SAS 'Blue Thunder' unit caught on camera landing in Manchester city centre

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The SAS, short for Special Air Service, is a covert and tactical arm of the British Army which is rarely seen in public.

And the rare sighting comes only days ahead of Armed Forces Day.

Footage of the yesterday’s encounter shows black-clad figures abseiling out of a helicopter hovering over Manchester Central Fire Station in Ancoats.

Speechless residents watched on as the crew slid down the cable – in a technique known as fast-roping.

The soldiers immediately spread out across the roof in the Mission Impossible style video.

A number of eyewitnesses said the helicopters were part of the elite SAS counter-terrorism unit nicknamed “Blue Thunder”.

The blue AS365N3 Dauphins chopper took off from the City Airport and Heliport in Salford, according to eyewitnesses.

They flew over Trafford Park and towards the Manchester Central Fire Station on Thompson Street in Ancoats.

At least four armed forces members were then seen to descend from one of the choppers onto the flat roof of the building.

SAS

BIZARRE: The onlookers were left speechless (Pic: MEN / JONATHAN WARD)

Manchester Fire Service later confirmed that the extra-departmental exercise had happened.

Jonathan Ward, who observed the chopper land “within spitting distance” of his balcony, said: “I jumped out of my skin!”

Little is known about the secretive Blue Thunder unit, other than that they are 70-man team directly accountable to the Home Secretary.

The group were formed in the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks and the unit is tasked with responding to high-threat domestic situations in the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin helicopter.

SAS

SECRET: The SAS are highly secret (Pic: GETTY)

The helicopters were last seen during the 2017 Borough Market terrorist attack when a Blue Thunder swooped down on to London Bridge.

It has been reported that the Blue Thunder squad is a branch of the 22nd SAS regiment and the choppers are piloted by members of 658 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, which is believed to have five of these crafts.

The choppers are reportedly often accompanied by an Apache gunship equipped with cameras which can send live images to response teams on the ground.

It comes after former SAS hero Andy McNab revealed who was the most skilled soldier.

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