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Information on AusSF Selection 

Below are some links to training regimes for both Australian and American SF. I would encourage prospective applicants who are weak swimmers to have a good look through the BUDS program (Commandos and CDTs in particular) and for those needing to brush up on their running to put more emphasis on Aus-SF routines. The essay on attrition rates below will be updated shortly with more accurate figures for Commandos. I hope this helps!

Generic Training Programs

Comparative information on US and Australian Special Forces Selection attrition rates:

(This information is derived from a 1999 study by the RAND corporation commissioned by the US DOD, and information supplied by the Australian DOD and Recruiters)


The following statistics are interesting for several reasons. First they demonstrate the relative difficulty applicants have in gaining access to various Special Forces groups. Secondly they bring to light some interesting and somewhat counterintuitive conclusions and put to rest several ridiculous claims about pass rates. Finally, they illustrate how proper preparation for SF selection can decrease attrition rates.

The picture of Australian SF is both more and less clear in some areas than the information available on US SF. For example, below you will find separate statistics for Officer and Enlisted attrition rates for American SF, but that level of detail is lacking for Australian SF (partly because almost all SF positions in Australian are non-officer roles). At the same time, below you will find information on passing various assessments to actually try to pass selection in the first place where information like this is absent for American Forces (or at least it was not included in any great depth in the RAND study except to mention that ASVAB {testing} scores and swimming tests continue to be a barrier to minority participation in US SF).

The study separated White and Minority statistics to establish what barriers minorities face in gaining entrance to the Special Forces so as to ensure that they are better represented than present rates suggest they are. The statistics are represented here so as to compare Australian and American selection attrition rates for their respective Special Forces units.


Pass Rate for the Q Course (US Army SF officers)

These pass rates have been taken from The Ranger Training Brigade's website. The data is the cumulative average of 18 classes and can be found here

Pass rates for BUDS (SEAL selection). The improvement in pass rates over the years is attributed in the RAND study to better candidate preparation in both physical and academic areas - especially swimming and navigation.

Pass rates for Australian Special forces. the spread here represents poor data records. The Aus DOD has recently commented that an SASR class has gone through achieving a very good result of nearly 39% pass rate , but the average rate is known to be less than this (27-30%) (source). Similarly Commandos are a relatively young special forces group with only a few years of statistics available but recruiters say that it is typical for less than half to pass. The Direct Entry Program has a bearing on the pass rates (reflecting the lower pass rates). Commando applicants already in the ADF enjoy a better pass rate (nearly 50%) than their direct entry counterparts. US SEALs, Rangers, and Special Forces also have direct entry programs which is also known to negatively impact the pass rate.


While a systematic study has yet to be completed on attrition rates (though one is in progress) as has been done in America's case, there has been enough information from Aus DOD releases to assess the current state of AusSF attrition rates.

A few surprising conclusions can be drawn from the study

  1. Rangers suffer a greater attrition rate than Army Special Forces (Green Berets) contrary to popular belief, but are formally trained for a significantly shorter period of time. Despite that, their ongoing training is very rigorous.

  2. While the graph is not represented here US Air Force SF suffer a greater attrition rate than any of the above SF groups. The pass rate for ParaRescumen was only 10%.

  3. Australia's SF Commandos pass rate is directly comparable to US Army SF, Rangers and the 1997 SEAL pass rates, and the SASR average failure rate is higher than any other group represented above.

It is important to note that these figures do not in any way equate to a judgment on which group is "the best". Such comparisons are misleading and fairly useless since each groups, by definition, is differently tasked - passing selection has little to nothing to do with how proficient a special forces soldier a person is.  There are however discrepancies between groups regarding the training time required to get the operators to the point where they may see combat.

  • SEAL spend 6 months at BUDS and then undergo a 6 month probationary period during which time they train with an active SEAL team. (source)

  • Army Special Forces "Q-course" can last anywhere between 23 and 54 weeks depending on a soldiers specialty (MOS). They are superbly trained in their specialty and cross train with others to acquire their skills.

  • SASR training is 1.5 years long and is very similar to the British training regime albeit with slightly more focus on desert warfare.

  • Special Operations Commander, Major Duncan Lewis, has stated that  Commandos successful at passing selection will take "18 months to reach the elite level where they may see military action". This includes a 2 month "accelerated training curriculum" as well as 8 separate Commando schools. After this training and a year in their unit they can undergo further training in up to 10 schools including recon, sniper, and Counterterrorism. All of this training is usually in addition to a 3 month Advanced Infantry course though there are exceptions. (source) (source)

  • US Army Rangers undergo Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and Parachute School and are then placed somewhere in the 75th Ranger Regiment for between 5 and 18 months before going to Ranger school, which is 60 days long. In total, RIP, Airborne school and Ranger school is 3.5 months long and is completed on top of the 8 week Advanced Infantry course.(source)

Thus if one considers the number of training month dedicated to the special forces soldier Australian SF are engaged in training for longer than there American counterparts. The one exception to this is the US Army SF soldier specialising in either Medicine or Communications which takes longer than Commando training.

The complete RAND study is here


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