Elite officers prove they're no pussycats

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 4:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 6:19pm

Surviving "hell week" is the first hurdle for those who want to join the police's elite "Flying Tigers".

But it's not just a week; 75 per cent of applicants are screened out in the 11-day recruitment exercise. And those who make it through can expect another nine months of punishing training.

At the end, they will be able to shoot a target as small as a fist from a distance of 100 metres.

That's according to an article marking 40 years of the Special Duties Unit - the elite paramilitary tactical wing of the police force set up to target terrorism. The article, published on the Information Services Department website yesterday, gives rare insight into the training and equipment used by the Flying Tigers.

"The unit has an annual recruitment exercise with an 11-day selection period … known as 'hell week', which is incredibly demanding," the article said. "Only 25 per cent of applicants succeed and they undergo a further nine-month training period to upgrade their abilities in shooting, tactics and physical endurance."

The unit has over 100 members who are on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to counter terrorist attacks, rescue hostages and tackle serious crimes involving firearms. The logo features a tiger with a pair of wings to symbolise courage.

"In the end, a trained sniper will be able to shoot a target as small as a fist from a distance of 100 metres, or break into a flat to shoot armed gangsters to rescue a hostage in short order," it said.

Some 383 people have served in the unit, based in Fanling, since 1974. No women are in the unit at present and only one has served - she did mainly administrative work nearly a decade ago.

The gear alone would be a challenge for most people. At 18kg to 22kg, it includes an MP5 submachine gun, Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, ballistic vest and headgear, fire-resistant head cover and a gas mask. The unit also has five Belgian shepherd dogs, trained to attack and fitted with harnesses so they can be lifted in and out of helicopters.

Flying Tigers have taken part in 162 missions and 335 underwater searches. In June, they used stun grenades and tear gas to storm the Kowloon Bay flat of a gunman who allegedly killed a neighbour and later himself.

Additional reporting by Samuel Chan