Special Assault Team

Special Assault Teams (特殊急襲部隊 Tokushu Kyūshū Butai)

Special Assault Team Shoulder Patch
Active 1996 – present
Country  JPN
Branch Japanese Prefectural Police Departments
Type Law enforcement
Role Domestic anti-Terrorism and Law Enforcement
Size c. 300
Garrison/HQ Tokyo (Most SAT operatives) at the Metropolitan Police HQ
Nickname(s) SAT

The Special Assault Teams (特殊急襲部隊 Tokushu Kyūshū Butai) are counter terrorism units of the Japanese police. They are established in some Prefectural Polices supervised by the National Police Agency.[1] The SAT is mandated, along with the Anti-Firearms Squad and the Counter-NBC Terrorism Squad, for counter terrorism missions and incidents involving firearms or criminals which require an armed response beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement in Japan.[1] Most information on the unit has been confidential, its existence officially revealed only in 1996.

Currently, SAT is officially known in Japanese as Special Unit (特殊部隊 Tokushu Butai) and individual teams officially take the name of the Metropolitan or Prefectural police departments to which they are assigned; an example would be Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Special Unit (警視庁特殊部隊 Keishicho Tokushu Butai, Metropolitan Police Department Special Unit) for the SAT assigned to the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

The military counterpart of the SAT is the Special Forces Group of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.


Establishment of SAT

The origin of the Special Assault Team can be traced back to September 28, 1977 when Tōkyō and Ōsaka began to train Special Armed Police (SAP) units as an armed response to criminal incidents involving firearms, especially after the Dhaka Incident.[2] After its establishment, the unit had its first known incident on January 26, 1979 when the SAP's Osaka branch (then known as the "Zero Company") were deployed during a Mitsubishi Bank hostage incident in Osaka.[3] In the incident, they shot dead Akiyoshi Umekawa after he gunned down two employees and two policemen. It was the first shooting incident in Japan involving armed police officers. SAP units were deployed overseas to assist in the evacuation of Japanese nationals when the Gulf War took place in 1991.[3] In 1992, the SAP was dispatched to Machida city to resolve an armed criminal incident.[3] In 1995, SAP units were dispatched to Yamanashi Prefecture, in order to serve a search warrant to one of Aum Shinrikyo's hideouts, charged with suspicion of the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.[3]

On June 21, 1995, All Nippon Airways Flight 857 was hijacked at the Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido by a lone hijacker named Fumio Kutsumi (九津見 文雄).[4] This incident marked the first time that the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces cooperated with the SAP by providing Kawasaki C-1 aircraft as means of transportation from Haneda Airport. The plane was stormed by SAP officers and the hijacker was arrested and subdued, with assistance from the Hokkaido Police's Riot Police Unit.[3] The hijacking attempt marked the need for a specialized counter-terrorist team that would operate under the auspices of the National Police Agency.

On April 1, 1996, the Special Assault Team (SAT) was established after a year's training with the GSG 9,[5] GIGN [6] and the British SAS.[5]

Operational History

During the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru, the SAT had simulated raids on retaking buildings similar to the Japanese Embassy as a possible counter-measure to a similar incident in Japanese soil.[3]

In June 1997, the SAT was involved in its first anti-hijacking case when it stormed a bus and captured a hijacker alive.

On June 11, 1999, a lone man armed with a hunting rifle stormed the Keiyo Bank in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture. The SAT's Chiba unit was deployed to resolve the incident, but the hostage was released and the man was arrested by police through negotiations. The incident then forced Chiba Police to create the Assault Response Team, which would take responsibility for the SAT in low level criminal incidents. The unit has similar responsibilities to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's SIT (Special Investigation Team) and the Osaka Police's MAAT (Martial Arts Attack Team).

The SAT became known in Japanese media again when its Fukuoka branch took part in recapturing a hijacked bus in Fukuoka in the Neomugicha incident in 2000, capturing the lone hijacker alive.[7][8] The hijacking event showcased the SAT's dedication to protect the public with their counter-terrorist skills in subduing felons such as criminals and terrorists with as little force as possible, although it was suggested that the SAT captured the hijacker was because of the rules implemented in the Law Concerning Execution of Duties of Police Officials, which doesn't allow any police officer to fire their weapons except for situations that require self-defense.[8]

In September 2003, the SAT's Aichi unit was deployed to resolve a hostage incident. However, the hostage-taker Noboru Beppu (別府 昇) committed suicide in an explosion which killed three and injured 41 others.[9]

Recent moves by NPA officials lead to an increase in manpower. In 2005, NPA officials increased the SAT's manpower from 200 to 250 operators. Another increase followed in 2006 when they increased the unit's manpower from 250 to 300 operators.

In May 2007 in another incident in Nagoya, an ex-yakuza gangster named Hisato Obayashi (大林 久人) was captured by officers based from the Aichi Prefecture after he killed Kazuho Hayashi (林 一歩), an SAT operative stationed in Aichi.[10][11] Posthumously promoted to Captain, he is the first SAT officer to be killed in the line of duty.[12] His death has forced National Public Safety Commission Chairman Kensei Mizote to issue a press report, stating that SAT gear will be checked to see if it was responsible for Hayashi's unfortunate death.[13]

The SAT Support Staff (or the SSS) unit was created on May 2007 in the wake of the hostage taking in Aichi Prefecture.[1]



The Tokyo branch, formerly called "Special Operations Company" (特科中隊), is under 6th Mobile Unit, Security Department of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (警視庁警備部第六機動隊). In Osaka Prefecture, it was created under the 2nd Mobile Unit (第二機動隊) and was unofficially called the "Zero Company" (零中隊). Today, the official name of SAT in Japanese is simply "特殊部隊" or "Special Unit."

Currently other branches exist in the prefectural Police departments of Hokkaidō, Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi, Fukuoka and Okinawa. Nationwide SAT maintains about 300 personnel.[13]

SAT operators conduct routine training in their own kill house at certain prefectures in the Kantō region. The SAT has also conduct joint training with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in order to maintain their state of readiness. For instance, SAT personnel have been tutored by the 1st Airborne Brigade on insertion techniques.[3]


Each SAT division consists of a Command section, Assault section, Sniping section, and Technical Support section.[3]

The Assault section executes assaults and suspect apprehension. The Sniping section provides reconnaissance and precision fire. The Technical Support section operates and maintains communications and surveillance equipment. The technical support group is in charge of electronic equipment such as microphones and cameras. The command section is responsible for tactical planning.[3][14]


The following leadership ranks are observed in the SAT:


Upon recruitment to the SAT, the officer's name is made classified from the roster of active police officers; this is to protect them from being attacked by criminals, extremist and terrorist groups, and being subjected to legal proceedings.[3] SAT operators have entered joint training with the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Teams on CQC tactics.[3] 10 SAT officers were placed under training by Queensland Police's Specialist Service Branch in Queensland, Australia.[15]




Assault Rifles

Submachine Guns


Sniper Rifles

Areas of Responsibility (AOR)










  1. 1 2 3 4 "Chapter IV. Maintenance of Public Safety and Disaster Countermeasures". Japanese National Police Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-03-25. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  2. "Special Operations.com's Japan Page". Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 日本の特殊部隊 (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-11-16.
  4. Michelle McGee (1995-06-22). "Police Raid Ends Japan Hijacking". SFGate. Archived from the original on 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  5. 1 2 3 "The new Tokyo Marui AEG: MP5 Japanese Police/Military Version". 2004-05-13. Archived from the original on 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  6. "Specwarnet's Special Assault Team Page". Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  7. "Riot police end hijack drama". BBC. 2000-05-03. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  8. 1 2 Ryuichiro Hosokawa (2000-05-16). "Failing youth and the victims of crime". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  9. "Three killed, 41 injured in Japan when office worker takes hostages". The Japan Times. 2003-09-18. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  10. "Gunman surrenders, ending 29-hour standoff in Nagakute". The Japan Times. 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  11. "Hostage rescued after horrifying 24-hour standoff with gunman". Daily Mail. 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  12. Aichi standoff ends after shooter gives himself up, May 18, 2007 by Kyodo News.
  13. 1 2 "Security chief pledges to reexamine special assault gear after officer's death". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  14. 1 2 "Okinawa police form assault team for response to terrorism". Stars and Stripes. 2005-09-10. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  15. Michelle Connolly. "Japanese officers put to the test in the Sunshine State" (PDF). Queensland Police. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  16. 自衛隊の採用する銃 (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  17. "SAT" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  18. https://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/syouten/syouten271/english/0504.html

External links

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