Page 1


special ops in AFRICA: Bad news for


SOF GEAR, on the


of possibility


Special Operations


last stand of an AIR FORCE PJ




Families of Fallen and Wounded Special Operations Warriors

Wounded Warrior Support Providing immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel so their loved ones can be bedside during their recovery.

Educating their children Providing full college educations to the surviving children of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel since 1980. Funding provided for tuition, books, fees, room and board.

CFC # 11455

Contents 12





Letter from the Publisher

Procurement and Operations



Base Instincts Transport ship modification is the first step in building floating forward staging bases. By Marc Selinger


A PJ’s Sacrifice The first combat rescue mission of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham was also his last.


Weather Commandos Air Force Special Operations weather teams jump in to provide front-line forecasts.

By Elaine S. Povich

By Tony Mecia


Budget Battles DoD largely spares Special Operations from ever-deepening cuts from the budget ax.


High-Tech Tools DARPA and U.S. Special Operations Command dream up game-changing equipment.

By James Kitfield

By Rich Tuttle


Special Operations in Africa Growing SOF presence quietly targets new terrorist lairs and political instability. By John Pulley


JTRS Army Rangers give key element of the Joint Tactical Radio System a thumbs up. By Rich Tuttle

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Contents 62


71 56

Equipping the Spear Industry ingenuity turns off-the-shelf technology into sophisticated Special Operations gear. By Rich Tuttle



On the Homefront 76

Special Operators commit the ashes of the father of military combat diving to the sea.

Gear for Fido

By Dave Chace

Special Operations K-9s get special equipment for sniffing out trouble. By Elaine S. Povich

‘13 Procurement preview 69


About the Cover Photographer Russell Lee Klika’s photos dramatically document Special Operations training and missions.


Final Frame


on the cover


2012 SPRIN


A private from the Tennessee Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment during a semi-relaxed moment in Iraq.


al op

in AFR Bad ne ICA: ws




for terrorist s

the H



PHOTO: Courtesy of Russell Klika


By John T. Bennett



Navy: F-35 JSF



Marine Corps: AH-1Z Cobra By Nick Adde


Louder than Words

Army: Stryker By Matthew Cox


Photos by Russell Lee Klika

Air Force: B-3 Bomber By Nick Adde


Final Dive

IC last of an stand AIR FO RCE PJ

on the


of poss



l Operat




S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D




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Julie Bird


Kelly Montgomery


Daniel J. Peabody


Samantha Gibbons Jennifer Roark McCants Martin J. McAuliffe Steven Zheutlin, Ph.D. Jerry L. Montgomery, Col. USAF (RET) John Carl Roat Lee Anne McAuliffe Sammy Rosario Justin DeJesus Jayson Dehainaut


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WRITERS: Nick Adde

Dave Chace

Tony Mecia

John T. Bennett

Matthew Cox

Elaine S. Povich

Julie Bird

James Kitfield

John Pulley

Marc Selinger Rich Tuttle

Dedicated to the Memory of

Richard “Richie” Thomason November 9, 1945 - April 17, 2012 U.S. Army Veteran

Copyright 2011-2012. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. The opinions expressed within this publication do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. Defense Standard LLC assumes no responsibilites for the advertisements or any representations made in this publication. Defense Standard LLC in unable to accept, or hereby expressly disclaims, any liability for the consequences of inaccuracies or omissions of such information occurring during the publishing of such information for publication. Disclaimer: Neither the Department of Defense nor any other United States Government agency has approved, endorsed or authorized this publication in any form. No such inference is suggested, promoted or communicated in any manner.


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Publisher’s Note


elcome to our annual Special Operations issue, chock full of reports about our nation’s silent warriors. To be honest, this is always one of our more challenging issues. The Special Operations world isn’t known for providing a lot of detail about what it does or how it spends its money. Fortunately, we get it. We understand the security concerns, and our journalists work with those restrictions. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s crack Combat Camera photographers – including Russell Lee Klika, whose work is featured on this issue’s cover, as well as in a story about the burial at sea for the father of military combat diving – can be counted on to provide compelling photos that don’t give away any secrets about covert operations. And so, a year after SEAL Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden in a daring raid at the terrorist’s home in Abbottabad, Pakistan – surely one of Special Operations Forces’ most celebrated victories – we’re pleased to bring you this SOF Superbook. We start with the story of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, an Air Force Special Operations pararescueman who saved the lives of at least 10 wounded warriors in Afghanistan a decade ago in what became known as the Battle of Robert’s Ridge before succumbing to internal injuries from gunfire to the gut. Even after he was wounded, Cunningham repeatedly risked his life crossing the live-fire line to move injured men to relative safety. We also tell you the story of a lesser-known element of Air Force Special Operations – the SOF weather teams. These scientist-commandos parachute out of airplanes, fast-rope out of helicopters and do whatever else it takes to gather weather information critical to the success of covert operations. Think about how a sudden sandstorm or thunderstorm can wreak havoc on a high-value operation, and you’ll understand why what these air weathermen do is so important. Al Roker, they’re not.

This issue also takes a look at SOF’s emerging mission in Africa under the U.S. Africa Command. Details are minimal at this point, but defense officials have openly expressed concern that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are looking to reform in northern Africa as U.S. drone strikes decimate their hideouts in Pakistan. Special operators also are conducting their traditional foreign internal defense mission and trying to stabilize sometimes shaky friendly governments. Of course, SOF can’t do what they do without funding, so we look at how Special Operations fares in the proposed fiscal 2013 budget. Hint: a lot better than conventional forces. We also look at some of the latest, greatest SOF equipment. We include a report as well about Army Ranger combat field tests of the Rifleman Radio, one of the surviving pieces of the Joint Tactical Radio System. And finally, back to Klika. You’ll learn a little more about this former Marine and current Army National Guardsman who has documented Special Operations missions around the globe. He helps the rest of us understand just a little better what you do. We thank him, but especially, we thank you.

David Peabody PUBLISHER

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Senior Airman Jason Cunningham’s sacrifice lives on in the 10 wounded men he saved a decade ago in Afghanistan By Elaine S. Povich


mong Jason Cunningham’s last words were these: “I think I’m OK.” Despite his intense medical training as an Air Force pararescue jumper, he could not have been more wrong. Cunningham died from internal bleeding after being shot through the gut on the frigid and ordnance-riddled Takur Ghar mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2002. The 17-hour fight, known as the “Battle of Robert’s Ridge,” is still considered one of the worst of the war, even 10 years later But before the pararescueman died, he saved 10 American lives, braving intense weapon fire and an inferno in a helicopter crash, and dragging the wounded from the line of fire to relative safety at least three times. He crossed the live-fire line each time. For his heroism, he was awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously, the first pararescueman to receive the service’s second-highest military honor since the Vietnam War. Six others died that day along with Cunningham, but everyone who was there says there would have been even more casualties without the actions by Cunningham. It was his first live-action mission -- and his last. According to the citation for the Air Force Cross, Cunningham moved wounded troops to three casualty collection points as each was overrun. In addition to saving 10 lives, his actions “allowed the bodies of sev-

en fallen warriors to return home with honor.” The mission was something like the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” but in this story Ryan didn’t make it home.


he story, according to military after-action reports and numerous articles in military publications, began at approximately 3 a.m. March 4 when an Army MH-47E Chinook helicopter dubbed “Razor 3” landed near a battlefield in Afghanistan. The crew’s mission was to call in airstrikes on al Qaeda fighters who had dug in near Takur Ghar mountain at the southern end of the Shah-e-Kot Valley, in an operation known as Operation Anaconda. The chopper came under heavy fire as soon as it landed and the pilot jerked it skyward, out of the fray. But as soon as it ascended, shouts came from the rear cargo area – “A guy’s out!” Somehow, a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Neil Roberts, had fallen out. Razor 3 was too badly shot up to go back for the lost man, but the crew called in the incident. Another Army MH-47E helicopter, carrying Cunningham and the rest of the crew, was sent in within hours to help, arriving at about dawn. Those who survived Roberts Ridge would not know that Roberts had been killed by enemy fire, probably before they even began the rescue mission.

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force

His first rescue mission,

and his last

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hat kind of calm and soldierly demeanor was vintage Cunningham, according to his mother, Jackie Cunningham of Gallup,

N.M. “He always wanted to be a soldier,” she says. “Yes, always. We would go camping, other kids would have hot dogs, he would eat MREs.” When he told his mother that he was going into the pararescue unit, she wasn’t too worried. 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. The U.S. was at relative peace. “When your kids reach a certain age, you gotta let them go,” she says. “I was so proud of him for wanting to go and do things.” During his training, Cunningham apparently wanted to “do things” in a big way. He was always highly attentive to his training, according to military accounts, even in the grueling, two-year course it takes to be-


D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force

The rescue situation turned bad almost immediately. The Chinook helicopter, dubbed “Razor 1,” began taking heavy fire as it approached the mountain marking the landing zone. The helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Greg Calvert, was shot several times as bullets raked his chopper. He aborted the landing and was trying to retreat when the controls of the chopper failed and the Chinook crash-landed. Then things really got bad. Enemy fire was piercing the Chinook, hitting the crew from every direction. Men were wounded and screaming as hands and feet were blown off. Amid the chaos in the morning hours, Cunningham and the other members of the medical team went to work. Master Sgt. Cory Lamoreaux, an Army special operations aviation regiment (SOAR) medic, tied off a bleeding artery in Calvert’s shattered arm. Cunningham checked the pulse of another and saw he was dead. He moved on to the next wounded man. Then the firefight intensified as the enemy shooters tried to blow up the helicopter’s fuel tanks. Of the 21 men on the helicopter when it crashed, the two pilots and the mission commander were wounded; three others were already dead, and a half dozen were wounded. Cunningham, according to the book Roberts Ridge: A story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan by Malcolm MacPherson, thought he was ready for this kind of scenario. He had trained hard and had persuaded his commanders to let him take whole blood to the battlefield. Whole blood can save lives, but is very perishable and hard to transport under less-than-ideal conditions, like those in war. But he had whole blood with him that day. Some of it would be used on him. It was when Cunningham and Lamoreaux tried to move some of the wounded away from the helicopter, which was still a magnet for incoming fire, that they were wounded. They each asked if the other was OK. Each assured the other that he was, but, in fact, both were badly wounded. Cunningham’s wounds were barely visible – the bullet went through his lower torso and pierced his liver. He was bleeding internally. According to the account in the book, which is drawn from several accounts of the battle, Cunningham continued to minister to the wounded, even while he was battling his own wounds, only stopping when he became too weak to move. At the same time, he was assessing his own injury. His training must have shown him that it was bad. But he kept talking and advising others how to treat his wounds. (From left to right) Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham and Staff Sgt. Gabe Brown about three weeks before the battle. Behind them is a MH-47E, the same type of helicopter that took them to Takur Ghar.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Sheila deVera

Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham BORN: March 27, 1975, in Carlsbad, N.M. DIED: March 4, 2002, in Afghanistan during the battle of Takur Ghar, part of Operation Anaconda. MILITARY UNIT AT TIME OF HIS DEATH: 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. FAMILY: Parents Jackie and Lawrence “Red” Cunningham,

Gen. John P. Jumper, the then-Air force Chief of Staff, offers condolences to Cunningham’s wife, Theresa, during services at Arlington National Cemetery in March 2002. Cunningham, a pararescueman, was killed in action while supporting Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.





Cunningham-Miller, daughters Kyla and Hanna. EARLY YEARS: Grew up in Carlsbad, N.M.; attended Carlsbad High School before graduating from Farmington High School in May 1994. SPORTS AND HOBBIES: Football, track and swimming; all things military.

PHOTO: Tech. Sgt. Mark D. Smith

MILITARY BACKGROUND: Enlisted in the Navy in June 1994 and trained as an aviation boatswain’s mate, but never served at sea. His first assignment was to Naval Support Activities in Naples, Italy, where he met Theresa de Castro, also an enlisted sailor. They married in March 1996. He considered joining the Navy SEALs and had passed the fitness test, but decided he wanted to be a healer and enlisted in the Air Force in April 1999 on a “delayed entry” program. He completed pararescue training in June 2001. DEPLOYMENTS: Deployed




Afghanistan, in February 2002. HONORS: Received the Air Force Cross on Sept. 13, 2002, at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; Purple Heart, Air

Airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing unveil a newly restored Camp Cunningham sign at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in June 2011. The camp was named in honor of Cunningham.

Force Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals, NATO Medal, Joint Forces Medal, Blue Jacket of the Quarter award. Source: Defense Department

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Honorary pallbearers from the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., remove the flag-draped casket carrying the remains of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham during the graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery.

come a pararescueman. The washout rate is said to be as high as 90 percent. Cunningham excelled. “Before he actually got into this class, he wanted to build his strength up so he got a rucksack that had 100 pounds in it and started working out with it,” says his best friend in training, Brandon, who did not want to use his full name for security reasons. “Our instructor saw this and made him use it throughout our training.” For Cunningham, Brandon, and others like them, the 9/11 attacks were a call to duty that also included a little nervous excitement at the prospect of putting their training to practical use. “He (Cunningham) was definitely committed to the mission,” Brandon says. “The thing about Jason that made him such a great dude was that he was like any of us. He was dedicated to the things that were important to him -- the mission, the brotherhood, and his family.” He died as he lived, always “giving 100 percent,” says Brandon, who describes Cunningham as his brother and best friend. Maj. Joseph Barnard, director of operations for the 38th Rescue Squadron and Cunningham’s former flight commander, says Cunningham was the “type of guy you liked right away -- his energy, his attitude, the way 16

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

he handled himself.” Cunningham “knew his fate before everyone else,” Barnard says. “Jason knew his wound was incompatible with survival without immediate surgery. But what he did in his last moments on this earth was simply extraordinary. He chose to continue to fight the enemy, he chose to continue to save the lives of his brothers, and he chose to epitomize service before self.” Barnard says Cunningham’s example continues to inspire those following him in the pararescue corps, whose members call themselves PJs, short for parajumpers. “Jason’s sacrifice was ultimate, so when he and others have paid that price, it’s serious to us,” he says. “Jason’s actions were special because of the way he conducted himself in the face of oncoming tragedy. His passing is 10 years young; it’s tied to our current war and enemy. Jason’s ability and training was and remains a great motivator; it’s worthy of continual remembrance. His example has become a pinnacle for new PJs to emulate.”


p on that Afghanistan mountain 10 years ago, the weather through the day was frigid. The

Citation, Air Force Cross


he President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham for extraordinary

heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a pararescueman near the village of Marzak in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on 4 March 2002. On that proud day, Airman Cunningham was the primary Air Force Combat Search and Rescue medic assigned to a Quick Reaction Force tasked to recover two American servicemen evading capture in austere terrain occupied by massed Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Shortly before landing, his MH-47E helicopter received accurate rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, severely disabling the aircraft and causing it to crash land. The assault force formed a hasty defense and immediately suffered three fatalities and five critical casualties. Despite effective enemy fire, and at great risk to his own life, Airman Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage of the aircraft in order to treat the wounded. As he moved his patients to a more secure location, mortar rounds began to impact within fifty feet of his position. Disregarding this extreme danger, he continued the movement and exposed himself to enemy fire on seven separate occasions. When the second casualty collection point was also compromised, in a display of uncommon valor and gallantry, Airman Cunningham braved an intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack while repositioning the critically wounded to a third collection point. Even after he was mortally wounded and quickly deteriorating, he continued to direct patient movement and transferred care to another medic. In the end, his distinct efforts led to the successful delivery of ten gravely wounded Americans to lifesaving medical treatment. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and in the dedication of his service to his country, Senior Airman Cunningham reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

military command had determined that the landing zone was too “hot” with enemy fire to attempt another rescue until dark. The wounded were packed in helicopter insulation as some protection against the cold. But Cunningham was fading. As morning turned into afternoon, the other members of the team did everything they could to keep Cunningham alive. They pumped in whole blood. They packed his wounds. They talked to him to try to keep him conscious. But eventually, he died, there on the mountain. Rescue would not come until darkness settled over the battlefield, 17 hours after Cunningham’s mission began. Jackie Cunningham says she had a feeling in her gut that something bad had happened, even before she got the call. She was watching CNN, saw some news about a rescue mission in Afghanistan gone bad, and “I knew he was gone. He always told me ‘Mom, don’t worry unless they pull up in a white car.’ And they pulled up in a white car to the house.” Jackie Cunningham says in the decade that has passed, she’s learned to live with the grief, though it’s never gone away. Some of the dedications and memorials to Jason have helped, though Jackie still believes Jason should have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s top military hon-

or. A dormitory at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas was named in his honor in 2007 by a vote of the members of the 882nd Training Group. At the dedication, his widow, Air Force Lt. Theresa Cunningham-Miller, told the base newspaper that the naming shows that military members “don’t forget their own.” She attended the ceremony with her daughters, her new husband, Air Force Capt. Matthew Miller, an H-60 helicopter pilot, and the couple’s young son, Jackson. “He’s our hero and always will be,” Cunningham-Miller said. “He’s even my husband’s hero,” she said, referring to Miller. A marble monument in Cunningham’s honor was erected at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, with the compound officially renamed Camp Cunningham. A street was named for him at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., in 2010. And, in what may be the most fitting tribute, in 2009, 12 airmen from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas held an 824-mile memorial rucksack march in honor of Cunningham and other fallen teammates. Marching in teams of two, each team walked approximately 150 miles during the 11day trek, each man carrying a 50-pound rucksack. One has to believe that Cunningham would have made it an even 100 pounds. J S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D



Budget Battles Special Operations Forces to grow in size and capability as conventional forces scrap for declining dollars 18

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heir missions rarely makes headlines, though when they do the accounts are typically dramatic: Arch terrorist Osama bin Laden killed last year in his secret compound in a daring night raid in Pakistan; two Western hostages rescued last January from a pirate’s den in Somalia; Umbra Jumdail, leader of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, killed in February in the Philippines. In any given year Special Operations Forces can make their way to one of a hundred different countries, targeting terrorists and insurgents, training and advising local security forces, conducting exercises, and engaging in humanitarian and disaster relief missions. Such unconventional missions have been the core business of Special Operations since its inception, and ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, business has been good. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, reliance on Special Operations Forces and their unique operational skills will only increase. The recent release of U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) budget is of interest precisely because it provides evidence of that shift, which has profound strategic implications. For a command that is often shrouded in secrecy, for instance, the budgetary numbers reveal that Special Operations Forces are a rare bright spot in an overall declining Defense Department budget. Consider that even as it prepares to cut up to 100,000 U.S. ground forces, the Pentagon will increase Special Operations Forces from roughly 66,100 troops today (up from 48,000 in fiscal 2007) to 71,000 by 2015. Long after combat troops leave Afghanistan, increased numbers of U.S. Special Operations Forces will almost certainly stay behind to help Afghan security forces keep al Qaeda and the Taliban at bay. Meanwhile, as it has wound down manpower-intensive and costly counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has shown a strong predilection for discreet targeted operations and an emphasis on training lo-

PHOTO: Sgt. Eric J. Glassey

By James Kitfield





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cal security forces that are the stockin-trade for Special Operations. In fact, numerous experts believe that model -intelligence-driven counterterrorist operations coupled with empowerment of local security forces -- will increasingly come to define 21st-century warfare for a United States wearied by a decade of manpower-intensive counterinsurgency and nation-building operations. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey talks about facing a “strategic inflection point,” as the United States is increasingly challenged U.S. Special Operations Command’s fiscal 2013 budget request includes $2.6 billion for overseas contingency operations, primarily Afghanistan, and money to upgrade MH-47G by transnational terrorists, insurgents, Chinook helicopters. criminal cartels and nation-state proxies. 60 Nighthawk helicopters, with 12 of the new MH-60M models “The global security environment presents an increasingly delivered to date. complex set of challenges and opportunities. By their very nature, The budget also includes funds for purchasing CV-22 Osprey Special Operations Forces are particularly well-suited to respond tilt-rotor aircraft that can land and take off like a helicopter yet fly at to this rapidly changing environment, and I fully expect the op- the speeds of a fixed-wing aircraft, with 23 of a planned 50 aircraft erational demands placed on SOF to increase across the next de- fleet already delivered. In terms of its primary fixed-wing aircraft, cade, and beyond,” Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. SOCOM is also in the process of upgrading its fleet of heavily Special Operations Command, testified in March before the Senate armed AC-130 ground-attack aircraft, and MC-130 transport airArmed Services Committee. “The decade of war after 9/11 has craft, with a new Precision Strike Package that has already proven proffered many lessons; among them, specific to Special Opera- itself in combat. The budget also includes funds for a “Non-Stantions Forces, is the complimentary nature of our direct and indirect dard Aviation Program” which likely includes stealth helicopters of approaches, and how they are aligned to this changing strategic the type that crashed at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad complex. environment.” To deploy Navy SEAL (Sea, Air Land) commandoes from the sea, SOCOM recently awarded prototype development conn terms of the overall defense budget, Special Operations tracts for a new Combat Craft-Medium, a replacement for the Forces remain a relative mouse that roars. Special Operations Naval Special Warfare Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat currently in use. Command’s fiscal 2013 budget request of $10.4 billion represents Congress has already provided funds for SOCOM to purchase 24 just 1.7 percent of the overall proposed DoD budget, for instance. High Speed Assault Craft as a critical “bridge” between the two Even when capabilities provided to SOF by the individual services programs. are added in, they represent only a 4 percent slice of the total DoD Anyone who has spent time in war zones such as Iraq and Afpie. Of that total budget of $10.4 billion, $2.6 billion covers “Over- ghanistan can attest to SOF’s varied fleet of ground vehicles, from seas Contingency Operations,” notably in Afghanistan. all-terrain vehicles to specially outfitted SUVs. The new budget After 9/11 Special Operations Forces were given the primary includes funds for the Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle, for counter-terrorist mission, and the budgetary numbers reveal how instance, a “low-profile commercial vehicle” modified with prothe demands of the SOF “direct approach” of targeting terrorists tective armor and advanced communications equipment to allow translates into equipment and enablers such as specially outfitted Special Operations Forces to “operate non-obtrusively supporting helicopters, aircraft and boats. SOCOM’s fiscal 2013 budget re- a host of SOF missions.” The command is also purchasing a new quest thus includes service life extensions and upgrades to a fleet Ground Mobility Vehicle that can deploy inside a CH-47 Chinook of heavy-lift, MH-47G Chinook helicopters that will number 69 by helicopter. 2015. The command is likewise upgrading its fleet of smaller, MHIn keeping with its evolving “network centric” model of coun-

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S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


terterrorism operations emphasizing rapid exploitation of advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, SOCOM’s budget includes a host of new ISR and communications systems. These include a SOF-developed family of Wide Band Satellite Communications Systems that provide assured access to the command’s secure voice, data and video services worldwide; unmanned drones carrying advanced surveillance sensors; and advanced high-definition video surveillance systems. Those systems are the enablers behind the headlines. They are also an integral part of the United States’ ability to successfully target fully half of al Qaeda’s top 20 leaders in just the last year. “In today’s global counterterrorism fight, U.S. Special Operations Forces continue to degrade al Qaeda and its affiliates’ leadership around the world, greatly reducing their ability to effectively plan and conduct operations,” McRaven testified, defending his budget request. “Extreme in risk, precise in execution and able to deliver a high payoff, the impacts of the direct approach are immediate, visible to the public and have had tremendous effects on our enemies’ networks throughout the decade.”


hile the targeted terrorist killings of the “direct approach” are essential to keeping the enemy off balance, SOCOM sees them only as an adjunct to a more long-term and sustainable “indirect approach” that includes empowering host-nation forces with training, advice and access to advanced ISR systems; providing assistance to humanitarian agencies; and engaging local populations. The budget backs up that claim. Congress has extended through 2015 SOCOM’s “1208” authority to work with indigenous forces engaged in counterterrorism operations around the world, for instance, and it approved increasing the funding cap of $50 million for the program in 2012. Elements of this program include 22 Military Information Support Teams and four Regional Information Support Teams, which augment the public diplomacy capability of local embassies. Special Operations Civil Affairs elements also operate in Afghanistan, Africa and the Philippines, and are manned by extensively trained and educated cultural experts who reach out to local populaces (so popular is this capability that SOCOM add22

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

The CV-22 Osprey continues to be an important component of the Special Operations budget, with USSOCOM requesting continued funding to build a fleet of 50 tilt-rotor aircraft.

ed a fifth Civil Affairs battalion in 2012). SOF also participate in civil-military support teams that provide humanitarian or disaster assistance. There work in 17 countries today is expected to expand to 20 countries in fiscal 2013, and 30 countries by 2017. Nowhere do the synergies of SOCOM’s “direct” and “indirect” approaches come together to greater effect than in Afghanistan. Special Operations Forces continue to target Taliban and al Qaeda leadership, increasingly with Afghan special forces in the lead. SOCOM has deployed an entire SOF headquarters to Afghanistan in support of that ongoing mission. Along with having the lead in counterterrorism operations in-country, SOF also has taken primary responsibility for “village stability operations,” recruiting and training 11,000 Afghan local police to provide a bulwark against Taliban intimidation in 57 local districts. SOF teams in Afghanistan now also frequently include Cultural Support Teams, which are filled by U.S. women. They are steeped in the local culture and language, and can interact with Afghan women normally barred by strict Islamic culture from talking to male SOF personnel. “While the ‘direct approach’ will remain a hallmark capability for Special Operations Forces in order to disrupt the threat, it alone is not the solution to the challenges our nation faces today, because it ultimately only buys time and space for the ‘indirect approach’ and broader governmental elements to take effect,” says McRaven, referring to the empowerment of host nation forces, humanitarian aid and engagement with local peoples. As for the future, he notes that the indirect approach builds relationships and alliances that are the critical link denying sanctuary to adversaries. “Through this network of relationships, SOF can provide a hedge against strategic surprise by identifying and working preemptively to address problems before they become conflicts.” J

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Spec Ops in Africa





By John Pulley n the evening of Jan. 24, President Obama inched his way through a throng of Washington’s power elite, shaking hands with lawmakers and colleagues who had gathered in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to hear the president deliver the annual State of the Union address. Reaching his secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, the president paused and offered congratulations. “Leon, good job tonight,” the president said, his remarks captured by live microphones. “Good job tonight.” Hours before the world would understand the meaning of that exchange, the secretary and the president tacitly acknowledged a successful hostage-rescue mission executed that evening by U.S. Special Operations forces in Somalia. As the president made his way to the lectern, elite troops who had just freed an American citizen and her Danish colleague were still mopping up after the mission. The daring rescue and its acknowledgement by the Defense Department and the White House the following day focused renewed attention on Special Operations Forces operating on the African continent, a military contingent whose profile has grown in recent years. In the past decade, Africa has evolved from an afterthought of American security and national interests to an area of intense concern. Increasingly, defense experts are viewing the use of Special Operations Forces in Africa as a cost-effective, politically acceptable means for looking after American interests on the continent. “As long as there is a major threat to the U.S. homeland from groups operating in places like Somalia and Yemen, combined with a political inability to send in large numbers of American forces, dealing with this kind of threat is ripe for only one kind of U.S.

Daring hostage rescue in Somalia shines light on small, but growing, presence


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Spec Ops in Africa

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SEALs deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa hit the ground after practicing special-purpose insertion and extraction techniques on an HH-60 helicopter.

military force, and that is Special Operations,” says Seth G. Jones, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp. and a former representative for the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations. “I don’t see their operations tempo declining in North Africa or East Africa any time in the foreseeable future. “It could increase.” he surgical precision with which the Special Operations team executed the hostage rescue in Somalia illustrates why elite troops are invaluable in Africa. On the night of the rescue, a team of commandoes from different branches of the military parachuted from airplanes into an area near where the hostages were being held, according to press accounts. The team included members of SEAL Team 6, the Navy unit that had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan the previous May. The rescuers hiked about two miles in the dark to a compound where gunmen with access to nearby explosives held the two international aid workers, Jessica Buchanan, an American, and her Danish colleague, Paul Thisted. Armed kidnappers had abducted them Oct. 25 near Galcayo, Somalia, and were holding them for ransom. The rescue team took and returned fire, killing nine abductors. None of the rescuers was killed or injured. Helicopters spirited the freed hostages onto waiting helicopters and on to safety in Djibouti, presumably to Camp Lemonnier, the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa. President Obama praised “the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces.” Indeed, at a time of budget constraints at the Pentagon, the Obama administration favors an enhanced role for Special Operations. “As we reduce



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the overall defense budget, we will protect, and in some cases increase, our investments in Special Operations forces,” Panetta said earlier this year. Not only do such forces provide more bang for the buck than the overwhelming blunt force of traditional troops, Special Operations appears particularly well suited to the political and logistical challenges of Africa. According to a March 23 report by the Congressional Research Service, “U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress,” U.S. Special Operations Command “is seeking expanded authority to deploy and position SOF and their equipment in an effort to achieve greater autonomy and increase presence in … Africa” and elsewhere. Last October, about two weeks before the hostages were abducted, the president authorized deployment of 100 troops, primarily Special Ops forces, to central Africa. Their mission, which continues, is to expedite the capture or killing of Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which for decades has terrorized central Africa, murdering citizens and exploiting children whom it has forced to bear arms and work in the sex trade. To that end, the Americans are training local militaries in Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Among other known threats in Africa are Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militia with links to al Qaeda; al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is primarily active in the north and west of the continent; and Boko Haram, which bombed the U.N. headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, last year. Large swaths of Africa are marked by political unrest and evershifting alliances, making it a fluid and slippery environment in which to gain a solid footing. The four major geographic areas of concern for Special Operation Forces Africa, part of U.S. Africa Command, are the Horn of Africa, northwest Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and a catchall category referred to as “the rest of Africa.” Political instability and ungoverned spaces bedevil the region. Somalia and other parts of the continent are essentially lawless vacuums of authority, fertile ground for the proliferation of pi-

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Spec Ops in Africa

A Senegalese army company marches past the official party following a recent special operations joint exercise in Theis, Senegal. U.S. Africa Command sponsors exercises with several partner nations in north and west Africa to build miitary interoperability and improve the skills of friendly special operations forces.

rates, drug traffickers, international terrorists and other criminal enterprises. Countering pirates is largely the provenance of conventional forces, but Special Operations troops have intervened to defuse crises caused by pirates. In 2009, Navy SEAL snipers killed three pirates who had seized the cargo ship Maersk Alabama and taken its captain hostage. It was the first seizure by pirates of a ship flying under the American flag since the early 19th century. elying on Special Operations to promote American interests in Africa is a relatively recent strategy. For more than half a century after World War II, the United States defined Africa primarily as a recipient of humanitarian aid. The 1993 Battle of Mogadishu debacle, which inspired the Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern Warfare book and movie, began as a humanitarian mission. As recently as a dozen years ago, politicians and policy analysts in the United States had declared Africa to be of little or no concern, either strategically or in terms of national security. Sept. 11, 2001, marked a profound shift in thinking. Subsequent geopolitical trends have further redefined Africa’s importance to the security of the United States and its national interests. Rich in natural resources, the continent provides as much oil to the United States as do Persian Gulf countries. Yet the United States’ strategic interests in Africa go well beyond what is extracted from African soil, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center. The continent has a fast-growing population and booming economic growth, including six or seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Within a few decades, Africa will become home to approximately 20 percent of the global population. The continent is close enough to Europe to affect the security of U.S. allies there. And should a conflict impede the flow of oil from the Persian



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PHOTO: Master Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson

Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, it would be imperative that oil tankers continue to pass through the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Meanwhile, China is attempting to establish influence in Africa, not to mention India, Brazil and other emerging powers that seek to be players on the continent. “It’s in our national interest to begin viewing Africa in terms of security, natural resources and economic opportunity,” says Pham, acknowledging that realities on the ground shift frequently. “It’s not black and white. It’s exactly the type of situation where the training [of Special Operations Forces], the capacity for understanding nuance and operating unconventionally certainly are skills that are very useful.” In light of those shifting economic and political threats, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) separated from European Command in 2008 to become a freestanding combatant command. As part of the realignment, Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) was stood up as a functional sub-unified command for AFRICOM, both based in Stuttgart, Germany. With the formation of SOCAFRICA, the command gained authority of the Special Operations Command and Control Element – Horn of Africa – which supplied the 100 special operators involved in the Kony training mission. SOCAFRICA later absorbed the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans–Sahara (JSOTFTS). Officials at SOCAFRICA did not immediately respond to requests to discuss their organization and operations. he primary focus of Special Operations on the continent is foreign internal defense, which involves training local mili-


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Spec Ops in Africa

tary forces, thereby denying safe havens to terrorists, extremists and outlaws. That training involves intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as tactics for conducting raids against enemies. “It’s more than shooting a gun,” says Jones. “It’s sophisticated tactical operations.” Special Operations Forces also target and kill known terrorists. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabham, a senior al Qaeda leader, died in a 2009 Special Operations raid in southern Somalia. Senior defense and intelligence leaders, among them Panetta, have said that al Qaeda’s demise in Pakistan has shifted the terrorist network’s attention to Africa. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, testified to Congress that “absent more effective and sustained activities to disrupt them, some regional affiliates, particularly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabaab in Somalia, probably will grow stronger.” The African strategy, for now, is to leverage relatively small numbers of Special Operations forces as a primary means for stabilizing the continent’s hot spots, and jump-starting economic development in underdeveloped regions. The alternative is continued instability and growing threats to U.S. interests and security. Determining the number of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa is all but impossible. Pham has estimated fewer than 200, but John Pike, director of, suggests that “the actual numbers are substantially greater” than DoD will acknowledge. He also suspects the CIA provides significant numbers of irregular commandos. However many special operators are there, the need for them is expected to grow. “If [the threat to U.S. interests in Africa is] left unaddressed you could have a network that ranges from East Africa through the center and into the Sahel and Maghreb, and that I think that would be very, very worrying,” Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM, told defense writers in September, according to an account published by Stars and Stripes. “I’d like more Special Operations Forces now.” Having endured a decade of brutal war against an entrenched 30

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PHOTO: Martin Greeson

U.S. service members from U.S. Special Operations Command Africa conduct parachute training near the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

enemy in Afghanistan, the military is eager to avoid a similar scenario in Africa. “AFRICOM is at the cutting edge of a significant problem set,” says Air Force Col. Richard Samuels, deputy commander of SOCAFRICA, in a January webcast posted online by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. “If we don’t do anything about it now, it’s going to be a more significant problem later.” Special Operations’ unique capabilities are ideal in such an environment, he indicates. “If we can get in there with a very small, light, lean footprint now, we will probably be able to shape the future in such a way that it’s less violent, more secure for the populace and eventually well-governed,” he says. “But we need to get after that now. We can’t wait until the safe haven has been established.” J

Base Instincts Navy gets a jump-start on long-term plan for floating forward staging bases

Artist’s rendering of a Mobile Landing Platform. The Navy wants to convert two of the platforms to Afloat Forward Staging Bases.


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hopes to build two of these new Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs) – enough to provide what Navy Secretary Ray Mabus calls “continuous AFSB support anywhere in the world.” But it could take four years to field the first ship. In the meantime, the Navy is diverting the USS Ponce transport ship from retirement to serve as a bridge vessel to the new AFSB. The Ponce (pronounced “PON-SAY”) already has a helicopter flight deck, which will serve as “a lily pad” for Sikorsky MH-53 minesweepers, says Adm. John Harvey, head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. The Ponce, the last of 12 Austin-class ships, will also resupply mine countermeasure ships, Harvey adds. The Ponce has a well deck, which, when filled with water, allows boats to drive into the ship to pick up and drop off people and equipment.

PHOTO: General Dynamics / Nassco


he U.S. Navy wants to position mine-clearing, Special Operations and intelligence-gathering forces closer to the action, so it is looking at turning ships into floating bases. The ships can be moved into position quickly, they don’t require expensive infrastructure, and they don’t need a friendly host nation as a home base. Once in place, the floating bases can host helicopters, unmanned systems and smaller boats. In a recently unveiled plan, the Navy says it wants to take its Mobile Landing Platform transport ship, add a flight deck, command-and-control equipment and storage for boats and mine-hunting equipment, and call it a floating base. The Navy

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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer watches as a Marine Humvee is driven off the amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce in Morehead City, N.C., last year. The Ponce is being repurposed as a floating forward staging base as the Navy builds two new ships specifically for that mission.


he Ponce will “fulfill a long-standing request” for a floating base in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, the Navy says. Central Command’s scope spans 20 countries, including such hotbeds as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. The Center for Strategic and International Studies says having antimine capabilities on floating bases could be particularly useful in a conflict with Iran, which could lay mines across a wide area to limit the movement of U.S. and allied naval forces and impede commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf. “Iran has a considerable capacity to lay mines,” including “a stock of some 2,000 to 3,000 naval mines,” the center says in a report. The United States and its Gulf allies currently have “limited” assets to deal with such a threat, which helps explain why the United States has rushed to deploy the Ponce “mother ship” to the Gulf to support mine warfare, the report continues. Lexington Institute analyst Dan Goure says the Navy’s floatingbase plan will also help free up “highly valuable” aircraft carriers and large-deck amphibious assault ships for other missions. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Katie Cerezo says the Ponce and the two new AFSBs will all support three mission sets: • Access, or minimizing the need to obtain permission from host nations to conduct missions from their land. • Reach, which is achieved by supporting rotary wing, unmanned


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Base Instincts systems and combat craft near their areas of operations. • Persistence, in which forces can operate for longer periods of time by being resupplied while they’re conducting missions. “Both platforms will provide similar capabilities important to AFSB operations, but will achieve them by different means and to varying degrees,” Cerezo says. “For example, the Ponce has a well deck to support launch and recovery of boats, whereas the [new AFSBs] will leverage a crane.”

PHOTO: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathanael Miller


Sailors prepare to lower the American flag at sunset on board the USS Ponce at Naval Station Rota, Spain, before the Ponce was saved from retirement for a new mission as a temporary forward staging base. The repurposed Ponce is expected to deploy to the Persian Gulf this summer.


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uilt by now-defunct Lockheed Shipbuilding, the 42-yearold Ponce supported the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the 2011 NATO airstrikes over Libya. To prepare the ship for its new role, MHI Ship Repair & Services of Norfolk, Va., made a host of upgrades under the $5.8 million contract, including updating bridge and propulsion equipment. The Ponce is expected to have a crew of about 200 sailors and civil service mariners. Navy officials deny media reports that the Ponce’s primary purpose is for Special Operations, insisting the primary mission is supporting mine warfare. “It’s not going over there as a Special Operating Forces death star Galactica coming through the Gulf,” Harvey says. For the longer-term solution, the Navy is asking Congress to approve converting two brand-new Mobile Landing Platforms to AFSBs. Roughly the length of two-and-a-half football fields, the new AFSB is based on a British Petroleum tanker design. It will include a flight deck with two helicopter operating spots, an aviation maintenance hangar, additional aircraft parking, and a flight operations control station. It will also have storage for boats and mine-hunting equipment, Cerezo says. General Dynamics is slated to begin building the first new AFSB in early 2013. It will be named after Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. Scheduling and naming decisions had not been announced for the second new floating base as of mid-April. The two new AFSBs, along with the two Mobile Landing Platforms that won’t be converted, “will alleviate demands on an already stressed surface combatant and amphibious fleet while reducing our reliance on shore-based infrastructure,” Mabus says. The Navy expects the AFSBs to have a “larger cost” than the Mobile Landing Platforms but did not elaborate. The Ponce is scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf this summer and remain on station until it is relieved by the first new AFSB in 2016. In a request for Ponce volunteers, the Navy calls the assignment a chance to be on the “leading edge” of a new program. Says Capt. Cynthia Womble, a Navy personnel official, “This really is an excellent opportunity for sailors to step out of their comfort zone and be a part of something really unique.” J

Hig h- P r ess ure J ob hen Master Sgt. David McKinney tells people that he forecasts weather for the Air Force, they get that. They figure he holes up in an office somewhere, analyzing radar images so the Air Force’s planes and helicopters can avoid storms. But when he tells people his job also involves parachuting into enemy territory and carrying weapons, well, that often leaves them scratching their heads. McKinney is part of a small but growing group of airmen who juggle the dual roles of weather geek and Special Operations warrior. That can seem like an odd combination for people accustomed to seeing their meteorologists on television yukking it up behind the safety of a news desk. But on the battlefield, accurately forecasting the weather can play a vital role in the success of a mission, or even spell the difference between life and death. Those forecasts still depend on human observations, especially in hot spots around the world unaccustomed to collecting weather information – places such as Afghanistan and parts of Africa. “The amount of weather data coming out of those countries ranges from slim to none,” says Maj. John Syc, director of operations with the Air Force’s 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field in Florida. The squadron is composed of about 60 men – and they are men, as the nature of the job has not prompted the Air Force to open it to women – who deploy primarily with Army and Air Force Special Operations units to provide insight on the weather. Outside of

the 10th Combat Weather Squadron, another 100 or so airmen have similar training and provide those services to their units. Like many Special Operations forces, the Air Force’s weather team is stepping up recruitment and growing. The Air Force recently made joining Special Operations weather easier by allowing airmen to enlist specifically for that job. Previously, the Air Force took meteorologists from other units and then trained them in special operations.


ne of the more common missions for Special Operations weather team members is helping aircraft crew perform their missions. From the

A member of the Special Operations weather team checks wind readings in a sandstorm during a Special Forces mission in Afghanistan. Air Force Special Operations weatherman is the only military career field that provides meteorological data in support of Special Forces missions.


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PHOTO: Air Force Special Operations Command


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PHOTO: Air Force Special Operations Command

PHOTO: Air Force Special Operations Command

ground, using equipment carried in their rucksack, they can assess visibility, cloud ceiling and the wind’s speed and direction. Pilots can then use that information to drop bombs, resupply a unit or evacuate an injured soldier. “When the weather starts getting hairy, the pilots and aircrews love the fact they can get on the radio and talk to a trained weather guy on the ground, who can tell them, ‘Hey, you’ve got a 3,000foot ceiling. You can get a helicopter in,’ ” Syc says. “They absolutely love getting information they can rely upon.” Collecting weather information from the ground also helps develop a forecast, which can affect the timing of a mission or the route units take. Sometimes the combat weathermen make those forecasts themselves, but often they relay information on local humidity, air pressure and temperature to another location, where another meteorologist uses multiple readings and comA member of the Air Force’s Special Operations weather team collects weather data. Team members puters to improve accuracy. use small handheld devices to collect a variety of weather data, which helps improve forecasts. But there are other combat weather missions, too – and they don’t always limit themselves strictly to weather. For instance, in Afghanistan, weathermen have worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to collect data on rivers. With that data, they helped develop computer models that could tell them which villages are at risk of getting wiped out in a flash flood. “Now, we’re able to give a community an assessment of what the flash-flood risk is,” Syc says. “That’s not something that’s been done before in Afghanistan.” In another recent mission, a weatherman working with a Special Operations team in a mountainous part of Afghanistan drew on his training, looked at the slope of the mountains and weather forecast and advised the team that it should take a different route through the mountains than was being proposed. He feared an avalanche. Just a week later, with the team safely taking another route, the avalanche struck, wiping out an Afghan village. (ABOVE) Members of the Air Force’s Special Operations weather team participate in training that helps them spot avalanche dangers. (BELOW) Staff Sgt. Bryce Houser, a Special Operations weatherman, inputs data on his laptop. Members of the Air Force’s weather teams often accompany Special Operations units and provide them with accurate weather forecasts, which improve the odds of success of missions.



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ecause they accompany Special Operations Forces, the Air Force’s weather technicians have to be nimble. They can’t carry a lot of bulky equipment – only what fits in a rucksack. Fortunately, technology has advanced to a point that sophisticated equipment is small and light. For combat weather personnel, the principal device is a cell-phonesized Kestrel Pocket Weather Meter, made by Nielsen Kellerman Co. of Boothwyn, Pa. It measures, tracks and transmits a dozen critical weather conditions, including temperature, wind speed, humidity, air pressure, dew point and altitude. The model most popular with the military weighs just 3.6 ounces – less than the latest model of the iPhone. The 80-employee company started in 1978 making handheld devices to help coxswains, who direct crews in rowing competitions. Nearly 20 years later, it expanded into handheld wind meters for sports, aviation and military applications. Today, the military accounts for about 30 percent of the company’s sales of weather meters, says Katie Godfrey, Nielsen Kellerman’s director of sales and marketing.

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“A lot of weather reconnaissance guys like them because the units are very, very small, compact and lightweight,” she says. “They’ve reduced the amount of gear the guys have to carry.” Besides the Kestrels, weather team members typically carry tactical balloons and set them aloft with helium, which help them assess wind conditions. They also bring rangefinders, which help them determine cloud altitudes and visibility. But perhaps the most important piece of equipment is their eyes. Syc says weather team members learn to “read the sky,” looking for clouds and other conditions that give clues to what’s coming. For instance, the arrival of high, white, wispy cirrus clouds signals that fair weather is likely for a day or two but that a storm could move in after that. Shifting wind direction can also indicate nearby storms or upcoming temperature changes. “The more information you have about what the weather is like right now, the better your forecast becomes and the better you can plan 96 hours into the future,” Syc says.


PHOTO: Air Force Special Operations Command

s Sun Tzu observed in the Chinese military treatise The Art of War, which dates to at least the second century B.C.: “If you know the weather and the terrain, victory will always be assured.” Of course, accurate weather assessments were not possible until centuries later. The barometer and thermometer were invented in the 17th century, and the invention of the telegraph in 1837 for the first time allowed scientists in the emerging field of meteorology to compile and analyze large amounts of data in real time. Today’s Special Operations weather teams trace their origins to World War II, when the predecessor to today’s Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), trained weather airmen in parachuting, close combat and weaponry. The Air Force dropped many of these men into France at the beginning of the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944 (which itself was delayed for a day


Staff Sgt. Bryce Houser, a Special Operations weatherman, assesses a river in southern Afghanistan. In addition to helping forecast weather, the Air Force’s Special Operations weather team has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan to assess flash-flood risks for local villages.

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because of weather). According to a recent article in Air Commando Journal, one such airman, Staff Sgt. Robert Dodson, parachuted before dawn into a field of grazing cattle in St. Mere Eglise, a few miles west of Utah Beach. For 15 days, he radioed in data including wind direction and speed, visibility, cloud heights, temperature and dew point to headquarters. Weather airmen later participated in operations in the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. The Air Force also sent weather teams into Vietnam and Thailand in the 1960s to collect weather data and train local populations, which helped improve forecasts for North Vietnam. Since then, combat weathermen have participated in most of the well-known missions that have involved Special Operations, including those in Grenada, Panama, Iraq (twice), Somalia, Haiti, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Today, Syc says the Air Force’s Special Operations weather teams appeal to men who are both brainy and athletic – people who enjoy studying and learning an academic discipline but also enjoy physical work. If recruits want merely to jump out of planes and fire weapons, there are already plenty of outlets for that, but a combat weatherman is a special breed, he says. Now, recruits can enlist and move directly into two years of training, a regimen that includes intensive courses in meteorology as well as jump school, survival training and other instruction in Special Operations tactics. Recruits typically enlist for four- or sixyear commitments. “Our guys have to be as qualified as a Special Forces guy, but at the same time, these are scientists on the battlefield,” he says. “Most of the guys who join are already interested in weather, but they don’t want to be stuck behind a desk for the rest of their career. They are people who enjoy the outdoors, enjoy a challenge, who like to push themselves, and who have some interest in weather, for one reason or another.” J

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of Possibility

The Edge

Stealth meets science as DARPA and SOCOM

collaborate on game-changing technologies


.S. Special Operations Forces don’t talk much about the high-tech systems they use to carry out some of the country’s most sensitive missions, and they almost never talk about systems being developed for future use. But it’s clear that they have some pretty amazing devices and that more are on the way. These devices, like the operators themselves, work at the edge of possibility. Take the idea of determining from a distance the interior layout of a building, whether it contains caches of weapons, and even if someone’s inside and where they are. A device for doing all that was recently transferred to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- and might have been used in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. The evidence seems strong. For one thing, the SEALs who conducted the raid last May are known to have rehearsed the operation in at least one mockup of bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Once the building was identified as the likely target, aerial or satellite reconnaissance surely

told what the exterior looked like. But to practice the raid, it has been suggested that a clandestinely obtained map of the inside must also have been available. DARPA’s VisiBuilding device seems to fit the bill. It pulses a building with radio frequency energy and uses special techniques to make sense of what would otherwise be wildly scattered returns. The data can be used to map the layout and size of rooms, and to detect people and supplies of weapons. An over-flight by a stealthy aircraft packing a VisiBuilding sensor shortly before the raid would have given SEALs up-to-the-minute information. Special operators are almost certainly interested in another technique for mapping the layout of a building. It involves a palm-sized flying robot fitted with a camera and a laser range finder. It uses the sensors to simultaneously navigate from room to room and build a map of things like doorways, windows, furniture and even people, figuring out all along where it is with respect to such features. “So suppose I were to send this into a building and I had

Dust kicked up by rotor blades can impede helicopter operations. LADAR technology could help pilots to see clearly even in such conditions. Here, Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces move to a ridgeline in Takhar Province, Afghanistan, after being dropped off by a Chinook.


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PHOTO: Sgt. Katryn McCalment

By Rich Tuttle

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hat if you just want to look through a wall? Several devices are available to special operators. One is supplied by Israel’s CameroTech Ltd. Its line of Xaver systems, held against a wall, can tell “whether there are people present, how many are present and where they are situated,” according to the company. It says the technology also allows mapping, and can detect “non-moving live targets.” The U.S. Army’s AN/PPS-26 Sense-Through-The-Wall device can be held against walls, or operated from a distance. Powered by lithium AA batteries, it can detect “both moving and stationary targets,” the Army says. Two companies are involved -- L-3 Communications’ CyTerra unit in Orlando, Fla., and Raytheon Co.’s Space and Airborne Systems division of Buena Park, Calif. L-3 calls its system EMMDAR, for Electro-Magnetic Motion Detection And Ranging, and says it will ensure “elevated mission success rates and the ability to save lives.” Raytheon says enemy combatants would be identified by target recognition algorithms. But what if you get all the information you need about a building’s layout and you’re still not sure you want to send special operators inside? DARPA’s Avatar program may someday be of assistance. The idea is to allow a soldier to “partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate,” DARPA says -- just as in the hit movie “Avatar.” The program, which is new in the Pentagon budget released in February, aims to “allow soldiers to remain out of harm’s way while still leveraging their experience and strengths to complete important missions such as sentry/perimeter control, room clearing, combat casualty recovery, and, eventually, dismounted combat maneuver,” according to DARPA. 46

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Could “dismounted combat maneuver” include taking on pirates? Maybe. If so, a cautious Avatar might want to toss one of ReconRobotics’ 1-pound Scout Throwbots onto the hull of a ship and let it climb up to check things out. Alan Bignall, president and CEO of ReconRobotics in Edina, Minn., says Scout Throwbot “could help mitigate maritime piracy threats and protect the lives of naval personnel and anti-piracy teams.” The company is working with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific to quickly develop a “marsupialrobot deployment system” that sounds like it might someday lead to an antipiracy Avatar application. The marsupial system “enables an operator of a large robot to automatically transport and deploy a smaller robot downrange,” the company says.

A 16-square-inch sheet of “Geckskin” holds a 660-pound load while adhering to a vertical sheet of glass. The material mimics the adhesion properties of a gecko’s foot. DARPA has shown that a soldier carrying a normal combat pack can use the material to climb 25-foot walls.

The hull-climbing Recon Scout Throwbot is based on a platform the company says is widely used by military and law enforcement communities. A spokesman declines to say whether this includes Special Forces. The company describes its robots as small, rugged and easy to use. One model weighs 1.2 pounds, can be deployed in five seconds and can survive a 120-foot lob. The hull-crawler features magnetized wheels and an infrared sensor to see in the dark. But what if the Avatar itself, or even a soldier, could quickly climb up the hull of a ship – or any other vertical surface for that matter? DARPA transitioned early versions of just such technology to military services in 2010. Inspired by geckos, spiders and small animals, the technology of the

PHOTO: Courtesy of DARPA

no idea what the building looked like. I can ask this robot to go in, create a map, and then come back and tell me what the building looks like,” says Vijay Kumar, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Narrating a video clip at a recent conference, he said the quad-rotor robot, developed by Kumar and Daniel Mellinger and Alex Kushleyev of KMel Robotics, “is not only solving the problem of how to get from Point A to Point B on [the] map, but it’s [constantly] figuring out what the best Point B is. ... So it essentially knows where to go to look for places that have the least information, and that’s how it populates the map.” A swarm of such micro-bots could have a range of other applications, including attack, of interest to special operators. KMel and the University of Pennsylvania have dramatically demonstrated how 20 of the little robots can move in flawless planar and three-dimensional formations, even modifying formations on the fly to zip through obstacles such as open windows.

PHOTO: Courtesy of ReconRobotics

Z-Man program optimizes man-made versions of mechanisms used by these creatures as “novel climbing aids” for humans, according to DARPA. It’s already shown that a soldier with a typical load can use the technology to climb a 25-foot wall. One output of the program is called “Geckskin.” In a demonstration, a 16-square-inch sheet of the material adhered to a vertical glass wall while supporting a static load of up to 660 pounds.


ant to launch a missile from a moving or stationary light truck to strike another vehicle, say an SUV, also moving or standing still, during the day or at night and in all kinds of weather, up to 50 miles away? SOCOM is on it, and asking industry for ways to do this. While the weapon -- called the Medium Range Precision Strike System, or MRPSS -- is intended for ground-to-ground engagements, SOCOM also wants it to be compatible with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Once launched, MRPSS would get to its target using such high-tech guidance modes as millimeter wave radar, synthetic aperture radar, imaging infrared or light detection and ranging (LIDAR). LIDAR is a way to detect distant objects and determine their position by analyzing the laser light pulses they reflect. It’s also known as LADAR, for laser detection and ranging. The technology was slated for evaluation at Camp Roberts, Calif., this spring for application to another SOCOM requirement, safely flying helicopters in poor visibility. 48

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How about quickly sorting through the masses of data gathered by a cornucopia of sensors to find a terrorist? SOCOM is on the list to benefit from an effort called Data-to-Decisions, being run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Terrorists and insurgents are “deeply buried within local populations” and are good at blending in “with urban clutter,” OSD says. Finding them “has driven an explosion in sensing capabilities,” but that “has so stressed our current technologies that the majority of data now collected is thrown away.” To make things worse, emerging sensors reportedly will generate more data than all currently fielded U.S. unmanned aircraft combined. In the words of one Air Force general, “we are swimming in sensors and drowning in data.” Data-to-Decisions aims to solve the problem by advancing the art of analysis to the point where data can be “fused with relevant contextual or situational information to provide our warfighters and decision-makers with insight and powerful decision aids,” Congress was told by OSD’s director of defense research and engineering, Zachary Lemnios. One approach is being taken by Future Point Systems Inc. of Reston, Va. Its Starlight system organizes data so it can be analyzed visually. It does this by capturing relationships among disparate bits of information, and then graphically representing those relationships. Advances in such efforts are of interest to SOCOM and others in the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment. J

Who’s in that room? ReconRobotics of Edina, Minn., says its Recon Scout Throwbot XT can tell you. Just toss it in and take a look at the images it sends back. A U.S. Marine Corps order for 126 announced in March follows four orders in the last six months from the U.S. Army for some 1,800 of the micro-robots.

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Joint Tactical Radio systeM Successful combat test earns Rifleman Radio the Ranger seal of approval By Rich Tuttle


s the U.S. Army conducts another in a series of evaluations of systems for its new tactical communications network in May and June at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the Rifleman Radio will be getting a close look. Army Rangers completed the radio’s first formal combat test this April in Afghanistan. They liked its size, weight and power; its ability to share information, voice and data among small units on the move; and its capacity to network with various forces. The Rangers’ feedback will be cranked into the desert evaluation. If all goes well in this and other tests, the Army ultimately will deploy the radio across the entire force, buying some 190,000 units. Fullrate production is expected to begin this year. Rifleman Radio will be a game-changer, according to Col. John Zavarelli, manager of the Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit (HMS) program office, which is responsible for Rifleman Radio. He says it will allow the individual soldier “to conduct his mission more effectively, he’ll have more survivability, and likely be able to be more lethal because of what the radio allows him to do with either voice or data communications.” The radio is part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS, program, which started some 15 years ago. It has been a rocky road for the family of radios; the Pentagon had spent $8 billion on JTRS as of late last year, according to the Government Accountability Office. The goal has been to replace a range of legacy radios carried by foot soldiers and mounted in ground vehicles and aircraft. JTRS radios are intended for all the services, but JTRS was to 50

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have had a starring role in the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, a mix of vehicles and weapons linked together by a battlefield information network. FCS was canceled several years ago after $18 billion in spending. As JTRS itself staggered with technical and schedule problems, demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan forced the Army to spend more money on older radios, whose sophistication began to rival that of some of the planned JTRS models. JTRS was drastically revamped last October when defense officials ordered the elimination of the centerpiece vehiclemounted Ground Mobile Radio. The Rifleman Radio remains, as do radios in several other programs being carried out under the JTRS umbrella. Troubles with FCS, JTRS and other big programs prompted an earthquake in the way the Army acquires information technology. The idea now, called agile acquisition, is to synchronize the procurement of network systems with the cycle of training by equipping and deploying various units. In the past, integration of new systems was left to individual units. Now, new systems like Rifleman Radio will be introduced to fighting units early on. That means they’ll know their new IT systems well when they enter combat and will therefore be more effective in battle, according to the Army, which sees the new network as the core of a more capable force that is also smaller -- a big consideration in times of tight budgets. The network is, in fact, the Army’s No. 1 investment priority. And JTRS is one of the top Defense Department acquisition programs.

PHOTO: Ashley Blumenfeld

Paratroopers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, use Rifleman Radios to communicate during an exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.


wo platoons of the 75th Ranger Regiment may or may not have been aware of all this when they conducted their operational assessment of 100 Rifleman Radios in Afghanistan from December through April. But their findings must have pleased Army leaders. They found the 2-pound radio to be “effective, suitable and reliable,” says Mark Kaniut, technical director of the HMS office. “They said it’s easy to use and is an appropriate size, weight and power, with a battery life in excess of eight hours,” Kaniut say in an interview. He declines to say where in Afghanistan the radio was evaluated, or to give specific examples of how it worked. He did say it was distributed to individual rifle team members, who used it on patrol. He says the radio, built by General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz., and designated AN/PRC-154, worked well “inside buildings, through multiple walls, and to positions outside of compounds.” Unlike legacy radios, each Rifleman Radio is a node in a network. Because each radio relays information to others like it in a unit, the integrity of the network is maintained over a broad area even though the soldiers carrying the radios continue to 52

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move. This relay capability is provided by a waveform, or radio language. Soldiers can thus communicate “despite obstacles like buildings and terrain,” Kaniut says. The Rangers saw radio battery life of up to 10 hours, he says, further increasing their combat effectiveness. In an earlier evaluation, soldiers said they preferred the Rifleman Radio “rather than lugging bulky wideband handheld radios that require extra batteries,” according to Chris Brady, vice president of assured communications for GD C4 Systems. The Rangers “felt the radio was very effective for conducting infantry operations, especially at the small-unit level,” Zavarelli says. “Rifleman Radio allowed them to execute missions very rapidly because they had an improved awareness of where they were in relation to surrounding troops. Mission command decisions were achieved faster.” The Rangers’ Rifleman Radios were used with an 8-ounce arm- or chest-worn computer from General Dynamics called the GD300. The device, with a 3.5-inch touch-screen display, connected the radio to the network. It ran an application called Tactical Ground Reporting, or TIGR, that sent text messages

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and other information to individual soldiers, including location of friendly troops. The linking of such a device to the Rifleman Radio gives soldiers “real-time mission command capabilities and [enhances] their situational awareness,” Zavarelli says. An officer of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division found that the radios altered his soldiers’ approach to their missions, according to GD. It quotes Capt. Ryan McNally, a company commander with the 2/1 AD, as saying, “We [can] talk to each other over a distance, rather than everybody being essentially co-located with a limited amount of space and distance between them. Now we can expand that space and distance. We can cover a larger area.” GD also quotes 2nd Lt. Travis B. Mount, a 2/1 AD platoon leader, as saying the technology showing positions of his troops saved him time by allowing him to immediately adapt and execute his plans. he JTRS program has many moving parts. It includes four separate acquisition programs. There’s Zavarelli’s HMS, with General Dynamics as the prime contractor developing the Rifleman Radio and several others; there’s MIDS, or Multifunctional Information Distribution System, under which airand ship-borne terminals are being developed; there’s AMF, the Airborne, Maritime and Fixed station effort, which is responsible for ship, aircraft and fixed terminals with Lockheed Martin as the prime; and there’s NED, or Network Enterprise Domain, which is developing waveforms. A new effort called MNVR, for MidTiered Networking Vehicular Radio, is growing out of the canceled Ground Mobile Radio program, which was run by Boeing. As if all that wasn’t complicated enough, the technical fields can cause some to scratch their heads. There’s position location, software, encryption and interoperable communications, to name a few. In addition, there have been a number of programmatic changes over the years, including several in the number and types of HMS radios. It all means a near-continuous effort to keep Congress up to speed, according to Jeff Mercer, a spokesman for the JTRS office in San Diego. He says Army Brig. Gen. Michael E. Williamson, the JTRS joint program executive officer, makes numerous trips to Capitol Hill. “It really is a challenge to keep getting out there and educating folks on not only what the program’s all about [but] where we are and where we’re going,” Mercer says. “We try to work that very hard.” Williamson’s efforts are bolstered by periodic reports to Congress from the Government Accountability Office. And it’s not all good news. A March GAO report, for instance, says that Rifleman Radio entered low-rate production in June 2011 “without demonstrating the maturity of one of its critical technologies -- the soldier radio waveform -- in a realistic environment.” And, it says, Rifleman Radio “fell short of its reliability requirement in testing conducted in early 2011.” But, it said, performance was consistent with a plan for ever-increasing reliability, and reliability was expected to exceed requirements during operational testing. 54

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PHOTO: Ashley Blumenfeld


Small computers are used by 82nd Airborne paratroopers to run a Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) app during an exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.

General Dynamics and Thales Communications have been in low-rate production of Rifleman Radios since last year. When approval is given for full production this spring, they, and perhaps others, will compete for the job. It’s “a full and open competition,” HMS’s Kaniut says. The approval will come just as a range of equipment, systems and vehicles are being checked out at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range in the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation 12.2, the third in a series of big evaluations. It will involve 3,800 soldiers of the 2/1 AD. They’ll check out what the Army calls Capability Set 13, a mix of equipment and systems, including Rifleman Radio, intended to yield a several-fold increase in fighting capability. Plans call for the first brigade to be equipped with Capability Set 13 in the next year or so. At least 20 brigades ultimately will get the integrated suites. Rifleman Radio has been through a number of soldier evaluations in addition to the one by the Rangers, and each yields lessons. “It’s continually improving in reliability and performance,” Kaniut says. J

Equipping the

tip of the spear Entrepreneurial companies specialize in off-the-shelf gear for off-the-hook operations

By Rich Tuttle


.S. Special Operations Command equips its small teams with the best possible individual gear to give them the greatest chance of success in vital and difficult missions. USSOCOM uses the latest technology in just about every aspect of personal equipment, from headsets and gloves to backpacks, vision augmentation systems and body armor. The sophistication of such systems allows an operator “to ignore threats or dangers or encumbrances that somebody not so equipped is constantly aware of,” says Dakota L. Wood, formerly a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington. They “make it possible to do things much more easily and effectively than their enemy is able to,” says Wood, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who studied the operational challenges of irregular warfare. Aheadset developed by 3M, for instance, integrates communications and hearing protection using a technology the company calls TalkThrough. With 3M’s Comtac Advanced Communication Headset, loud noises like gunfire and explosions are transmitted to the ear at safe levels while softer sounds like whispers or rustling leaves are amplified, says Tom Lavalle, a business development specialist at 3M’s Military Marketing Center in Indianapolis, Ind. 3M also makes hearing protectors for troops who don’t use a radio. One, called the Combat Arms Earplug, kicks in protection only when it’s needed. It uses a patented filter that allows a soldier to hear things like conversations and footsteps but dampens a loud noise the instant it occurs, according to Doug Moses, a 3M business development specialist and marketing manager. 56

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“modular glove system” from Outdoor Research of Seattle is a set of five gloves that can be worn in layers in extreme cold weather, or separately for a variety of other conditions. “It’s a collection,” says Mike Christian, director of government sales for OR. “You can take them from the desert floor in Afghanistan all the way to the highest peak there.” One layer is fire-resistant in response to the threat of roadside bombs. “We certainly knew how to make good, dexterous, tightfitting, durable gloves, but were certainly introduced to some new materials,” including Nomex and Kevlar, to make the fire-resistant layer, Christian says. Night sights, rifle sights, thermal sights and image-intensification goggles are all made for Special Operations Forces by L-3 Communications’ Warrior Systems unit. The unit was formed after L-3’s acquisition of Insight Technology Corp., a long-time supplier of night-vision and electro-optical equipment with close links to the special operations community. Laser targeting and acquisition markers come from Northrop Grumman. “Lightweight laser-designator rangefinders that we make are probably, outside of night-vision goggles, the most high-tech piece of equipment that a Spec Ops operator carries all the time. It’s starting to become as common as your water bottle,” says Paul Cabellon, a Northrop Grumman spokesman. SOCOM’s Body Armor Load Carriage System (BALCS) is supplied by Mystery Ranch, a backpack-maker in Bozeman, Mont. BALCS features the latest fitting and stability technology, according to the company. Mystery Ranch, formed in 2000 primarily to work

with the Navy SEAL community, has since worked with every tier of Special Operations, according to Mark Seacat, director of marketing. “We create everything, from light-carry three-day assault packs, which is probably our most popular pack, to concealed sniper rifle packs.” The Rapid Access Trauma System, or RATS, pack uses Velcro and color-coding to allow a medic to quickly pull out just what is needed. Ceramic body armor is produced by Ceradyne Inc., of Costa Mesa, Calif. The armor is made of boron carbide, which Ceradyne describes as “the lightest technical ceramic material ... as well as the hardest,” second only to diamonds.


pecial Forces have almost always had special gear, but the level of sophistication seems to have begun increasing after 1987, when U. S. Special Operations Command was formed. One reason is that with all the money in one bucket instead of being spread around to special units in the individual services, it has been easier to develop and acquire the lighter, more durable and more technically advanced gear demanded by high-risk, high-payoff missions. Navy SEALs thus have ready access to gear more resistant than normal to corrosion, while Army special operators get lighter, more capable personal gear. If rifles and sidearms must be souped up, it can happen quickly. Instead of a standard-issue 9mm Beretta pistol, for instance, Special Forces operators may prefer a Colt .45 with modifications like a unique trigger -- and have no problem getting it in a hurry. The service components within Special Operations Forces do make the greatest possible use of equipment provided by their parent 58

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services, but “the unique nature of SOF missions frequently drives different materiel solutions,” and those solutions “are often different among” the services, says Wes Ticer, a USSOCOM spokesman. For example, he says, “in the mobility area, the service-provided High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP) are often outfitted with specific command, control, communication and computer (C4) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) suites to support specific SOF service-component branch requirements.” Such niche capabilities aren’t usually given to all U.S. forces because they are not required, and because they’re not cheap. The Special Forces community is willing to pay the price of high-tech individual gear because it’s justified by the importance of the mission, Wood says. “They have to succeed, and you want to be able to bring everybody back.” But, he says, the real force multipliers are the operators themselves. The value of the Special Forces community “lies in training and education -- being so well trained in various tactics, techniques and procedures, being able to assess a situation and then being able to draw from a great many different options about how to solve a particular problem.” One former Special Forces soldier who served in the 1980s says he is impressed by new gear, but he points to his head and says, “This is what’s going to save you.”


till, the Special Operations Command is putting some serious money into individual equipment. The command’s acquisition and logistics arm has several program executive offices, or PEOs, to handle procurement -- fixed wing, maritime systems, a support activity, rotary wing, special reconnaissance and SOF Warrior. PEO-SOF Warrior’s job is to “enhance lethality, mobility and survivability” in ground activities, according to the command. One of its responsibilities is the SOF Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) program, which covers body armor, helmets, load carriage systems, backpacks, gloves, eye protection and communications headsets. All are “designed and developed to provide an integrated modular system for the SOF Warrior,” the command says. Another SOF Warrior individual equipment responsibility is the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) program, aimed at providing life-saving first aid in tactical situations. SOF operators are able cover a range of missions with their individual gear because it “has been designed to be both interoperable and modular,” Ticer says. “This tailored-ability enables SOF operators to rapidly reconfigure their equipment and execute assigned missions in remote locations.” Because Special Operations troops operate in rugged environments, equipment reliability and maintainability is critical, he says, along with the ability to tailor equipment training and maintenance to those operational realities.

PHOTO: Courtesy 3M

Special SOF gear includes earplugs and headsets that amplify soft sounds while dampening gunfire and explosions.

PHOTOS: Tech. Sgt. DeNoris Mickle

Standard military gear is often modified for Special Operations use.

Contractors must ensure that Special Operations communication equipment, like this headset worn by Staff Sgt. Tim Sammis, an MC130P Combat Shadow radio operator, works in a variety of settings.

Meanwhile, a range of research and development efforts are under way within PEO-SOF Warrior. They are: adapting digital multispectral technologies to improve night-vision capabilities; reducing weapon signatures; seeking lighter weight, more protective body armor; improving crew situational awareness by integrating sensors into mobility platforms; and reducing the weight of vehicle armor to improve mobility.


big reason for the emphasis on technology is that adversaries are constantly on the lookout for ways to offset systems in the Special Operations arsenal. Technologies of all kinds proliferate over time, meaning that “more actors get access to them,” says Wood. Technologies that give U.S. forces an advantage can find their way into the hands of groups like Hezbollah and Latin American drug traffickers. “If you’ve got cash you can buy just about anything these 60

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days, including high-end weapon systems,” he says. Special Forces gear is keyed to work with low signatures, and “darkness itself works to our advantage in general,” says one industry executive. “We try to provide gear that gives us the night as the edge, and a lot of it you’ll find strapped to their helmets or onto their rifles. ... Part of the whole trick is to try to do it in a manner that allows them to do their primary jobs as if it were during the daytime.” A related focus is “to make these things really, really lightweight” and able to run for long periods off small batteries. At the same time, each supplier has to understand how its system or device fits with those of other suppliers. 3M’s communication headset, for instance, not only has to plug into a variety of sources -- aircraft intercom, ground vehicles, portable radios -- but it must as easily as possible be worn with things like a respiratory mask, combat eyewear, helmet and nape band, and body armor. Not least of all, says 3M’s Lavalle, it must fit. “How can you ensure that any soldier -- man, woman, big head, small head -- can put this on and it works? It’s not an easy task.” And there are some problems that can’t be easily solved. Headsets, for example, are hot in the desert. The relatively small size of the Special Operations Forces – just 12,000 are deployed around the world on an average day, according to the command– and their hallmark individuality is a natural fit with the small entrepreneurial companies that supply much of the SOF gear. “We invite these groups in and they bring their entire kit that they need to carry, and we’ll design an alpha prototype in usually three to five days,” says Mystery Ranch’s Seacat. “We either send it with them, or have it meet them back home, and then they go out and test it” and give feedback. Mystery Ranch also gets “satellite phone calls directly from Afghanistan,” Seacat says. “They’re usually calling to say, ‘Hey, thanks a lot, this is amazing stuff; other members of our group have seen it; we need to buy six more of these packs, like now.’ And then we send it straight to Afghanistan.” J

PHOTO: Courtesy K9 Storm Inc.

it’s a

By Elaine S. Povich

Special Operations K-9s gear up like their human counterparts for sensitive missions like the Osama bin Laden raid


rom his protective vest to his goggles, camera, harness and equipment, the SEAL Team 6 dog was likely “kitted out” in gear made to protect what was an invaluable member of 62

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the team. Jim Amann, owner of Trident K9 in San Clemente, Calif., which supplies military and police dog gear, says the Secret Service was right to be cautious about letting the SEAL dog too close to the president. “There’s too much chance of a dog biting him,” said Amann, who was a SEAL for 20 years and also has a military police background. “You are talking about dogs who have bitten numerous people in the line of duty.” While much of what is known about the dog working the bin Laden raid is speculative (Special Operations forces are necessarily tight-lipped), the dog could have tracked down members of bin Laden’s entourage in hiding, chased and held them while human team members caught up, sniffed out booby traps or bombs, or ferreted out drug caches. “When the team goes into a house or a cubby hole, if someone is hiding, they are trained on alert to let you know if someone is there,” says Jason Ferren, operator of EliteK9 dog gear company in Boaz, Ky.



hen Navy SEAL Team 6 raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, one important member of the team had keen ears and eyes, a small body, and … a tail. The Special Operations dog, possibly named Cairo or Turk, likely went into the compound wearing at least as much specialized gear as the human combat members in the unit. President Barack Obama singled out the dog for praise, but when he went to congratulate the canine, according to news reports, the presidential Secret Service detail insisted that the dog wear a muzzle. President or not, he’s still a stranger to the specially trained dogs that have become increasingly important to Special Operations teams, as well as regular military units, airport security teams and local police departments. In short, Cairo is not anything like Bo, the First Dog.



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(LEFT): Special Operations dogs can be carried by backpack in customizable K9 Storm tactical body armor.

PHOTOS: Courtesy K9 Storm Inc.

(BELOW): The K9 Storm intruder vest has an integrated waterproof camera for amphibious assaults.

“They could be behind a door, a false wall or a false door,” he says. In the bin Laden operation, he says, “They were on a short time frame; they didn’t have time to dissect that house if it had hidden walls or hidden doors. Look at Saddam Hussein – he was in a hole.” Ferren, who has a military and police background, sells “everything for the working K9.” Among his many products, he lists Special Operations goggles and “mutt muffs” to protect dogs’ ears from noise like explosions or heavy shelling. It keeps the dogs a little calmer, he says.


y far the most important piece of equipment the dogs wear is their vest. Some of the vests are made to ward off blows from knives, other hand weapons or shrapnel. Others are bullet-proof. The vests also help insert the dogs into a combat zone – using the “fast rope” technique that may have been used to get troops from helicopters to the ground on the bin Laden raid – or as part of a human/dog parachute tandem jumping team. K9 Storm Inc. in Winnipeg, Canada, makes custom vests sold to military units in 15 countries. While no one will say who made the vest the bin Laden-raid dog was wearing, K9 Storm vests are often tailored to specific missions, according to K9 Storm owners Jim and Glori Slater, a husband-and-wife team. “We started the company solely to provide protection for dogs,” says Jim Slater, who has a German shepherd named Olaf. Slater worked as a municipal police officer during the 1990s and was part of an operation that quelled the Headingly 64

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Jail riot in Manitoba in 1996. Eight guards were injured by inmates wielding homemade weapons fashioned from kitchen utensils and fire extinguishers. “We went to take control of the jail and about 140 people were still running loose, and inside that environment there were a lot of weapons,” Slater says. “The dog was first into the building and he could have been stabbed or slashed. (He) had no armor whatsoever, whereas the team was well-armored. It made sense to me that we should minimize the vulnerable areas on his body and at the same time develop a harness so he could be raised and lowered.” K9 Storm makes customized vests ranging in cost from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands.


ombat dogs get specialized training before they are assigned to units. Many don’t make it. They have to respond to commands, and, unlike most police dogs, have to be able to work with a variety of handlers because of the unpredictable nature of war. They grow close to their units, but they aren’t pets. It’s not like they retrieve Frisbees in their spare time or frolic on the floor with handlers. It’s strictly a working relationship.

(RIGHT): The K9 Storm Intruder Vest is equipped with automatic infra-red lighting systems to allow the handler to see what the dog is seeing even in darkened hallways or cave searches.

Several breeds of dogs are used as combat dogs, but mostly Belgian Malinois, German shepherds and Dutch shepherds. Dutch shepherds and Malinois are a little more agile than the German shepherds, the experts say. “It’s a matter of who can kick your butt better, Jackie Chan or Arnold Schwarzenegger,” says Ferren. “The Belgian Malinois and the Dutch shepherd are more like Jackie Chan.” Tim Crockett, a former Special Forces member in the British Special Boat Service (the British equivalent of the SEALs), says the dogs can essentially wear the same kind of protective ballistic type vest as their human counterparts. “And it is kitted out with other types of sensors as well,” says Crocket, an official with Pioneer Consulting Group in Marietta, Ga. “Like cameras, so information can be passed back from the dog to the handlers.”


og-mounted cameras can tell handlers what is around corners or behind buildings several hundred feet away. Those cameras can be mounted forward- or rearfacing, depending on what the dog is looking for. The dog on the bin Laden mission probably carried a camera, though reports that video was streamed in real-time back to the White House are said to be erroneous. A bomb-sniffing dog can approach a vehicle in a way that a soldier could not, even if the soldier is outfitted in protective gear. The dogs are very good at detecting explosive devices, which then allows a human team member to go in and defuse the device. Sometimes, however, there are unforeseen consequences. One of Ferren’s clients told him about a dog working in Iraq that, while searching a car, looked back at his handler when he smelled explosives. Seeing that reaction, an insurgent blew up the car, killing the dog. Ferren says as hard as that is, most of the time the dogs are successful. “It’s not like they are sending dogs on a suicide mission,” he says. “If they search 20 cars, maybe one is positive. Would you rather the handler and the dog go, or just the dog?” J 66

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

PHOTOS: Courtesy K9 Storm Inc.

(LEFT): A special vest allows dogs to rappel or fast-rope out of a helicopter with their handlers.


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’13 AIR FORCE Preview

B-3 or not B-3? Forging ahead with next-generation bomber


By Nick Adde

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence

he Air Force continues moving than $2 billion per plane after Pentagon Armed Services Committee last year, forward with plans to procure officials slashed the planned size of the fleet then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told lawmakers that the Air Force wants a new long-range bomber to to 20. Costs will remain at $550 million per a stealth bomber that can carry air-to-air augment and ultimately replace the aging fleets of B-52s, B-1s and B-2s through at aircraft, Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air missiles, a payload ranging from 20,000 to Force chief of staff, assured reporters at a 40,000 pounds, and an active electronically least the 2040s. Air Force civilian and military leaders February Pentagon breakfast. “If it doesn’t, scanned array (AESA) radar system, which have a clear vision about the plane’s primary we don’t get a program,” Schwartz said, uses electronic beams to identify, track and target adversaries. mission – to carry Scott offered some more nuclear and non-nuclear detailed insight as to what payloads, and fly either those requirements would manned or unmanned. stipulate. Development The Obama will proceed, he said, administration budgeted with a keen eye focused $197 million on on budget constraints and bomber development finite combat-mission in fiscal 2012. The requirements. bomber remained in “We’re not doing the fiscal 2013 defense ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ It budget, which called will [rely upon] current for spending about technology. We don’t want $292 million in fiscal to make this so costly that 2013 and another $6 we can’t afford it,” Scott billion through 2017. said. The current timetable The B-52 Stratofortress has been part of the U.S. bomber arsenal for more Rather, the new plane calls for buying 80 to than a half-century, but the Air Force says it’s time to build a new heavy would assume a role in a 100 aircraft for about bomber that will eventually replace B-52s and their younger cousins, the B-1 wide network of warfighting $550 million each in Lancer and B-2 Spirit. assets known as the “family fiscal 2010 dollars, with of systems.” Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers, the the bomber reaching initial operational according to Air Force Times. Maj. Gen. David Scott, the Air Force’s Air Force’s budget chief, said in a February capability by 2020. In the budget document released in then-director of operational capability 2011 budget briefing. “The bomber is the February, according to DoD Buzz, the Air requirements, said last year that it was too centerpiece, but there’s ISR (intelligence, Force says the new bomber “will not need soon to say what the new bomber would surveillance and reconnaissance) … the same capabilities that were planned for look like. “It will be subsonic, probably. It electronic attack and communication the [previously canceled] Next Generation depends on what industry tells is what it can capabilities that would be part of this family system.” Bomber” because it will “incorporate many and cannot do,” Scott said. The new bomber would send a strong Industry, for its part, had been waiting subsystems (engines, radars, other avionics) for specific guidance from the Air Force message to potential adversaries, who “are and technologies that are already proven.” Because the bomber will rely on before moving forward. “Until the program always trying to get ahead of us,” Scott said. “proven technologies” and evolve with new is further defined, there isn’t much to say,” “If we don’t [build the new bomber], are we threats as the legacy B-52 fleet has done, Chris Haddox of Boeing Co. said last ready to accept the notion that we’re not a acquisition costs will be well below that of spring. “We are awaiting the requirements global power? I’m not sure we’re ready to do that.” J the B-2 stealth bomber, the Air Force says of a new bomber from the customer.” --Julie Bird contributed to this report. During a hearing before the House in the budget document. The B-2 cost more S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D



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’13 ARMY Preview

Bomb Protection

Army buys Strykers with protective hulls


By Matthew Cox

PHOTO: U.S. Army

The Army began developing the Stryker for General Dynamics’ Ground Combat or the first time in eight years of combat deployments, the Army Brigade Combat Team in late 1999 to cre- Systems. “We had to redesign seven variis outfitting Stryker armored per- ate a fighting force with the flexibility of a ants; that is a significant effort.” The middle of the Stryker vehicle sonnel carriers with armor that will stand light unit and the staying power of a heaviup to some of the deadliest enemy bombs. er outfit. Since 2003 the service has fielded equipped with the new hull is no higher New Stryker wheeled vehicles in Af- seven Stryker brigades, each equipped with off the ground than the basic Stryker, Cannon says. The V-shaped design deflects the ghanistan are equipped with blast-deflect- about 300 Stryker vehicles. blast out and away ing hulls similar to from the Stryker and those on the Mine its occupants. Resistant Ambush Schumitz says Protected (MRAP) that the acceleration vehicle fleet. of the double-V hull The service will program prompted spend up to $320 the Army to conduct million developsurvivability testing the new hull ing while the new design through the Strykers were in proend of this fiscal duction. Normally, year, including the testing is completed full range of testbefore a system goes ing, says Col. Robinto production. ert Schumitz, who Cannon said last oversees Stryker fall that the new hulls development as the proved “outstanding” project manager at protecting soldiers for Stryker Brigade from bomb attacks Combat Team. The Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle stands ready to provide protected transport for an infantry squad and direct fire support during the dismounted assault. in Afghanistan. In Fielding 450 new March, Lt. Gen. Bill Stryker vehicles Phillips, principal equipped with a But warfare in Afghanistan brought military deputy to the assistant secretary double-V hull through 2012 will cost about $1.3 billion, with a per-unit cost of about new threats. Afghanistan’s road network is of the Army for acquisition, logistics and $2.4 million. The total buy was planned at less developed than Iraq’s, and enemy im- technology, said that in 38 of the 40 cases provised explosive devices tend to be sig- in which the Strykers hit land mines, the 742, the Army said in March. “The unique hull design, combined nificantly larger, Schumitz says. Casualties occupants suffered only minor injuries, with energy attenuating seats, provides sig- to Stryker troops mounted. The Army be- according to Defense Industry Daily. The nificantly improved protection for Stryker gan searching for ways to combat the IED vehicle “performed beyond our expectasoldiers,” Schumitz says in a written re- threat in 2008, and accelerated the double- tions,” Phillips said. The new-style hull adds about 4,000 sponse to questions. “Soldier survivabil- V hull program in 2009. In late 2010, Stryker manufacturer Gen- pounds to the Stryker’s weight and requires ity is the Army’s No. 1 priority. Once we determined that the [double-V hull] effort eral Dynamics agreed to deliver the first a beefed-up suspension, Schumitz says. Cannon says the weight is not signifiwas an achievable and acceptable risk, we 150 new Strykers with double-V hulls by swiftly engaged in executing the robust May 2011. “We actually delivered 177,” cant, and that the vehicle can still be transsays Mike Cannon, senior vice president ported aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft.J program.”

S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D











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’13 MARINE CORPS Preview

AH-1Z Cobra

Zulu upgrades give the Huey new chops


By Nick Adde

PHOTO: Cpl. Preston Reed

familiar friend again is It can stick around for up to twice as engines in an existing airframe pays coming to the aid of Ma- long, depending upon circumstances, off by minimizing retraining for pirines calling for close-air before it has to go back and get gas,” lots and ground crews, and ensures the support – the venerable Huey Cobra says Hewson, himself an H-1 pilot. new aircraft will fit in the same tight attack helicopter. But while the air- “It has twice the ordnance load as its spaces on amphibious assault ships as craft’s silhouette will look the same, predecessor, particularly in Hellfire its predecessors, Wood says. Bell Helicopter was slated to build there will be some marked differences. missiles. The third thing might not be a total of 349 new helicopIn November 2010 ters on the common airthe Defense Department frame – 189 AH-1Zs and approved full production 160 UH-1Y Yankees. The of the newest version of programs are so closely the Cobra, the AH-1Z. linked, its managers say, This paves the way for that it is impossible to talk full-rate production of of one without mentioning the $11.9 billion prothe other. “We designed gram, and deployment the two helicopters to be as to Afghanistan and other common as possible,” says theaters where it is needKevin Kett, the project ed. Funding continues in manager for both aircraft at the administration’s fisBell Helicopter. cal 2013 budget request, As such, the two airwhich included $820 craft share 84 percent of million for 28 H-1 Ma- U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Patrick Henry, foreground, the same parts – including rine helicopters, includ- guides a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopter as it the entire drive system and ing nine new AH-1Zs prepares to land aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) while the ship is under way in the Pacific Ocean. avionics. The fuselages are and four remanufactured different, with the Zulu conones. The new “Zulu” helicopters have really evident, but the Zulu probably figured for two pilots and the Yankee identical airframes to the AH-1W will be standing off further behind extended for carrying troops, Kett “Whiskey” aircraft they are replacing. him, because of phenomenal optics. says. At Bell, the intent to refurbish more Indeed, manufacturer Bell Helicopter It can identify the enemy from much built some early Zulus on completely further distances than its predecessor.” old aircraft into new AH-1Zs turned Experts are quick to extend the wel- out to be more difficult than initially refurbished fuselages of older birds. envisioned. “We remanufactured 10 come mat to the improved Cobra. But the similarities end there. “Anytime you can upgrade avionics aircraft before we decided it was too “The Marine on the ground will benefit on three things,” says Col. and maintenance capabilities of sup- hard to [mesh] old 1970s [airframes] Harry Hewson, program manager for porting aircraft, it’s a good thing for and new technology,” Kett says. For crew members, the adjustboth the AH-1Z and the UH-1Y (“Yan- the guys on the ground,” says Dakota kee”) Venom utility helicopter, its pro- Wood, a former Marine infantry offi- ment centers around becoming familduction twin, at Naval Air Systems cer and senior fellow at the Center for iar with all of the systems, Hewson Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says. “There’s not a traditional dial in the cockpit; everything is on computer a Washington-based think tank. Station, Md. Integrating advanced weapon sys- screens. We present our data as a projec“First, the Zulu has a much longer on-station time than the Whiskey. tems and avionics plus more powerful tion on the visor the pilot looks at.” J

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’13 NAVY Preview

Joint Strike Fighter

Navy pushes forward on F-35 purchases, testing


By John T. Bennett

PHOTO: Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

espite program delays and delayed testing and training,” GAO research and development spending cost overruns, the U.S. says. “Development of the critical from $1.31 billion to $1.48 billion, the Navy is standing by plans mission systems that give the JSF newspaper reported. The overall Department of Defense to buy almost 700 F-35 Joint Strike its core combat capabilities remains behind schedule and risky. To date, budget request included $9.17 billion Fighters. Early last year then-Defense only 4 percent of the mission system to buy a total of 29 F-35s and related procurement costs, Secretary Robert Gates AOL Defense responded to new reported. technical problems Despite the recent with the Marine d e velopmental Corps’ F-35 variant by problems, industry placing it on two years’ officials and analysts probation. He also say the F-35 will be shifted the tri-service a big step forward in program’s purchasing air-to-ground, airschedule by shifting to-air, intelligencethe Marines’ vertical g a t h e r i n g , take-off-and-landing electronic-warfare variant to the last of and other missions. the three. “The leap The good news, in warfighting according to a March capability will be report by the General The U.S. Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the F-35C, conducts profound – more than Accountability Office, a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay near Naval Air Station Patuxent River in just an evolutionary is that performance Maryland. advance,” says Steve of the short takeoff O’Bryan, Lockheed and vertical landing variant improved last year, prompting requirements for full capability has Martin Aeronautics’ vice president for F-35 business development. “Because Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to put been verified.” Testing of a “fully integrated” JSF of its [low-observable] stealth, the F-35 an early end to the probation in January. will be able to operate in high-threat Several fixes, though, are “temporary is now expected no earlier than 2015. Some defense-sector sources say environments that current-generation and untested,” the GAO says. More troublesome is the continuing Navy leaders are not committed to fighters can neither penetrate nor cost increases. The program cost, the Lockheed Martin-made F-35, but survive.” Because the Pentagon and almost already more than $1 trillion, has service and program officials so far are a dozen allies decided to build increased by about $15 billion since sticking by the F-35 in public. The Department of the Navy was three variants, proponents say the June 2010 – $5 billion for development and $10 billion for procurement – part slated to buy 680 carrier-launched and operational and lifetime costs of the of an overall $119 billion cost increase vertical take-off-and-landing F-35s. U.S. military’s entire F-35 fleet will be Its 2013 budget request included six cheaper than separately pursuing new in the past five years. “Management and development F-35Bs, the Marine jump-jet version, multirole fighter jets for the Air Force, of the more than 24 million lines and four F-35Cs, the carrier version for Navy and Marine Corps. J -Julie Bird contributed to this of software code continue to be of the Navy, Navy Times reported. The Navy also asked to increase article. concern and late software releases have

S p r i n g 2 0 1 2 D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D


FINAL Combat Dive

Father of military combat diving, and creator of SCUBA, laid to rest


r. Christian Lambertsen, a World War II combat diver known as the father of military combat diving, conducted his “final combat dive mission” during a ceremony March 10 when his ashes were committed to the Atlantic Ocean. His sons and grandsons, along with U.S. Army and Navy divers considered to be a part of Lambertsen’s extensive legacy, honored his memory in a small ceremony in Key West, Fla., over the waters used to train modern specialoperations combat divers. Lambersten died Feb. 11, 2011, at the age of 93. “We knew we wanted this ceremony to include more than our immediate family,” says David Lambertsen, one of Christian’s four sons, “and we’ve always considered the military to be an important part of our father’s life. Under clear skies, on slightly choppy waters in 80-degree weather, four boats were gathered in a circle about one 76

D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

mile off the coast. Lambertsen’s four sons spread their father’s remains into the sea as past and present service members stood at attention, paying their last respects to the inventor, doctor, scholar, and OSS operator. Lambertsen’s 70-year career is layered with scientific achievement, beginning in 1941 with the invention of the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit -- which he later renamed the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or SCUBA. At the age of 24, while attending medical school, Lambertsen’s invention drew the interest of the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime intelligence operation considered to be the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations Command. “When World War II broke out, everyone realized they needed people to be able to sneak in and blow up ships,” says Maj. Trevor Hill, an Army Special Forces officer and the commander of the Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West. “Lambertsen brought [the LARU] to a meeting with the Office of Strategic Services. … He got in a pool and demonstrated that he could breathe


By Dave Chace

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

underwater, without creating bubbles, which was mind-blowing at the time.” Lambertsen trained the operational swimmers for a newly created OSS maritime unit, and joined them as a direct-commission U.S. Army major following his medical school graduation -- where he was first in his class. “Someone once described the ideal OSS candidate as a Ph.D. who could win a bar fight,” says Charles Pinck, director of the nonprofit OSS Society. “I think Dr. Lambertsen fits that profile perfectly, because he was out there on missions, which was harrowing business.” Lambertsen spent most of World War II as a member of the Pacific Fleet Underwater Demolition Team, leading numerous underwater missions in Burma to attach explosives to Japanese ships. He also served as his unit’s medical officer. David Lambertsen says his father, who was a tough, physically fit young man, wanted to do his part to serve his country during World War II, and also wanted to see his own invention in action. “For him, serving in the OSS was a way of testing his own equipment,” David says. “There was no better way for him to know how he could improve it.” Following World War II, Lambertsen joined the faculty for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, researching atmospheric, undersea, aerospace and industrial environmental physiology, as well has human environmental toxicology. He founded the university’s Institute of Environmental Medicine, and contributed to projects Mercury and Gemini and the International Space Station for NASA. “You can’t limit his contributions to only what he did with the OSS,” says Pinck, “but he started with the OSS, so we proudly claim him as our own.” J Chace is a public affairs officer with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. 78

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U.S. Army and Navy service members assigned to Naval Air Station Key West and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School salute as taps is played during a ceremony honoring Dr. Christian Lambertsen, a former Army major, OSS operator and World War II veteran, March 10 in Key West, Fla. During the ceremony, Lambertsen’s family members committed his ashes to the Atlantic Ocean. In the background stands the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Underwater Operations School, where Lambertsen’s legacy lives on in the training of modern military combat divers.



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On a Mission to Ser ve


While America’s service members valiantly carry out their mission, we stay true to a mission of our own … since 1996 TriWest has been On a Mission to Serve our military and their families by providing access to high-quality health care. Alongside our dedicated Military Health System partners and a network of more than 175,000 civilian healthcare providers, TriWest is proud and privileged to serve our nation’s heroes. Providing access to quality health care for 2.9 million members of America’s military family in the 21-state TRICARE West Region.  

about the

Cover Photographer


ussell Lee Klika is a self-taught, award-winning photographer and photojournalist for the Department of Defense. He joined the Marines at 17 and became a machine gunner. While on his first of three Western Pacific cruises, he purchased a 35mm film camera on a whim, then started documenting the Marines around him as they conducted beach assaults around the world. Soon the strength of his photos earned him a spot as the first military photographer to attend the Eddie Adams Experience in Photojournalism workshop. In 1990 Klika left the Marines for the civilian world, where he worked as a staff photographer for newspapers on both U.S. coasts. As a civilian photojournalist, he covered myriad events including migrant work camps, 100-year floods and the emotionally charged Los Angeles riots. In 2003, Klika returned to the military and volunteered for three tours in Iraq with the Tennessee Army National Guard, where he served as a journalist for the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment and later as a team leader for the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. His team was responsible for documenting combat operations for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “RAKKASANS” of the 101st Airborne Division. Upon his return from Iraq, Klika was assigned to the First Army Operation Warrior Trainer program for public affairs, where he mentored other military photographers for a year. He was then assigned as the lead photographer to the National Guard Bureau’s Strength Readiness Support Center in Smyrna, Tenn. In 2008 and 2009 Klika was assigned to a Special Forces unit to document missions in Afghanistan, participating in more than 60 combat operations with the unit. He recently was awarded the Bronze Star for his photographic coverage. He credits his close personal relationships with his comrades for allowing him to return with a wealth of powerful and compelling images from the frontlines. His work has been featured in more than 35 magazines, newspapers and Web-based photo galleries worldwide, including Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Chicago Tribune, Flaunt​ magazine, American Photo, the BBC, CNN and CNN International, French Photo, the Human Rights First annual report and Soldier of Fortune. He also is a frequent contributor to the Guard Experience magazine. He recently published a book, “Iraq Through the Eyes of an American Soldier,” a collection of images from tours in Iraq. Klika is currently working in the Public Affairs Office at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. J

Russell Lee Klika

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FINAL FRAME Members of coalition Special Operations forces wait to recover supplies during an airdrop in the Shah Joy district in Afghanistan’s Zabul province. PHOTO: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen


D E F E N S E S TA N D A R D S p r i n g 2 0 1 2


2012 Spring Edition  

DEFENSE STANDARD, focused on the warfighter

2012 Spring Edition  

DEFENSE STANDARD, focused on the warfighter