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4/73 (Sphinx) Special Observation Post Battery


The Role

STA Patrols operate at range and in close proximity to the enemy; hence their demanding selection and training needs to physically and mentally prepare them for advance force operations. They combine technically advanced surveillance with the ability to execute control of joint fires, including Artillery, Attack Helicopters, Fast jets and Precision Missiles. STA Patrols support the Commander’s decision-making and allow him to find and strike the enemy at range.


After basic training at either Harrogate (49 Weeks for 16 - 17.5 year olds) or Pirbright (14 weeks for 17.1 - 33 year olds) you move on to Phase 2 training at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. This 15-week course turns you into a Gunner – a fully qualified member of the Royal Artillery. If you are already serving, you can apply to join the Special Observers from any part of the Armed Forces. You must then complete the 13 week Surveillance and Target Acquistion (STA) Patrols Course. The first three weeks are in the hills conducting fitness and navigation training, culminating in a series of Test Marches. If you are successful you continue with medical and signals training and basic patrol skills. You then learn specialist skills in covert surveillance and complete live firing ranges before the course culminates in the Final Test Exercise. At this stage you will have earned the right to wear the Special Observer badge, but your training is far from over.

Skills you can learn

Once you have completed the STA Patrols course and become a Special Observer you continue with courses in Advanced Photography, learn to call in Artillery strikes, and complete Survival, Evasion, Resistance to interrogation and Extraction (SERE) training. You will then be ready to join a six man Patrol ready to deploy on operations anywhere in the world. As your career progresses you may specialise in Advanced Medical Training, learn to use high tech communication and optics equipment, learn to control direct Attack Helicopters and Fast Jets, or even become a Jungle Warfare Instructor.

Video of Gunner Special Observer

Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) patrols operate at range and in close proximity to the enemy.

They combine technically advanced surveillance capability with the ability to control Artillery Fire, Attack Helicopter, Fast Jets and Precision Missiles.

Lance Bombardier Tom Mawle

Lance Bombardier Tom Mawle

I was inspired to become a Special Observer by the challenging and varied role.  Since completing the STA Patrol Course I’ve been on exercise all round the world including Canada, Kenya and Jordan.

I have deployed to Afghanistan twice as part of the Brigade Reconnaisance Force. My six man team was responsible for managing Artillery, Aircraft and surveillance assets in highly challenging conditions, often far in front of friendly forces in enemy territory.

4/73 Battery Image Gallery

Keeping a watchful eye

4/73 Battery

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