He doesn’t address individual equipment, but does say that “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 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance 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 SOF community is willing to pay the price of high-tech individual gear because the mission is so important, Wood says. “They have to succeed, and you want to be able to bring everybody back.”
situational awareness by integrating sensors into mobility platforms; and reducing the weight of vehicle armor to improve mobility. A big reason for the emphasis on new 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 CSBA’s 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 days, including high-end weapon systems,” Wood says.
OCOM is putting some serious money into individual pecial Forces gear is keyed to work with low signatures, equipment. The command’s acquisition and logistics and “darkness itself works to our advantage in arm has several program executive offices, or PEOs, general,” says one industry executive. “We try to to handle procurement -- fixed wing, maritime systems, a provide gear that gives us the night as the edge, and a lot of support activity, rotary wing, special reconnaissance and it you’ll find strapped to their helmets or onto their rifles. SOF Warrior. ... Part of the whole trick is to try to do it in a manner that PEO-SOF Warrior’s job is to “enhance lethality, mobility allows them to do their primary jobs as if it were during the and survivability” in ground activities, according to the daytime.” A related focus is “to make these things really, command. One of its responsibilities is the SOF Personal really lightweight” and able to run for long periods off Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) program, small batteries. At the same time, each supplier has to understand how which covers body armor, helmets, load carriage systems, backpacks, gloves, eye protection and communications its system or device fits with those of other suppliers. 3M’s headsets. All are “designed and developed to provide communication headset, for instance, not only has to plug an integrated modular system for the SOF Warrior,” the into a variety of sources -- aircraft intercom, ground vehicles, portable radios -- but it must as easily command says. Another SOF as possible be worn with things like Warrior individual equipment SUCH NICHE CAPABILITIES a respiratory mask, combat eyewear, responsibility is the Tactical helmet and nape band, and body Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) AREN’T USUALLY GIVEN TO armor. Not least of all, says 3M’s program, aimed at providing ALL U.S. FORCES BECAUSE Lavalle, it must fit. “How can you life-saving first aid in tactical THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED, ensure that any soldier -- man, situations. SOCOM’s combined fiscal woman, big head, small head -- can AND BECAUSE THEY’RE 2011 budget request for SPEAR put this on and it works? It’s not NOT CHEAP. and TCCC was expected to be an easy task.” And there are some about $52 million, Ticer says. problems that can’t be easily solved. PEO-SOF Warrior, he says, fielded more than 29,000 items Headsets, for example, will be hot in the desert. of SPEAR individual equipment during fiscal 2010 as well The relatively small size of the Special Operations Forces as nearly 3,000 TCCC operator kits and 400 TCCC medic – just 12,000 are deployed around the world on an average kits. day, according to the command – and their hallmark SOF operators are able cover a range of missions with individuality is a natural fit with the small entrepreneurial their individual gear because it is both interoperable and companies that supply much of the SOF gear. “We invite modular, Ticer says. “This tailored-ability enables SOF these groups in and they bring their entire kit that they operators to rapidly reconfigure their equipment and need to carry, and we’ll design an alpha prototype in usually three to five days,” says Mystery Ranch’s Seacat. execute assigned missions in remote locations.” Because SOF operate in rugged environments, “We either send it with them, or have it meet them back equipment reliability and maintainability is critical, he home, and then they go out and test it” and give feedback. Mystery Ranch also gets “satellite phone calls directly says, along with the ability to tailor equipment training and from Afghanistan,” Seacat says. “They’re usually calling maintenance to those operational realities. Meanwhile, a range of research and development to say, ‘Hey, thanks a lot, this is amazing stuff; other efforts are under way within PEO-SOF Warrior: adapting members of our group have seen it; we need to buy digital multispectral technologies to improve night-vision six more of these packs, like now.’ And then we send it capabilities; reducing weapon signatures; seeking lighter straight to Afghanistan.” weight, more protective body armor; improving crew 28 DEFENSE STANDARD Tactical Summer Gear 2015 2016
by DEFENSE STANDARD Media Group