CIA Special Activities Division (SAD) / Special Operations Group
The Special Activities Division (SAD) is the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) covert paramilitary operations unit. They are one of America’s most secretive and lowest profile special ops organizations.
The Special Activities Division, sometimes referred to as the ‘Special Operations Group’, is made up of Paramilitary Operations Officers. CIA Paramilitaries are typically ex-military personnel and veterans of military special operations units such as the Green Berets or Marine Force Recon. SAD also recruits from within the Agency. Regardless of background, SAD operators undergo extensive specialized training.
Special Activities Division – Role
Special Activities Division typically carry out deniable covert operations on foreign soil. CIA Special Operations Group Paramilitiaries are trained in
- personnel and material recovery
- bomb damage assessment
- hostage resuce
- counter terrorism
Special Activities Division – Organization
Part of the CIA’s National Cladestine Service, the Special Activities Division is thought to include around 150 paramilitaries, pilots and other specialists. When deployed to the field, they typically operate in 6 man or fewer teams, with many a mission carried out by a solo SAD operative. CIA Special Operations Group Paramilitaries often work on joint operations alongside Delta, DevGru, Special Forces etc.
SAD is organized into several sections:
- Ground Branch
SAD Ground Branch operatives are experts in field craft, surveillance, small arms, hostage rescue, CQB and advanced driving. Many former Army Special Forces soldiers and Delta Force operators find their way into Ground Branch.
- Maritime Branch
As the name suggests, SAD Maritime Branch’s focus is on amphibious operations and as such tends to recruit ex SEALs and Force Recon Marines as its operators.
- Air Branch
SAD’s aviation wing.
more info : Air Branch
Special Activities Division – Notable Operations
- 2001 – present – Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom
CIA Special Operations Group operatives were the first American forces to deploy into Afghanistan in September 2001. Multiple CIA teams, made up of a mix of case officers and SAD paramilitary officers, linked up with various anti-Taliban forces throughout Afghanistan. Their mission was to represent the US Government, gather intelligence on Al Qaeda and the Taliban and prepare the way for air strikes by coalition aircraft and the introduction of US Special Operations Forces into the country. CIA teams proceeded to make contact with Northern Alliance commanders, building relationships that were the key to ousting the Taliban regime. SAD Officers accompanied NA commanders and US Army Special Forces during several battles, including ousting the Taliban from the key Northern cities of Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
more info : JAWBREAKER – the first CIA SAD team to enter Afghanistan after 9/11
CIA operatives were involved in the prisoner revolt at Qala-i-Janghi, a medieval fort being used to house captured Taliban soldiers, which claimed the life of Johnny Michael Spann, a SAD officer. A combination of US and UK SOF alongside NA forces eventually quelled the rebellion and retook the fort.
CIA operatives worked closely with U.S. and British Special Operations Forces throughout the campaign. The book Bloody Heroes by Damien Lewis, describes a British Special Boat Service (SBS – the UK equivalent of US Navy SEALs) recon mission in the mountains of Afghanistan. The SBS team, which included a SEAL on secondment to the unit, was accompanied by a CIA SAD Officer who’s expertise in intelligence gathering was instrumental to the mission’s success.
- 2003 – Pakistan
March 1st – CIA Special Activities Division operatives, along with Pakistani forces, captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on of the architects of 911. SAD would go on to assist in his interrogation.
- 2003-present – Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom
Months before the invasion of Iraq began, CIA SAD teams had covertly inserted into Iraq in order to gather intelligence on Saddam’s WMD programs and on indigenous terror group, Ansar al Islam.
During the invasion of Iraq, SAD Paramilitaries linked up with Army Special Forces and Kurdish forces in the North of the country. Their combined efforts tied up Iraqi forces, preventing them from moving south to counter the main coalition thrust. CIA teams also attempted to persuade Iraqi military units to defect.
Following the initial invasion, CIA SAD operatives provided intel for SOF snatch and grab operations against Baath party leaders and, later, elements of the insurgency.
American Special Operations Forces
Twin-engine spy plane flown by AFSOC
view: MC-12W Liberty
Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH) SEALION long range vessel
view: CCH SEALION
Combatant Craft Assault
Info on the Special Boat Team’s CCA
more new stuff:
- Combatant Craft Medium
- MH-60M Black Hawk
- Boeing C-32B
- Delta Force Syria Raid
- J. Buchanan Rescue By DEVGRU
- GPNVG Info
- Failed DEVGRU Somalia Raid
- Delta Force Benghazi Capture Op
- Diver Propulsion Systems
- SEALs storm MV Morning Glory
This site features detailed info on the Special Operations Forces (SOF) of the United States Of America.
The units on this site are:
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces
- U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets)
The quiet professionals. Masters of unconventional warfare.
- Delta Force (CAG)
The Army’s elite counter-terrorism experts.
- 75th Ranger Regiment
Army Rangers lead the way.
- 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
The Night Stalkers – elite helicopter flyers
- Intelligence Support Activity
Top secret intelligence gatherers
- see all U.S. Army Special Operations Forces
Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Units
- Navy SEALs
America’s renowned naval commandos
- SEAL Team Six
The US Navy’s secretive special mission unit, otherwise known as DEVGRU
- Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman (SWCC)
Elite sailors who operate a range of surface boats
- see all U.S. Navy Special Operations Forces
USMC Special Operations Forces / Elite Units
- US Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC)
Marine SOF under a new command structure
- Force Recon
Elite Reconnaissance Marines who carry out deep reconnaissance operations
- Division Recon
Highly trained Recon Marines
- see all USMC Special Ops Units
U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces
- Special Operations Squadrons
Operators of AC-130 Gunships and other specialized planes and helicopters
- Special Tactics Teams
Combat Controllers, Pararescuemen, TACPs and Special Operations Weather Teams
- see all USAF Special Operations Units
Coast Guard Special Ops
- Deployable Operations Group
Coast Guard Specialized Forces
CIA Special Forces
- CIA Special Activities Division
Central Intelligence Agency Special Operations Group
Military Law Enforcement / Security
- Military SWAT / Security Overview
Overview and links to units
Civilian Law Enforcement
Special Weapons & Tactics – overview
- FBI HRT
The elite hostage rescue team of the FBI
- FBI SWAT
The FBI’s Special Weapons and Tactics teams
Special Operations – Video
A selection of video clips featuring American Special Operations Forces
U.S. Army Special Forces
A collection of footage of U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in action.
USMC Special Operations
Videos featuring MSOBs, Force Recon, Special Reaction Teams etc.
USAF Tactical Response Force (TRF) undergoing training.
USCG DSF Training
Video showing the basic tactical operators course (BTOC) undertaken by USCG Deployable Specialized Forces.
ATF Special Response Team
A look at the ATF SWAT team, the SRT
Package featuring NASA’s SWAT team, the Emergency Response Team (ERT)
Special Tactics Airmen
USAF Special Tactics Airmen training U.S. Army soldiers.
USCG Deployable Specialized Forces
B-roll of various Coast Guard special ops units.
USCG Deployable Operations Group
2007 package featuring the USCG DOG and its various components in action.
CV-22 Osprey Refueling
352d Special Operations Group perform mid-air refueling between CV-22 Osprey aircraft and MC-130P tankers.
U.S. / Aussie SOF
Special Operations Forces from the U.S.A. and Australia conducting joint training.
Combat Rescue Training
Pararescumen undergo combat rescue training.
SWAT Team Training
Police SWAT Team training at military facility.
CV-22 Osprey – AFSOC
Package on the CV-22 Osprey and its use by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
Navy SEALs – Demo
Video report featuring Navy SEALs putting on a demo.
Footage taken inside an AC-130 gunship.
Civilian and Military Police SWAT teams train at Fort Bragg
Emerald Warrior 2012
Package on Emerald Warrior 2012, a large scale SOF exercise.
Special Ops CAPEX
B-roll of special operations forces from the U.S. and partner countries perfoming a capabilities demo
Special Ops Demo
Assorted special operations units putting on a demonstration in Tampa Bay, 2012
MSST – Vertical Insertion
USCG Maritime Safety & Security Team conducting fast-rope training
Maritime Security Response Team
Footage of the Coast Guard’s elite MSRT.
MSRT – Oil Rig Take Down
The USCG’s elite counterterrorism unit storm an oil rig during a training exercise.
8-part series of footage featuring the Navy SEALs
US Navy feature on the SWCC.
Ranger Training Brigade – Demo
Skills demo by Army Rangers
Rangers – Afghanistan Parachute Jump
DoD footage of Rangers jumping into Afghanistan, 2001
Army Rangers taking part in Ranger Rendezvous 2011
CV-22 Osprey B-Roll
B-roll of AFSOC CV-22 Ospreys
Air Force Special Operations Command Special Tactics units conduct training
News report on the new CV-22 Osprey and its introduction into AFSOC service.
Pentagon report on the retirement of the venerable MH-53 helicopter from AFSOC service.
Footage of MH-53 Pavelow helicopters and AC-130 Gunships
Report on the Air Commandos – USAF Special Tactics Teams – CCTs, PJs, SOWTs.
Iraq – hostage rescue
Officially released footage showing Delta Force operation to free Polish and Italian workers who had been kidnapped in Iraq.
Special Forces – 160th SOAR
Footage of 1st Special Forces Group, Korean Special Forces and 160th SOAR MH-47s
160th SOAR Little Birds
Stunning footage of SOAR MH-6 helicopters inserting SOF onto rooftops in Iraq.
160th SOAR DAP Gunship
Clip of a MH60L DAP gunship firing at ground targets during operations in Iraq.
160th SOAR DAP Gunship – extended clip
Much longer clip of MH-60L DAP and AH-6J gunships carrying out close air support (CAS) in urban Iraq.
160th SOAR – Insurgents Takedown
Amazing clip of SOAR MH-60 Blackhawks swooping down on insurgents in Iraq.
160th SOAR – Little Birds – Iraq
MH-6 helicopters and US SOF intercept a car in Iraq
160th SOAR – NASCAR
Video of Night Stalkers and other SOF preparing for a NASCAR demo
AC-130 Gun Camera Footage
Outstanding footage shot through the gun camera of a AC-130 Gunship over Afghanistan.
Package showing the AC-130U Spooky gunship in flight and engaging targets.
Special Operations – Weapons
The following details the array of weaponry used by America’s elite military units.
Assault Rifles / Carbines:
ubiquitous US Army carbine available with a selection of accessories
more info : M4A1 carbine
also known as the MK 18 Mod 0, this shortened version of the M4A1 is a favorite within the NSW community
more info : CQBR
fourth-generation, full-size AR-15 variant in use with USMC units
more info : M16A4
specially developed for Delta Force by German gunsmiths, Heckler and Koch
more info : HK416
MK16 Mod 0 SCAR
A newly-developed series of 5.56mm assault rifles, carbines and light sniper rifles
more info : MK 16 Mod 0
MK17 Mod 0 SCAR
A family of 7.62mm carbines, assault rifles and light sniper rifles
more info : MK 17 Mod 0
MK 14 Mod 0 Enhanced Battle Rifle
A modernized M-14 rifle in use with the SEALs.
more info : MK 14 Mod 0
M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle
The USMC use this variant of the HK416 in the automatic rifleman role.
more info : M27 IAR
Sub Machine Guns:
Compact, accurate and versatile, the 9mm Mp5 comes in a number of flavors
more info : MP5
A compact smg used by DEVGRU / SEAL Team 6
more info : MP7
M3a1 Grease Gun
vintage Delta Force .45 smg
more info : M3 Grease Gun
vintage Delta Force 9mm smg
more info : Walther MP
The US Army’s standard sidearm, the 9mm beretta is used by Rangers and other SOF units.
more info : M9 Beretta
This venerable .45 was Delta’s favorite pistol for many year.
more info : Colt 1911
Modified version of the Colt 1911, developed for the USMC
info : MEU(SOC) pistol
Sig Sauer P226 / P228
9mm pistols carried by Navy SEALs and SWCCs.
info : Sig Sauer P226 / P228
Sig Sauer P239
Sub-compact 9mm pistols used by SEAL Team 6
info : Sig Sauer P239
Compact .45 handgun used by Navy SEALs
info : HK45CT
Pistols in a range of sizes and calibres
info : Glock pistols
Military version of the Remington 870
more info : M870 Shotgun
M500 / M590 Shotgun
12-gauge pump-action shotgun based on Mossberg M500
more info : M500 Shotgun
12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun based on the Benelli M4 Super 90
more info : M1014 Shotgun
A 5.56mm light machine gun in wide use throughout the US military with variants developed for special ops forces.
info : M249 SAW
Mk 46 Machine Gun
A special ops variant of the M249 SAW
info : Mk 46 Machine Gun
Mk 48 Machine Gun
A scaled-up variant of the Mk 46, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO
info : Mk 48 Machine Gun
M240 machine gun
Versatile 7.62mm belt-fed medium machine gun that can be carried or mounted on tripods, vehicles, boats and helicopters.
info : M240
M2 heavy machine gun
.50 caliber gun fired often mounted on SOF boats, vehicles and helicopters.
more info : M2
multi-barrelled 7.62mm electrically-operated gatling gun mounted on boats, helicopters and vehicles.
info : Minigun
SR-25 (MK 11 / M110)
A medium range 7.62mm sniper rifle used by units such as the Rangers
more info : SR-25
MK 20 Mod 0 Sniper Support Rifle
Designated marksman’s rifle based on the SCAR-H
The Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) – a 7.62mm medium sniper rifle based around the M14 rifle
The Enhanced Marksmanship Rifle (EMR) – a 7.62mm medium sniper rifle used by MARSOC and other USMC units
more info : Enhanced Marksmanship Rifle
SPR (MK 12)
5.56mm sniper rifle used by the SEALs, Rangers and Special Forces
more info : SPR
US Army bolt-action 7.62mm sniper rifle
more info : M24 SWS
XM2010 enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR)
New and improved U.S. Army sniper rifle configured to use the .300 Win Mag cartridge
more info : XM2010 ESR
Bolt-action 7.62mm sniper rifle used by USMC Special Ops, among others
more info : M40A3
A new 7.62mm sniper rifle in use with the USCM
more info : M40A5
Navy SEAL variant of the Remington 700 long action
more info : M91A2 sniper rifle
MK 13 Mod 5
.300 WinMag sniper rifle used by the US Navy SEALs
more info : MK 13 Mod 5
long range .338 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle
more info : McMillan TAC-338
M82a1 / M107 Barrett
devastating .50 caliber long range sniper rifle used by SEALs, Delta etc.
more info : Barret rifle
MK 15 Mod 0 SASR
.50 caliber long range sniper rifle used by US Navy SEALs
more info : MK 15 Mod 0 SASR
M203 Grenade Launcher
40mm underslung weapon
more info : M203
M320 Grenade Launcher
40mm grenade launcher in attached and stand-alone configurations
more info : M320
M79 Grenade Launcher
Vietnam-era 40mm grenade launcher still used by US SOF
more info : M79
MK 13 Mod O Grenade Launcher
40mm grenade launcher for the new MK 16 and MK17 rifles
more info : MK 13 Mod 0
M32 Grenade Launcher
Multishot 40mm grenade launcher used by SOF and US Marines
more info : M32 MGL
MK 19 Grenade Launcher
belt fed, automatic grenade launcher
more info : MK 19
MK 47 Striker Grenade Launcher
advanced, computer-assisted 40mm automatic grenade launcher
info : MK 47
Rocket / Missile Launchers:
vietnam-era 66mm rocket launcher still in use with US SOF
info : M72 LAW
Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle
versatile rocket launcher in use with SOCOM units
info : Carl Gustav
84mm one-shot rocket launcher
info : M136
fire-and-forget anti-tank missile system
info : FGM-148 Javelin
man-portable anti-aircraft systems
info : FIM-92 Stinger
Special Operations Aircraft
U.S. special operations aviation units use the following aircraft…
Air Force special ops tilt-rotor aircraft…
more info : CV-22 Osprey
AFSOC gunship with a deadly array of weapons…
more info : AC-130H/U Gunship
MC-130E/H Combat Talon I/II
Modified C-130s that fly in support of US special operations…
more info : MC-130E/H Combat Talon I/II
MC-130P Combat Shadow
AFSOC tanker aircraft, based on the C-130 Hercules…
more info : MC-130P Combat Shadow
MC-130J Commando II
AFSOC’s latest special ops trasnport plane…
more info : MC-130J Commando II
Gunship variant of the Commando II…
more info : AC-130J Ghostrider
MC-130W Combat Spear
A recent addition to AFSOC’s fleet of special ops transport planes…
more info : MC-130W Combat Spear
MC-130W Dragon Spear
MC-130W Combat Spears turned into gunships when fitted with a modular weapons system…
more info : MC-130W Dragon Spear
EC-130J Commando Solo
A flying psyops broadcasting station…
photo : EC-130J Commando Solo
Surveillance planes operated by AFSOC Special Operations Squadrons
photo / more info : U-28A
Surveillance aircraft based on the Beechcraft 350 King Air
photo / more info : MC-12W Liberty
M-28 / C145A Skytruck
Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) transport aircraft operated by AFSOC
photo / more info : M-28 Skytruck
turboprop transport plane used by AFSOC units
more info : C-146A Wolfhound
AFSOC Non-standard Aviation
Info on the various light and medium aircraft operated by AFSOC intra-theater airlift fleet
more info : AFSOC Non-standard Aviation
Modified Boeing 757 used on covert USAF special operations
more info : Boeing C-32B
Recently decommisioned AFSOC helicopter…
more info : MH-53J/M Pave Low
MH-60 Black Hawks
Transport helicopters flown by the elite Night Stalkers…
more info : MH-60K/L/M Black Hawk
MH-60L DAP Gunships
Heavily armed Black Hawks flown by the 160th SOAR…
more info : MH-60L Direct Air Penetrator (DAP)
AH-6 / MH-6 Little Bird
Small and nimble transport and attack helicopters operated by the 160th…
more info : AH-6 / MH-6 Little Bird
Heavy-lift special operations helicopters flown by Night Stalkers…
more info : MH-47E/G Chinook
HH-60H Rescue Hawk
Naval Special Operations helicopter…
more info : HH-60H Rescue Hawk
CIA Special Operations Aircraft
Info on the various aircraft operated by the CIA Speciial Activities Division…
more info : CIA SAD Air Branch aircraft
Special Operations Aircraft – Resources
Special Operations – Missions
Here you can find a master list of all the accounts of operations / missions detailed on this site.
160th SOAR – Operation Prime Chance
The Night Stalkers join a Navy task force in the Persian Gulf
features : 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs
more info: 160th SOAR – Operation Prime Chance
160th SOAR – Operation Just Cause
The 160th fly attack and insertion/extraction missions in Panama
features : 160th SOAR, Delta Force, Navy SEALs, Rangers
more info: 160th SOAR – Operation Just Cause
Delta Force and British SAS hunt Saddam’s missiles in the desert, 1991
features : Delta Force, SOAR, AFSOC
more info: SCUD Hunting
SOF – Operation Enduring Freedom
In-depth feature on US SOF during the early months of OEF, Afghanistan
features : CIA SAD, 160th SOAR, Delta Force, Navy SEALs, Rangers, Special Forces, AFSOC
more info: SOF – Operation Enduring Freedom
Delta Force / Rangers – October 2001
Delta and the Rangers carry out airborne raids into the heart of Taliban country
features : Delta Force, Rangers, CCTs, Psyops
more info: Delta Force / Rangers – October 2001
Delta Force – Hunt For Bin Laden
A look at the 2001 Delta Force mission to find and kill Osama Bin Laden
features : Delta Force, CIA SAD, Special Forces
more info: Delta Force – Hunt For Bin Laden
SOF – Operation Iraqi Freedom
A report on the activities of the various US SOF that took part in the 2003 liberation of Iraq
features : special forces, rangers, navy seals, swcc, special tactics, delta force, usaf special ops, isa
more info: SOF – Operation Iraqi Freedom
Delta Force – Baghdad Airstrike
An attempt in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom to cut off the head of the snake
features : delta force, usaf special ops, isa
more info: Delta Force – Baghdad Airstrike
A task force swoops on a suspected WMD site in the Iraqi desert during Operation Iraqi Freedom
features : JSOC special mission teams, rangers, 160th SOAR
more info: WMD complex
Delta Force – Saddam capture
A bloodless but expertly handled operation to take the ousted Iraqi dictator into custody
features : delta force, usaf special ops
more info: Delta Force – Saddam capture
Iraq Hostage Rescue
US SOF swoop on a compound in Iraq to rescue 4 foreign hostages
features : unspecified SOF, 160th SOAR, isa
more info: Iraq Hostage Rescue
SEALS – Operation Red Wing
An ill-fated SEAL recon mission in the mountains of Afghanistan
features : SEALs, 160th SOAR, Rangers, Special Forces
more info: SEALS – Operation Red Wing
Syria Commando Raid
The controversial incursion into Syria, October 2008
features : Special Mission Units, 160th SOAR
more info: Syria Commando Raid
SEALs Rescue Capt. Phillips
April 2009 – Navy SEALs rescue a US ship’s Captain from pirates
features : SEALs
more info: SEALs Rescue Capt. Phillips
Operation Celestial Balance
September 2009 – A SOAR / SEAL Team 6 raid into Somalia nabs a wanted terrorist
features : 160th SOAR, DEVGRU
more info: Operation Celestial Balance
Failed Hostage Rescue – Afghanistan
October 2010 – the attempt by DEVGRU to rescue Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove goes badly wrong
features : DEVGRU, 160th SOAR, Rangers
more info: Linda Norgrove Rescue Bid
Hostage Rescue – Somalia
January 2012 – DEVGRU rescue 2 western hostages, including American, Jessica Buchanan, from Somali pirates in a daring desert raid
features : DEVGRU, 160th SOAR, FBI HRT, AFSOC
more info: Somali Hostage Rescue
Abu Anas al-Libi Capture
October 2013 – Delta Force, along with FBI Hostage Rescue Team and CIA operators, capture an Al Qaeda terrorist in Tripoli
features : Delta Force, FBI HRT, CIA SAD
more info: Abu Anas al-Libi Capture
DEVGRU Barawe Operation
October 2013 – DEVGRU attempt, and fail, to capture an al-Shabaab commander from his house in Barawe, on Somalia’s east coast
features : DEVGRU
more info: DEVGRU Barawe Operation
MV Morning Glory
March 2014 – Navy SEALs intercept an oil tanker held by Libyan militia
features : SEALs
more info: MV Morning Glory
Abu Khattala Capture
June 2014 – Delta Force lead a multi-agency operation to capture one of the 2012 Benghazi attack masterminds
features : Delta Force, FBI HRT
more info: Abu Khattala Capture
Abu Sayyaf Killed
May 2015 – Delta Force carry out a raid in Syria that kills a senior IS financier
features : Delta Force, Night Stalkers, AFSOC
more info: Abu Sayyaf Operation