. “Randy” Shughart was deployed to Somalia in October 1993, and they repeatedly requested to be inserted on the ground during the infamous, “Black Hawk Down” incident, to rescue Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, a downed, helicopter pilot, despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned by rebel forces. Gordon and Shughart killed at least 25 enemy troops in fierce battle and wounded many more with their M14 sniper rifles, Gordon’s Colt CAR-15 carbine, and Colt M1911A1 pistols, but then they were both killed in action, fighting against impossible odds. They were each posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Beginning about 2014, Delta Force switched handguns again, this time adopting the Glock-19 (military designation Mk. 27) in 9mm as their primary pistol, often with an extended, threaded barrel and Glock-17 magazine, the subcompact Glock-26 (Mk. 26) in 9mm for concealment purposes, and the Glock-30S (introduced in 2013) for those diehard operators who still preferred the mighty .45 ACP, but in a modern, Glock design. The 9mm pistol is simply easier for many people to operate, and holds more ammunition.

A Federal contract solicitation (#W15QKN15R0196, totally unclassified but exceptionally revealing) posted by the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) on August 24, 2015, specifically stated that ACC, “has the need to procure a wide variety of Glock weapon systems...to support the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)...and other Government Agency (presumably CIA or SAA [See SAA section near the end of his article]) mission objectives. The weapon systems include Glock 17, 18 (selective-fire, machine pistol), 19...22, 26, and 30S.”

Much has already been written about the Glock-17/19/26 series in 9mm, which are currently used by military forces and police in at least 68 nations worldwide, initially by the Austrian armed forces, but also now by British, Czech, French, German, Icelandic, Indian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Russian, and Slovak Special Forces units. Here in the United States, the compact Glock-19 is now the top choice of U.S. Army Special Forces, Delta Force, Army Rangers, CIA paramilitary operatives, Air Force Special Operations Command, Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Navy SEALs, and the U.S. Secret Service.

The little-known Glock-30 (introduced in 1997), by comparison, is offered as an optional handgun by Delta Force, the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, and as the primary sidearm of the Kenyan Special Forces, who must defend themselves not only against renegade, al-Shabaab (“the Youth”) terrorists from neighboring Somalia, but from the ever-present threat of numerous wild animals, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, jackals, warthogs, and crocodiles.

The Glock-30 is lighter, stronger, smaller, far less complex, less expensive, more rugged and reliable, far easier to clean and maintain, holds more rounds than this author’s previous Colt Combat Commander, and the same as the P12-45, and requires virtually no customization to make it a first-rate, defensive pistol. This is by far my favorite, self-defense firearm, usually loaded with Federal HST +P 230-grain JHP cartridges, also the standard-issue cartridge of my son’s police department.

On March 30, 2019, Kyle Mizokami wrote for The National Interest: “Glock’s Insanely-Powerful, Pocket Cannon: Meet the Glock-30 .45 ACP. Glock’s most-powerful, and compact, handgun...has few equals...one of the smallest pistols chambered in .45 ACP round...The G30’s magazine accommodates 10 .45 rounds in a staggered, dual-column layout...Powerful, reliable, and concealable, the G30 might just be Glock’s ultimate, subcompact handgun.”

On January 28, 2020, Aiden Williams added for Shooting and Safety that, “The Glock-30 is...Glock’s most-prized production...Accuracy...is nothing short of excellence...Every single time, the G30 hit the target...Glock uses a better grade of steel than other brands...The design is superb in this one...The Glock-30 is one of the best guns when it comes to self-defense.”

There is now a Glock-30SF (Short Frame) version, with a slightly smaller frame and reduced trigger reach for those with small hands, and the Glock-30S (Slimmer slide, since 2013) version, favored by Delta Force, which incorporates the same smaller frame, with the narrower slide (1.00 inch wide instead of 1.12 inches wide) from the Glock-36 single-stack model in .45 ACP. All Glock-30s normally hold 10 rounds in the magazine, but a flat-based, nine-round magazine is available for greater concealability. The 13-round, factory magazine from the larger, Glock-21 model also fits quite easily, for extra firepower.

The Navy SEALs, including DEVGRU, have their own optional handgun in .45 ACP, the superbly-manufactured HK45CT Compact Tactical (Mk. 24 Mod. 0 Combat Assault Pistol in Navy service), introduced in early 2011, and usually employed with an AAC suppressor attached to the muzzle.

On September 1, 2011, Darryl Bolke wrote for Tactical Life that the HK45CT was a “compact, yet powerful, .45 ACP powerhouse...a covert operator’s dream gun...They run very well with high-performance, +P .45 loads...capable of match-grade accuracy right out of the box...with one of America’s most-elite, special operations units (DEVGRU)...one of the best .45 ACP pistols of our time.”

Aside from this optional firearm, DEVGRU’s standard, assault weapons are basically the same as Delta’s, the HK416 short-barrel carbine and the Glock-19 pistol, and it’s quite likely that Delta Force has at least a few Mk. 24s in their arms inventory. DEVGRU also employs the very-compact, H&K MP7A1 submachine gun in 4.6mm, which Delta does not use, for penetrating body armor.

Delta has certainly tested and used many different varieties of handgun ammunition, primarily employing JHP rounds in combat. In December 2017, the U.S. Special Operations Command (including Delta Force) officially adopted the new Speer Gold Dot G2 (Speer LE 54226) 147-grain JHP round (which typically penetrates 16 inches, but expands only modestly, to .42 inch, at 950 fps velocity) as the standard ammunition for their Glock-19 pistols, although the Army is now fielding the brand-new, Winchester M1153 147-grain, 9mm Special Purpose JHP, and has been purchasing an alternative, 9mm load, the XM1196 “barrier-blind” JHP (990 fps velocity, possibly the new, Federal Enhanced Barrier Round), with further details not yet available. Speer also manufactures a Gold Dot G2 230-grain +P round in .45 ACP (averaging 13.5 inches penetration, and .72-inch expansion), which is a likely choice for Delta’s optional Glock-30s.

Most recently, since 2018, Delta Force has adopted modest quantities of the new, SIG MCX Virtus (“Truth”), also affectionately known as the “Black Mamba,” with an 11.5-inch barrel (in 5.56mm) and gas-piston operating system, the SIG MCX SBR (short-barrel rifle) with nine-inch barrel (in .300 BLK), and the ultra-compact, SIG MCX Rattler personal-defense weapon (PDW), in both 5.56mm and .300 BLK chamberings, with a 5.5-inch barrel and overall length of just 16 inches. The Rattler “is the shortest rifle that’s on the market today...shorter than any M4 ever produced,” according to SIG officials. Any of these three weapons may utilize the quick-detachable, SIG SRD556 or shorter, “SRD556K” suppressors, and they have definitely been photographed in the hands of Delta operators in Afghanistan and Syria.

The .300 Blackout round is most-effective with a sound suppressor, and produces the same muzzle energy with a nine-inch barrel as a Colt M4A1 carbine in 5.56mm with a 14.5-inch barrel. Delta and the Navy SEALs wanted an extremely-compact weapon with a barrel length of much less than nine inches, for close combat in confined spaces.

The MCX Rattler or longer MCX SBR are currently used by Australia (Police Special Operations Group), Poland (Grom Special Forces unit), the United Kingdom (Special Forces), and the United States (Delta and USSOCOM.) The U.S. has already purchased 200 SIG MCX carbines, including 100 MCX SBRs with nine-inch barrels, and 100 MCX Virtus SBRs with 11.5-inch barrels.

Delta Force members carry a wide variety of knifes, usually privately purchased and owned, into action. The most-common are Leatherman multi-tools and Swiss Army Knives, used strictly as tools, and not for fighting. Those who are already Special Forces-qualified may own the Chris Reeve Knives (of Boise, Idaho) Yarborough-SF (Special Forces) combat/survival knife, which is a special status symbol. Otherwise, Daniel Winkler knives, of Boone, North Carolina, are quite popular, and expensive. These may include the WK (Winkler Knives) Operator, WK Utility Knife, WK Recon, or WK Tactical Dagger.

Winkler made all of the classic, handmade knives, axes, and tomahawks featured in the famous, 1992 historical-drama film, The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Immediately after the film’s release, a veteran, Navy SEAL from Virginia contacted him about making knives, and even modern, custom, edged tools, such as the WK Combat Axe (patterned after an 18th-century, tomahawk design) and WK Ranger Axe, for the U.S. special operations community, which he has done ever since.

Currently, the U.S. Army is fielding the brand-new, SIG M17 (P320) modular, full-sized pistol and the compact M18 variant, both in 9mm, to begin replacing its Beretta M9s as the standard, service sidearm. All other branches of service have selected only the smaller, lighter M18 as their new pistol, which is also issued to Army general officers, and recently to generals and admirals from the other services. These are both fine handguns, however, unlike Delta’s current Glock-19s, -26s, and -30s, they remain essentially unproven in battle to date, so don’t expect Delta Force to begin using them in large quantities until further testing can be accomplished.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, October 27, 2019, a helicopter-borne, Delta Force raid just west of Barisha, Syria, was aimed at killing or capturing notorious, ISIS terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the young, American, humanitarian aid worker whom al-Baghdadi had personally imprisoned in 2013, beaten, raped, tortured, and probably murdered in 2015. The Delta raiders, armed with HK416 carbines, SIG MCX Black Mambas and SBRs, Glock-19/30S pistols, and ably assisted by U.S. Army Rangers with Colt M4A1 carbines and Glock-19s, swooped in at one o’clock AM aboard six MH-47G Chinook special operations transport helicopters and two MH-60M Black Hawk Direct-Action-Penetrator (DAP) gunships based in Iraq, assaulting the main building of the terrorist leader’s secret compound.

Six adult, ISIS members were killed in the intense action, and 11 children were rescued. The terrorist leader himself ran into one of the dead-end tunnels beneath the house with three of his young children, pursued by a Delta Force Belgian Malinois tracking dog named Conan, and blew himself and his children up with an explosive, suicide vest, collapsing the tunnel. There were no American casualties, except for the dog, which was slightly injured, but soon recovered. When the mission was over two hours later, American F-15E Strike Eagle jet fighters fired six AGM-158A JASSM precision-guided missiles, totally obliterating the main building to prevent it being used as an ISIS stronghold or shrine to their fallen leader.

Directly supporting Delta Force/CAG and DEVGRU is the ultra-secret, ultra-elite, U.S. Army Studies and Analysis Activity (USASAA), better known as SAA, “the Activity,” or Task Force Orange, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (but with secret detachments in Alexandria, Virginia, Bethesda, Maryland, Rome, New York, and four other U.S. cities, plus three more locations around the globe, according to author Marc Armbinder of The Atlantic and National Journal).

Officially created in 1981, this is a Top-Secret, special operations unit that provides direct, actionable, intelligence analysis, pathfinding, and operational support to the nation’s top CT units, as a result of CIA intelligence failures in the past, but SAA is also tasked with direction action and hostage rescue, when required. Michael Smith’s superb, ground-breaking, 2007 book, “Killer Elite,” vividly describes the SAA in great detail.
They have been known by a wide variety of unit names, cover names, and program names, including the Field Operations Group (FOG, 1980), Intelligence Support Activity (ISA, 1981), Tactical Concept Activity (first official, cover name, 1981), Royal Cape (mid-1980s), Centra Spike (1989), Tactical Coordination Detachment (1989), Capacity Gear (1989), Torn Victor (1996), Quiet Enable, Opaque Leaf, Cemetery Wind, Gray Fox (2001-2002), Titrant Ranger (2002), Mission Support Activity (MSA, 2003), Tactical Support Team (TST, 2004), Intrepid Spear (as of 2009), and finally SAA in 2010.

The unit is primary staffed by approximately 300 highly capable, self-reliant, former Delta operators and veteran, Special Forces soldiers, all qualified paratroopers, with a selection course reportedly tougher than Delta’s. Although technically an Army organization, SAA also recruits from other services, and even has some female case officers, specializing in human intelligence (HUMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection.

Most members are fully qualified operators (or “shooters”), usually with an extensive, intelligence background and key, linguistic skills in Arabic, Pashto, Kurdish, Farsi, or other in-demand languages. They are then specially trained in infiltration techniques, offensive and defense driving skills, deep surveillance, tradecraft, state-of-the art communications, survival skills, freefall parachuting, advanced weapons skills, and hand-to-hand combat.

SAA’s greatest expertise is in precisely locating American hostages held by foreign terrorist groups, and pinpointing and targeting high-value, terrorist leaders. They fought in Afghanistan alongside Delta and DEVGRU, helped locate and capture Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in December 2003 (Operation Red Dawn), were instrumental in tracking down and killing al-Qa’ida, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011 (Operation Neptune Spear), and undoubtedly played a crucial role in hunting down ISIS terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria in October 2019 (Operation Kayla Mueller), who blew himself up with an explosive, suicide vest.

SAA/Intrepid Spear operators utilize the same weapons-acquisition process, through ACC, as Delta Force, and very much the same type of MultiCam uniforms (or civilian clothes), HK416 carbines, Glock-19/26/30S pistols, and ammunition, so they are virtually indistinguishable from one another in the field.

In conclusion, combatting global terrorism is a truly daunting task, because the terrorists always hold the advantage in knowing precisely when, where, and how they will strike, but dedicated, highly-professional, Delta Force operators stand ready to respond to any incident worldwide within just a few hours. Delta is not only one of the world’s premier CT units, but it’s constantly testing and evaluating new weapons, tactics, and procedures as international terrorism continues to evolve in an uncertain world.

Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, and four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.webs.com.

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