Special Operations Outlook 2019 - 2020 Edition

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2019-2020 EDITION


FROM TALOS TO HYPER ENABLED OPERATOR USSOCOM Artificial Intelligence Transformation USSOCOM Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics INTERVIEW Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, Commander, NAVSPECWARCOM















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In its March 28, 2019, update to U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, the Congressional Research Service provided congressional members and committees of Congress with an updated perspective on U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and its elements. “Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations and, in recent years, have been given greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations,” the report explains, adding that the current Unified Command Plan stipulates that USSOCOM has responsibility “for synchronizing planning for global operations to combat terrorist networks. “This focus on planning limits its ability to conduct activities designed to deter emerging threats, build relationships with foreign militaries, and potentially develop greater access to foreign militaries,” it continues. “USSOCOM is proposing changes that would, in addition to current responsibilities, include the responsibility for synchronizing the planning, coordination, deployment, and, when directed, the employment of special operations forces globally and will do so with the approval of the Geographic Combatant Commanders, the services, and, as directed, appropriate U.S. government agencies. Further, the proposed changes would give broader responsibility to USSOCOM beyond counterterrorism activities, to include activities against other threat networks.” The report’s authors highlight recent responsibility changes, ranging from USSOCOM’s August 2016 assignment of the leading role in coordinating the Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction, a mission previously assigned to U.S. Strategic Command, to the command’s role as the DOD proponent for Security Force Assistance, to the recent assignment of the mission to field a transregional Military Information Support Operations capability. Looking ahead, the report notes that the future of USSOCOM and U.S. SOF represents “a potential issue for Congress.” Against that background, this issue of Special Operations Outlook not only looks at future SOF challenges but also some of the hurdles and challenges faced by previous generations of operations. Specifically, the publication marks the 75th anniversary of the initial combat operations of Merrill’s Marauders, whose World War II exploits provide a reminder that today’s operators truly stand on the shoulders of giants. As in past years, this publication reflects cooperation and support from across the USSOCOM community. We are especially grateful for the time and efforts of staff, planners, and even operators who took the time to provide background briefings and even some direct input. We hope you will find this publication provides a blend of information and perspective that will be both illuminating and enjoyable. The Editors


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10 USSOCOM Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Courtesy of USSOCOM



26 FROM TALOS TO HEO Supporting the First Truth By Scott R. Gourley

34 AFSOC Turning to a New Heading By David C. Isby


50 MARSOC An Agile Force Adapts to New Challenges By J.R. Wilson 56 SHOT 2019 A Glimpse Behind the Curtain By Scott R. Gourley 60 NAVSPECWARCOM INTERVIEW: Rear Adm. Collin P. Green,

Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command By Scott R. Gourley

68 USSOCOM Maritime Mobility

A Dynamic Maritime Environment By Scott R. Gourley


INTERVIEW: Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette, Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Command By Scott R. Gourley


An Ambassador’s Perspective


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Unconventional Warfare By Andrew White


By Craig Collins

112 THE 2019 WARRIOR GAMES “Be Inspired” By Craig Collins 118 MERRILL’S MARAUDERS, 1944 Special Operations Spearhead By David C. Isby 124 INNOVATION SHOWCASE

2019-2020 EDITION

Published by Faircount Media Group 4915 W. Cypress St. Tampa, FL 33607 Tel: 813.639.1900 www.defensemedianetwork.com www.faircount.com EDITORIAL Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Consulting Editor: Scott R. Gourley Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editor: Rhonda Carpenter Contributing Writers: Craig Collins, Scott R. Gourley David C. Isby, David L. Spirk Andrew White, J.R. Wilson DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director/Project Designer: Robin K. McDowall

ADVERTISING Associate Publisher: Patrick Pruitt Account Executives: Art Dubuc III Steve Chidel, John Caianiello OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION Chief Operating Officer: Lawrence Roberts VP, Business Development: Robin Jobson Business Development: Damion Harte Business Analytics Manager: Colin Davidson Marketing Interns: Julia Debs, Emily Falcone, Alison Salama Business Development Interns: Patrick Freer, Matt Nussbaum Information Technology Intern: Nicholas Meye FAIRCOUNT MEDIA GROUP Publisher: Ross Jobson

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A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey from the 8th Special Operations Squadron prepares to infill a joint special operations team of Air Force Special Tactics and U.S. Army Special Forces operators during a capabilities demonstration for Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson at Eglin Range Complex, Florida, May 3, 2018. CV-22s are being upgraded with new radars and situational awareness capabilities.


Special Operations Outlook



Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (SOF AT&L), a part of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), ensures special operations forces (SOF) have special operations-peculiar equipment and services required for them to complete missions across the globe. SOF AT&L is divided into eight program executive offices (PEO) and four directorates. The PEOS are Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4); Fixed Wing; Maritime; Rotary Wing; Services; SOF Support Activity; Special Reconnaissance; Surveillance and Exploitation; and SOF Warrior. The Directorates are Acquisition Comptroller, Logistics, Procurement and Science and Technology. SOF AT&L is manned by military and civilians from all four military services. While SOF AT&L is co-located with USSOCOM headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, these SOF acquisition professionals live and work around the country on bases and posts such as Fort Eustis, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, the Navy Yard, Fort Belvoir, and Natick. SOF AT&L provides full life-cycle management by seamlessly developing technologies within the Science and Technology directorate, to producing and fielding that technology in programs of record through the PEOs, and finally to sustainment and eventual divestiture through USSOCOM’s logistics directorate.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE USSOCOM’s directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) vision is to “Discover, enable, and transition technologies to provide an asymmetric advantage for special


USSOCOM PEO Command, Control, Communications, and Computers is moving into low-rate initial production of the AN/PRC-163 Next Generation Tactical Handheld tactical radio.

Two additional focus areas are the Hyper-Enabled Operator (HEO) concept and next-generation mobility. Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF)-HEO JATF’s new applied research focus is to advance technology toward a HEO in the cognitive domain. HEO seeks to enhance the SOF operator’s cognition by increasing situational awareness, reducing cognitive load, and accelerating decision-making at the tactical edge. Strategic Engagement S&T must continue to strengthen relationships with Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and other external organizations in order to leverage their larger efforts against USSOCOM S&T priorities. S&T’s Strategic Engagement process seeks to discover new technologies, reduce redundancies, gain efficiencies, and synchronize long range future planning. Beyond the employment of improved technologies, adversaries will continue to rapidly evolve and adapt by employing novel tactics/ techniques, capabilities, and resources to challenge U.S. interests. The challenge for SOF is pacing with the commercial technology sectors as competitors and adversaries rapidly acquire and leverage these technologies, anticipating emerging challenges and, when necessary, maintaining the ability to rapidly respond to erupting crises through nontraditional means or the employment of overwhelming force.


operations forces and to hyper-enable the SOF operator now and in future environments.” S&T Priorities S&T priorities are aligned with the USSOCOM Commander Capabilities and Programming Guidance (CPG). The current CPG builds upon the 2018 National Defense Strategy and SOF future operating environment. S&T is focusing its research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) efforts on these four main pillars: • Next Generation Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Tactically Relevant Situational Awareness: Focuses on ISR, mobile ad-hoc networks, small form factor, low probability of intercept/detection (LPI/LPD) C4 systems • Network and Data Management: Focuses on cyber, Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML), and Big Data Analytics. • Biotechnologies/Human Interface: Focuses on tactical combat casualty care, real-time medical monitoring, and maintaining optimal SOF performance. • Next Generation Effects/Precision Strike Next Generation Effects/Precision Strike: Focuses on problems related to weapons for SOF use, ammunition, precision munitions, and devices for scalable effects.

Technical Experimentation (TE) S&T conducts TE events throughout the year, each with different themes. TE events offer multiple venues to rapidly assess, develop, counter, and exploit emerging capabilities to address immediate SOF needs. TE events allow industry, academia and other external organizations the opportunity to engage and demonstrate technology and concepts and get direct feedback from SOF and acquisition professionals. TE 19-3 will take place in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019 at the Rellis Campus of Texas A&M University in Bryan, Texas. The theme of TE 19-3 will be command, control, communications and computers (C4), small unmanned systems and HEO. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) S&T manages USSOCOM’s SBIR/STTR program. The objective is to stimulate technology innovation by awarding contracts to small businesses to meet federal research and development needs. SBIR/STTR Topics are released in April, August, and November. Sharing Technology Needs As a reminder, S&T provides multiple means of sharing SOCOM’s technology needs with the public. The three SOF Hard Problems (Small Unit Dominance, Mission Assured Communications, and Signature Management) are available on the USSOCOM website. The “Virtual Symposium” remains available to provide vendors background information on S&T investment priorities for FY 19. S&T is in the process of updating the Virtual Symposium to reflect FY 20 investment requirements.




Above: A formation of MC-130J Commando IIs fly over Clovis, New Mexico, Apr. 2, 2019. The 9th Special Operations Squadron celebrated its 75th anniversary by flying across New Mexico, at one point being joined mid-flight by aircraft from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Right: An MQ-9 Reaper during the 65th Special Operations Squadron activation ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Dec. 18, 2018. PEO Fixed Wing began fielding the new MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft in the MALET program.


Find: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance The airborne ISR (AISR) team fields manned and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that include improved full-motion video and electronic warfare capabilities. The Expeditionary Organic Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Capability Set (EOTACS) program is a new program of record in the AISR Team portfolio. EOTACS uses a “family of systems” approach to providing small UAS to SOF in all USSOCOM components. The Multi-mission Tactical UAS (MTUAS) program has started fielding the new MQ-27B Scan Eagle, which provides full-motion video, command and control (C2), and increased payloads. The Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Tactical (MALET) program began fielding the new MQ-9, Block 5 aircraft and will complete the fielding of the MQ-1C, service common Block 25 extended range aircraft by the end of fourth quarter FY19. Infiltrate: Mobility The MC-130J recapitalization adds SOF capabilities to the servicecommon aircraft. Three mission systems include electronic warfare,


Special Operations Outlook

situational awareness, and terrain following radar, which enable the MC-130J to conduct air-refueling, airdrop, insertion, extraction, and resupply missions under adverse and hostile conditions. Data from these three systems is pushed to aircrew displays through a special mission processor. The CV-22 is also being updated with a similar terrain following radar, a color helmet-mounted display, and enhanced situational awareness capabilities. Finish: Strike The Integrated Strike Program leads AC-130J recapitalization efforts, which include the addition of an advanced precision-strike package to provide close-air support and precision fire capability in both electronic warfare and degraded weather environments. Additionally, technology advancements over the past year in legacy AC-130W gunships will continue to inform advancements in infrared suppression systems, missile warning systems, and helmet-mounted displays for potential application to the AC-130J, increasing crew efficiency and survivability. To aid in the AC-130J’s precision fire, stand-off precision guided missiles work to deliver increased accuracy,


PEO Fixed Wing (FW) delivers special operations manned and unmanned fixed-wing airpower capabilities. Overall, FW effectively executed more than $2.3 billion in FY18 to develop, deliver, and sustain a portfolio of FW intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), strike, and mobility weapons systems in direct support SOF operations worldwide. FW delivery of revolutionary ISR assets, MC-130J and AC-130J recapitalization, lethal munitions, and advanced technology ensure SOF mission success today and through tomorrow’s fight worldwide.

USSOCOM Right: Coalition special forces wait for an MH-47G Chinook to land so they can extract their high-value target during the opening ceremony for the Jackal Stone 10 exercise at Darwsko, Poland. Below: An MH-47G Chinook flies low overhead preparing to fast rope coalition special forces onto a roof to engage and secure a high-value target within during the opening ceremony for Jackal Stone 10. The MH-47G renew program is ramping up to revitalize the Chinook fleet.


reduced collateral damage, and the ability to hit static and moving targets while maintaining minimal visual and acoustic signature. Technology Insertion: Tomorrow’s Fight PEO Fixed Wing continues to push the technology envelope to ensure future superiority and lethality for U.S. SOF operators. For example, PEO Fixed Wing supports the high-energy laser (HEL) demonstration as well as advanced technology sensors, defensive countermeasures, advanced avionics, and mission training systems. The HEL demonstrates a precision, scalable, low-kinetic weapon with the integration of “best-in-breed” subsystems. The AC-130 HEL is scheduled to execute a planned prototype demonstration in FY22.


PEO ROTARY WING PEO Rotary Wing (RW) equips the Army Special Operations Aviation Command and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (160th SOAR(A)) with the most advanced and lethal weapons systems available. RW’s sole purpose is to ensure these incredible soldiers receive overmatch capabilities and robust support, so they remain time on target. To guarantee the 160th SOAR(A) aircrews maintain readiness and an advantage against all threats and in all operating environments, RW is simultaneously recapitalizing its aircraft as well as rapidly integrating lethality and survivability upgrades; all while looking toward the future of SOF vertical lift. Collaborating with the Technology Applications Program Office at Fort Eustis, Virginia, Systems Integration Management Office at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Product Manager SOF Training Systems in Orlando, Florida, the RW enterprise successfully executed nearly $500 million this fiscal year to develop, deliver, and sustain the RW systems of the 160th SOAR (A). Some of the highlights were: • The light assault/attack A/MH-6M Little Bird (LB) Program Management Office (PMO) continued development and testing of the Block 3 effort that will recapitalize the LB fleet. This modification will improve both aircraft performance and situational awareness in the cockpit. • The medium assault MH-60M Black Hawk Program Management Office (PMO) continued the Block 1 modification with the induction of eight Block 0 aircraft and delivery of nine Block 1 aircraft. This modification increases payload availability, increases reliability for the users, and provides better situational awareness for aircrews. • The heavy assault MH-47G Chinook PMO awarded several major contracts to ramp up the MH-47G Renew program that will recapitalize the heavy assault fleet. • The Silent Knight Radar (SKR) team successfully completed initial operational test and evaluation. SKR provides SOF aircrews with a common terrain following/terrain avoidance capability and improved maneuverability in denied environments. RW aligns its efforts with the National Defense Strategy (NDS) by prioritizing the delivery of more lethal, capable, survivable, and innovative weapons systems. However, the NDS also directs improvement





and reform of its business practices as a method to achieve greater lethality for the warfighter. This remains a challenging and complex problem set, and requires both industry and RW to collaborate in new and innovative ways. RW is interested in creative solutions from industry partners that: • Increase speed of responding to requests for proposal, reduce unproductive portions of procurement lead-time, and reduce lead times for weapon system procurement. • Decrease “flash-to-bang” time on delivering systems to the warfighter. • Explore future rotary wing capabilities, to include supporting Future Vertical Lift (FVL) development. • Offer ways to hyper-enable aircrews and operators through integrating federated, complementary systems to aid in rapid decisive decision-making (i.e. How can we make what we have more effective?) • RW and industry must work together to increase responsiveness and relevancy by “moving at the speed of SOF” in order to ensure the warriors of the 160th SOAR(A) are as prepared as possible for what they will confront on tomorrow’s battlefield.

PEO SRSE PEO Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Exploitation (SRSE) is responsible for the acquisition, development, fielding, and sustainment of SOF ISR capabilities. The Technical Collection and Communications (TCC) PMO oversees the development and testing of commercial and government material solutions for integration into TCC programs of record, which includes Hostile Forces-Tagging, Tracking, and Locating (HF-TTL), Tactical Video Systems/Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition (TVS/RSTA), Blue Force Tracking (BFT), and Special Communications Enterprise (SCE). The technology focus areas include non-global positioning system based capabilities, unattended ground sensors, and advanced methods for clandestine communications. Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) continues to provide leading-edge biometrics and forensics devices to SOF operators worldwide. The program equipment enhancements are identified and evaluated through SOFWERX industry days, limited user assessment testing, and combat evaluations. Additionally, SSE fielded the latest software


Special Operations Outlook

U.S. Army MH-60M Black Hawks prepare to evacuate a casualty during Assault Support Tactics 3 (AST-3) in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor course (WTI) 1-18 at Twentynine Palms, California, on Oct. 13, 2017. PEO Rotary Wing is increasing the Black Hawk’s payload, reliability, and situational awareness capabilities.

to exploit captured electronics. Several exploitation analysis centers received upgraded shelters, which dramatically improved environmental systems, lighting, and electrical distribution. The Mission Support Systems PMO initiated fielding of the National Reconnaissance Office Fusion Analysis Development Effort platform in support of the Distributed Common Ground/Surface System Special Operations Forces (DCGS-SOF) requirements. In support of national capability development, the Special Operations Forces Planning, Rehearsal, and Execution Preparation (SOFPREP) program began a SOF-to-Service transition of globally correlated 3-D geospatial intelligence data under an emerging capability technology development project. The Integrated Survey Program (ISP) accelerated prototyping and experimentation to meet SOF requirements for detailed tactical planning data including 3-D models. The Joint Threat Warning System (JTWS) Program began the initial fielding of signals intelligence capability to the maritime domain for both standard and non-standard craft. The JTWS team was able to re-apply the same modular software programmable sensor developed for maritime against ground mobile requirements with minimal additional investment leading to the procurement of sensors providing high-priority signals intelligence capabilities. JTWS also fielded the air lite system on the C-146 platform providing valuable threat warning for deployed Air Force Special Operations Command platforms. Program Manager Military Department (MILDEP) continues to sustain the Afghan National Tracking System (ANTS), which supports the Afghan National Security Forces. MILDEP was designated the lead for the new remote advise and assist/virtual accompany kits; this green force tracking capability will revolutionize the ability of SOF operators to interact with host-nation partners.

PEO SOF WARRIOR By cultivating an aggressive, risk-taking culture among acquisition, financial, security and contracting personnel, PEO SOF Warrior planned and executed $1.8 billion toward the development,



Left: Belted .338 Norma Magnum cartridges for the Lightweight Medium Machinegun (LWMMG). On the left are conventional cartridges, and on the right, polymer-cased cartridges. Right: General Dynamics’ prototype entrant for the LWMMG evaluation of an intermediate caliber machine gun.

production, worldwide fielding, and sustainment of SOF-peculiar equipment supporting five USSOCOM component commands to include special mission units, and Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC). Since SOFIC 2018, SOF Warrior continues to concentrate its efforts in acquiring a diverse range of combat and combat support, ISR capabilities affecting SOF lethality, survivability, mobility (air, ground, and sea), and situational awareness for application in all environments. Exemplary highlights from the past 12 months include:


Program Manager-SOF Lethality (PM-SL) PM-SL responded to an urgent requirement requesting an organic mid-range precision strike capability by becoming an early adopter of Middle Tier Acquisition authorities. This team is also working closely with the Close Combat Lethality Task Force Director to pursue making SOF forces more lethal. The team awarded a $50 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. for the purpose of equipping SOF with a new, innovative, advanced sniper rifle. Partnering with the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium using other transaction authorities, the PM is acquiring Light Weight Medium Machine gun prototypes and ammunition to conduct a combat evaluation. This innovative capability can provide .50-caliber-like effects in a 7.62mm form factor. The PM is pursuing an intermediate caliber ammunition that will provide a 40 percent increase in effective range, doubling the hit probability at 1,000 meters. With success in using polymercased ammunition, SOF operators will also be afforded a 30 percent weight reduction. PM-Counter-proliferation (PM-CP) PM-CP fielded an improved electronic countermeasure system in the fight to counter radio-controlled improvised explosive devices. The PM also awarded a $155 million contract for Modi Production to field 1,040 units four years earlier than planned to USSOCOM, U.S. Army, and U.S. Marine Corps units. Working closely with TSOCs, the PM acquired and equipped SOF coalition partners with critical “protect the force” ECM [electronic countermeasures] capabilities. PM-Family of Special Operations Vehicles (PM-FOSOV) PM-FOSOV fielded low-visibility, non-standard commercial vehicles (NSCV) in support of denied area operations. A new NSCV variant

completed air-drop testing of an armored Toyota Hilux vehicle, allowing for a successful fielding and deployment release setting the condition to enter into production. The PM also executed a $76 million contract modification with General Dynamic-OTS adding the Army’s directed requirement for a GMV 1.1 variant and associated support. The Army realizes a $30 million investment cost avoidance and significant schedule reduction estimated to be at least four years by leveraging this USSOCOM program of record. PM-Special Programs PM-Special Programs has increased and widened the proliferation of the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) to other services and government agencies to provide improved situational awareness to SOF and conventional forces; completed the C-17 fuselage-mounted antenna integration design; and tested a 9-mm handgun door breaching round to assess performance as a replacement for a 12-gauge breaching round. PM-SP fielded a new .50-caliber lightweight polymer-cased ammunition for use by rotary/wing aircraft – a huge SOF lethality enhancing success story. Additionally, PM-SP is focused on developing an improved fragment design for the advanced fragmentation grenade to increase lethality during close combat operation. PM-Survival, Support and Equipment Systems PM-Survival, Support and Equipment Systems awarded an $8 million, five-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixedprice contract to Hardwire, LLC, to support USSOCOM’s sustainment of soft body armor capabilities. This PM also received a full fielding and deployment release for the SPEAR body armor load carriage system aviation body armor vest. This provides a significant enhancement in aviation vest configurations for the first time in recent history. PM-Sensitive Activities PM-Sensitive Activities acquired and delivered 1,969 end items in the areas of ground ISR systems, special communications devices and radios, virtual points of presence, software licenses, and cyberdefense capabilities, as well as 15 software capability releases in the areas of data fusion, data analytics, and identity management. PM-Naval Special Warfare Special Programs PM-Naval Special Warfare Special Programs awarded a contract to acquire the Extended Long Range Sniper Rifle (ELRSR). The ELRSR system significantly increases sniper lethality as compared to predecessor sniper systems. The team also tested a commercialoff-the-shelf inertial navigation device for application when operating in GPS-denied environments. The results were not as accurate as GPS; however, in its current state, it provided improved situational awareness in GPS-denied environments.


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USSOCOM The Shallow Water Combat Submersible, which is slated to replace the current Mk 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicle, undergoing pool testing.

PEO MARITIME PEO Maritime is responsible for delivering cutting-edge undersea and surface technologies and capabilities to Naval Special Warfare Command. The key to each of the maritime mobility platforms is the Navy SEALs, the end users of each of the maritime programs of record. PEO Maritime is composed of five program offices that focus on the development, production, and sustainment of wet and dry submersibles, combat diving equipment, submarine-hosted dry deck shelters (DDS), and surface craft. PEO Maritime’s undersea systems office enhances SEAL lethality by enabling increased mobility and payload capacity. The DDS is an in-service program that hosts the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) MK-8. The SDV is currently undergoing extensive modernization, including enhancements to operator interfaces and additions to the number of carried payloads. A replacement to the SDV MK-8, the Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS), is currently in production. Both SDV MK-8 and SWCS are wet submersibles, requiring operators to be exposed to the environment and using underwater breathing gear while conducting operations. Joining the undersea fleet is the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS). The DCS enables increased range and payload, and protects SEALs from the undersea environment by encapsulating them within a one atmosphere dry submersible shell. To prepare Naval Special Warfare Groups for the delivery of SWCS and DCS, both programs have delivered production representative platforms currently to train, mitigate risk, and insert technology. The surface fleet continues its extensive recapitalization effort, consisting of the Combatant Craft Assault (CCA), Combatant Craft Medium (CCM), and the Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH) mobility platforms along with enhanced mission equipment technology to augment the platform capabilities. Development began on the new maritime precision engagement system, which will ultimately provide the entire combatant craft fleet with a standoff weapon capability. The production of CCA continues with delivery of five new craft over the last year, while the CCM remains in full-rate production, fielding an additional eight boats to both East and West Coast operational units. Both CCA and CCM platforms continue to deploy to operational theaters worldwide. The CCH maintains a forward-deployed presence on a rotational basis, with additional craft in production and maintenance availabilities. The SOF combat diving program rounds out the maritime portfolio and is developing new equipment focused on diver communications, navigation, mobility, and environmental protection. Each piece of gear is integrated with current platforms and delivers cutting-edge technology to operators, not only enhancing the diver’s ability to conduct their mission but also expanding their mission set.

PEO COMMAND, CONTROL, COMMUNICATIONS AND COMPUTERS PEO C4 is responsible for acquiring and delivering cutting-edge C4 and military information support operations (MISO) systems. In 2018, C4 executed more than $639 million, delivering 25,000+ communications, information technology (IT), and MISO capabilities to USSOCOM forces worldwide. A significant focus area of the PEO has been modernizing IT and communications at the edge and tactical levels, where SOF are forward deployed. The Next Generation Tactical Communications (NGTC) program conducted the third operational user assessment

(OUA) for the AN/PRC-163 Next Generation Handheld (NGHH) tactical radio in December 2018; low-rate initial production radios have been procured with fielding anticipated to begin in June. The RF-345-STC Next Generation Manpack (NGMP) tactical radio is moving forward with OUA scheduled for this summer. The NGHH and NGMP are both dual channel, multi-band radios enabling simultaneous communication over two channels hosting both narrowband and wideband voice and IP-address-based data waveforms. These systems are designed to accept an attachable mission module (MM) allowing for rapid integration of emerging technologies. ISR Full Motion Video (FMV) MM’s currently in production enable operators to receive and disseminate FMV, and communicate and transmit other data while maintaining voice communications without additional transceivers. The AN/PRC-161 handheld link-16 radio received conditional fielding and deployment release (CF&DR) approval last May and is presently in full-rate production. The AN/PRC-161 integrates ground forces into the air tactical data link, enabling rapid and accurate execution of digitally aided close air support. The Satellite Deployable Node (SDN) program awarded a new contract for micro-satellite terminals, enabling deployed SOF to gain access to IT services through a scalable, man-packable solution. The SDN-ISR kit entered full-rate production in July 2018, providing SOF with the ability to receive FMV/ISR data over the SDN family of systems. The Tactical Local Area Network (TACLAN) program underwent a restructuring of the acquisition and sustainment strategies, achieving significant efficiencies. The TACLAN program received approval in April 2019 for the current wearable field computing device. PEO C4 led the merger of $90 million in removable airborne media system and multi-mission payload (MMP) programs, reducing duplicative MISO FM, TV, and cellular broadcast capabilities. The MMP program successfully accomplished the integration of an MMP-heavy pod onto an EC-130J aircraft. New media production center software planning tools were implemented to improve pre/post-test of MISO products through measures of effectiveness. New technologies and prototypes were developed and demonstrated as part of the autonomous aerial insertion and resupply into dense, urban, complex terrain, enabling aerial dispersion of psychological operations products to reach into isolated populations. C4 initiated development of a distributable audio media system and demonstrated the next generation loudspeaker wireless and micro system prototypes.


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exploitation capabilities are being enhanced across qKey USSOCOM. Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) was one of three key focus areas for Technical Experimentation (TE) 17-2. Held in late March 2017 at Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations in Indiana, the event was designed to “provide an opportunity for technology developers to interact with operational personnel to determine how their technology development efforts and ideas may support or enhance SOF capability needs.” Some of the exploitation challenges faced by SOF operators can be ascertained through the list of technology areas and performance tasks identified for the event, including: Voice matching (multi-speaker) with collection and segregation of voice from media or live capture; handheld detection of materials including biologicals, chemicals, and hazards (including hidden chambers and false materials); rapid DNA handheld collection, processing, and matching technologies; facial recognition technologies 1 to 300 meters and up to 1 kilometer; dustless fingerprint collection; media exploitation capability priorities for 30 minutes or less; media exploitation capability priorities at the Exploitation Analysis Center (EAC) level; SSE Explosive Detection Kit (EDK); and embedded hazard detection and identification for exploitation analysis center (lab-like facility). Apparently building on the identified interest in “media exploitation capability priorities at the Exploitation Analysis Center (EAC)” at TE 17.2, another recent example of expanding exploitation capabilities can be found in an announcement issued by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC). According to the announcement, the MARSOC EAC “is required to perform exploitation on a variety of modalities in order to support the TSOC [Theater Special Operations Command] and deployed SOF elements. Based on the combination of enemy and adversary TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] and the endless progression of technology the threat is fluid and ever changing. In order to deploy a fully prepared EAC, additional exploitation training in the area of cellular devices is required.” As a result, the announcement identifies a need for ISP (in-system programming)/Chip off training, as part of broader pre-deployment training, in an effort to ensure the deploying MARSOC elements “will have the latest capability in order to process the information from the latest commercial hardware devices used on the multidimensional battlefield.” “Additionally ISP/Chip off allows the EAC Technician the ability to exploit damaged devices as well as devices that are non-exploitable with traditional means,” it notes. The announcement outlined specifics for an eight-day Advanced ISP/Chip off Mobile Device Exploitation Course.

Designed to prepare the Marines for advanced cell phone exploitation, the course includes “how to exploit phones in a manner that is nondestructive but allows the EAC technician to access valuable information that would be lost using current fielded equipment. The program explores the principles, proper methods and procedures to access the data storage and memory of nonexploitable phones. The end state is the ability for an individual to conduct detailed exploitation and analysis of any device with a processor chip.” In addition to “in depth information about eMMC [embedded Multimedia Card], eMCP [embedded Multi-Chip Package], and UFS [Universal Flash Storage] chips,” the course would also include instruction on “the newest BGA [ball grid array] chip pinout layouts” as well as things like “proper techniques for non-heat chip removal” and discussions of “pros and cons of physical manipulation caused by heat or friction removal techniques.” The most recent example of a desire to enhance USSOCOM forensics/exploitation capabilities falling within the “biometrics” arena can be seen in an April 16, 2019 USSOCOM request for information (RFI). While not directly tied to SSE, it’s easy to see how this could represent a critical supporting technology. According to the RFI, the command’s Special Operations Force Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (SOF AT&L), Program Executive Office - Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Exploitation (PEO - SRSE), Program Manager - Sensitive Site Exploitation (PM-SSE) seeks to identify “potential commercial offthe-shelf [COTS] technologies for participation in the evaluation of mass biometrics enrollment including the collection and on-board storage of a subject’s facial photograph, iris, and fingerprints.” “USSOCOM is conducting an evaluation of collection capabilities/devices for the full spectrum of biometrics collection including but not limited to iris, fingerprint, palm print, facial and voice capture capabilities. The event will focus on biometrics capture equipment to be used by the operator in a field environment on the objective or during mass enrollments of personnel. Production ready models must be stand-alone and can be either handheld or desk-top devices.” As part of the investigation, a Limited User Assessment of these COTS technologies is being planned for July of this year. During the assessment, industry hardware and equipment submitted in response to the RFI and follow-up discussions/activities will be evaluated by SOF operators and other subject matter experts to ascertain whether or not the systems are “capable of performing specific core mission tasks conducted by Special Operations Forces in a non-tactical environment for biometric collection and identification of personnel.”




Special Operations Outlook






the U.S. Special Operations Command’s qAtMarch 28, 2019, change of command in Tampa, Acting Secretary of Defense the Honorable Patrick Shanahan highlighted that outgoing USSOCOM commander Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas drove relentless innovation across special operations forces and showed leadership in the Department of Defense (DOD) in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). In his final remarks as the USSOCOM commander, Gen. Thomas described himself as an applied AI/ML zealot and that he remains passionate about the opportunity and necessity of leveraging AI and ML in every facet of not just U.S. SOF but the entire United States security establishment. Moments later, incoming commander Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, in his first words as the USSOCOM commander, stressed the importance of AI/ML in SOF’s future and his intent to recognize the opportunity of AI/ML-based technologies to improve the efficiency, speed, and precision of U.S. SOF. The 2018 National Defense Strategy foresees that ongoing advances in AI will change society and, ultimately, the character of war. The NDS also states the DOD must anticipate the implications of new technologies on the battlefield, rigorously define the military problems anticipated in future conflicts, and foster a culture of experimentation and calculated risk-taking. For USSOCOM to realize this vision, the command is required to identify appropriate uses for AI across the SOF enterprise, rapidly pilot solutions, and scale successes. As USSOCOM’s first generation chief data officer, I am charged with focusing SOF’s applied AI efforts in close partnership with the USSOCOM acquisition executive and the command’s chief information officer. Modeling industry’s best practices, the USSOCOM commander decided to have USSOCOM’s lead for AI report directly to him in order to provide command emphasis on early transformation initiatives. USSOCOM will leverage our SOF components and the services to establish focused AI initiatives, supported by DOD and USSOCOM enterprise enablers, intended to move from idea to deployment in a rapid manner. The six areas of initial focus for the application of AI will be: 1. Perception/Action 2. Maneuver 3. Communication resilience and cyber protection 4. Training and talent management 5. Predictive maintenance, logistics planning, and forecasting 6. Vendor, contract, and budget management The NDS states that the United States faces an ever more lethal and disruptive battlefield across all domains and conducted at increasing speed and reach throughout all of the overseas theaters reaching to our homeland. The creative application of AI in the SOF formation will increase the capacity of SOF professionals from the tactical edge to strategic headquarters to confront the challenges of this more lethal and disruptive battlefield. It will also allow us to enable our partners with more precision and speed than ever before, but USSOCOM Headquarters cannot go it alone. To get where we need to be, USSOCOM Headquarters is working by, through, and with the SOF enterprise and has now

Amir Husain, author of The Sentient Machine, speaks about artificial intelligence at USSOCOM Headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Jan. 25, 2019. Husain’s speech was part of the USSOCOM Commander’s Speaker Series designed to inform and engage senior special operations forces leaders.

initiated projects in each of its focus areas. These projects include expanding support to Project Maven; demonstrating the potential of automating the identification of threat messages by the new Joint Military Information Support Operations Web Operations Center; leveraging artificial reality and virtual reality to begin engineering data for future autonomy projects with Naval Special Warfare Command; human performance and preservation of the force and family with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command; and maturing its gains in predictive maintenance through the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and applying relevant portions to the Air Force Special Operations Command’s fleet. Empowered by the recently released Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence, USSOCOM developed its AI Strategy by embracing the DOD AI Strategy as laid out by the Director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, and by connecting the strategy to SOF modernization priorities, which are aligned with the NDS. The SOF AI Strategy at its core embraces joint staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense enablers for the enterprise. For SOF to be successful, we must have sustained support from the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Algorithmic Warfare CrossFunctional Team (aka, Project Maven), the DOD Chief Data Officer, and the future enterprise cloud capability from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program. Most importantly, SOF’s first AI Strategy reinforces USSOCOM leadership’s intent to be the force of choice for the employment of algorithmic-based technologies through SOF headquarters to the distant edge of the formation via cloud-empowered data and services.



FROM TALOS TO HEO Supporting the First Truth BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

are more important than Hardware.” y “Humans Standing as the first “SOF truth,” that observation reflects the criticality of special operators across U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) elements. Consequently, it could be argued that the hardware projects and programs directly supporting those human operators have a unique importance within the SOF materiel arena. A recent representative example of one of those projects is the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), which was quickly branded with a public persona as “SOCOM’s ‘Iron Man’ suit.” Although never intended to be a fielded system, the research and development effort is already supporting a range of warfighter needs, while establishing the foundation for follow-on efforts in both special operations forces (SOF) and broader military communities. “TALOS was initially envisioned to meet the need to protect the operator at ‘the fatal funnel,’ at the most vulnerable point, by providing enhanced survivability features,” explained Col.Alex MacCalman, former chief engineer and current director for Joint Acquisition Task Force TALOS. “From there we went very quickly into the solution space of deriving an exoskeleton powered suit that would provide full body armor protection. We then tapped into enhanced situational awareness, and increased surgical lethality. Those were the four original tenets: survivability, human performance, situational awareness and surgical lethality.” Characterizing the TALOS project as “a great experiment for SOCOM to get after something disruptive,” MacCalman offered, “Disruptive innovation certainly involves our ability to get after changing tactics, techniques, and procedures; how we do business. And we knew from the get-go that SOCOM had to do this in a nontraditional way and from a lot of fronts, not only just from an acquisition dimension, but also teaming up with nontraditional partners and assembling the right expertise in forums and venues to get aggregate insights across these different perspectives with the operator in mind. In fact, in many ways, the TALOS project pioneered many of SOCOM’s abilities and prototyping endeavors now evident in the SOFWERX ecosystem. That has been a great takeaway from the TALOS experience.” Elaborating on SOCOM’s early TALOS work with non-traditional partners, he pointed to “a lot of rapid prototyping events with the right people in the right forums to get an understanding of what the SOF needs were at the time. “Those vendors went off in different directions with a vision of operator needs in those areas,” he said. “And things emerged. Things were catalyzed by that. There was investment in some of


Special Operations Outlook



Special Tactics operators with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, wait for exfiltration during a scenario as part of Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Avon Park, Florida, Jan. 16, 2019. From TALOS to the Hyper Enabled Operator, SOCOM’s goal is to maximize the individual operator’s combat effectiveness.



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Above: A U.S. Special Forces soldier, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), changes magazines after spotting enemy movement during a combat training exercise at the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis AFB, Nevada, Aug. 28, 2018. Left: A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, provides rear security for an Afghan Commando assault force after conducting a raid on a compound of interest during an operation in the Alingar District, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2018. Spin-offs from TALOS have included new tactical armor designs.

the technologies, both on the industry side and through government initiatives.” Along with fostering the technology developments, he credited the TALOS project with organizational lessons learned; lessons that could be applied to facilitate broader service activities, like the recently established Army Futures Command. MacCalman highlighted visual augmentation as one example of specific technologies explored under TALOS, noting that early concepts of integrating sensors, night vision, and augmented reality paved the way for interface control documents that informed programs like the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). “We recently had the closeout meeting for our TALOS integrated visual augmentation system, which we have been working on for the past several years,” he said. “And over that period we’ve been working with a range of external government players that are involved with the Army’s IVAS program. They serve as key stakeholders, taking

advantage of all the insights that we arrived at, and contributing to a deliverable of a functioning system. It’s a prototype. It’s not fieldable by any means. None of these prototypes are. But they serve as an opportunity to understand the technical trade space, to test and learn as fast as we can and share that technical knowledge with the other government entities.” He pointed to other TALOS spin-offs in new tactical armor designs. “In TALOS, we focused very heavily on the physical domain, about protecting the operator at ‘the fatal funnel’ and building out a combat suit with increased armor,” he said. “And I have to say that there’s been tremendous success in our partnering with industry to reduce the weight of that armor. In fact, we’ve got some successful products that are being fielded right now at a significantly reduced weight. I’m not going to identify the threat level, because that’s not something we talk about, but it is very exciting. We’re doing combat evaluations and exploring ways of how we can get maximum coverage with a lighter material that provides protection balanced against the risks that we’re willing to take in different environments.” Choosing his words carefully, he offered that, for the equivalent of the “20 some-odd pounds” of current body armor designs, the new designs could protect “five times as much surface area.” “Now that’s at a reduced threat,” he quickly added. “And that goes into the risk calculation for the environment that you’re in. But it is


certainly an achievement that we didn’t have prior to TALOS and it is a win that we are very excited about.” Other TALOS technology benefits range from 3-D audio to exoskeleton subsystem designs. In terms of 3- D audio, MacCalman acknowledged that the SOCOM project “never expected to solve that challenge to the fullest extent,” but that TALOS helped to foster an endeavor that “could be further developed by industry with an eye toward both military applications as well as commercial applications. “Another effort involved our exoskeleton work,” he added. “We did a variety of exoskeletons, not just for the TALOS suit that


Special Operations Outlook


Above: Army Sgt. Michael Zamora uses a prototype Third Arm exoskeleton to easily aim an 18-pound M249 light machine gun during testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, March 14, 2018. Left: The HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) is a completely untethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 pounds for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Exoskeleton research under the TALOS program has borne fruit in several areas.





Revision Military’s Kinetic Operations Suit demonstrated forward-looking TALOS technologies such as an exoskeleton, integral armor, and helmet with enhanced situational awareness features.

caught everyone’s attention, but also to understand the design space of different actuation strategies, control strategies, and different ways to develop an integrated solution to get after an intended need. Now the ‘ask’ in the beginning was a long shot. And people certainly knew it was not going to be achievable in five years. But it gave us a ‘North Star’ to challenge industry, explore opportunities, and learn the state of technology.” He noted that part of that exploration involved heavily leveraging the Small Business Innovation Research program to incentivize small companies who might not have supported SOCOM efforts in the past. “For example, we explored pneumatic actuators, instead of the electric motors,” he stated. “And now there’s a commercial product out there that’s being rented at certain ski slopes that actuates the knee when the user is skiing down the slopes. Certainly, our involvement and our effort investing in that technology helped move its development, over time, into their business plan. And now we can explore bringing that commercial product back in for a SOF need.” A related spin-off encompasses a variety of lessons learned in placing kinematic structures around human joints. “That involves not only location, range of motion, and articulation issues, but also an understanding of loads and torques that are applied to joints in the human body,” he said. “So in the beginning, you start out with human motion treadmill detection, with operators running on treadmills without any weight. Then you put on weight, and you’re able to do inverse dynamics to get an appreciation of the torques that the human is experiencing.” He continued, “Then how do you take that information and design a kinematic structure around the human body? Because without that kinematic structure being built, you’re using models and making assumptions about how that added weight is going to apply torque to a joint. Then you’re thinking through the hard challenge of how much added assistance you’re going to need at each joint. There are a vast number of design space solutions out there with several complex trade space decisions needed to converge on a solution.” Pointing to broader service interest in kinematics to support efforts like the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, MacCalman noted that the information also directly supports SOCOM component efforts, “like USASOC’s endeavor to enhance mechanical augmentation in some form in the future, which certainly is in the space of what we did.” In parallel with these tangible advances, TALOS is also a story of intangible benefits. To illustrate that point, MacCalman offered the analogy of industry’s lean startup philosophy of “looking at a big idea versus a big bet.”




Special Operations Outlook

Members of a U.S. Air Force special tactics team from the 24th Special Operations Wing sit on board a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey from the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, during infiltration for an assault and casualty evacuation mission as part of Exercise Emerald Warrior 19, Jan. 24, 2019. The Hyper Enabled Operator concept seeks to enable the operator at the edge with the right information, at the right time, for the right person, so that they’re not being distracted.

kill something right away. That is an approach that we have taken and will continue to take.” A key beneficiary of the TALOS research and development experience is a concept, unveiled in May 2018, called the “Hyper Enabled Operator” (HEO). As outlined by MacCalman, the new concept reflects a shift from the TALOS focus on the physical domain to a broader focus incorporating physical, cognitive, and virtual domains, “The cognitive domain certainly involves getting into the minds of our adversaries, populations, and even our own commanders,” he said. “And, together with the virtual domain, which includes


“The ‘Iron Man’ was the big idea,” he asserted. “It was an inspirational endeavor that motivated people and got them excited. And these nontraditional organizations were recruited and came in to be part of our ecosystem. Along the way, we really focused on a lot of the individual components of stand-alone capabilities. That allowed us to evaluate their effectiveness, to inform our state of the art on these technologies, and be able to feed that forward into other initiatives, whether those are in the government or here within SOCOM.” He summarized, “Part of this is trying to accelerate as much learning as possible as fast as we can. And in many ways, there are lessons that we can reflect on as to how we can really move forward. Ultimately, SOCOM is embracing technological change like we always have. But in a lot of ways, we’ve got to model ourselves like a tech company, in that we are actively using lean startup approaches that industry is certainly getting after. Our intent is to get some sort of prototype or minimally viable product in the operator’s hand as fast as possible, so that we can get insights and learn whether we’re going in the right direction, we need to pivot, or we need to

HYPER ENABLED OPERATOR cyberspace and other influencers in the computer environment, it reflects a shift towards the cross-domain environment that we will have to learn to operate in. Not only are we concerned about the physical domain, but we want to be able to enhance the operator at the edge, in those contested and denied environments, with the right information, at the right time, for the right person, so they’re not being distracted. We are reducing the cognitive load, but we’re giving them the information at the point of need.” Acknowledging that the stated goal is not reflective of a simple challenge, he added, “We certainly have the ability to flood the human with as much information as you can ever imagine. But that can be a detriment in certain environments. Instead, we want a ‘digital workforce’ working beside us, providing information and aggregate insights to us, narrowing in on key decisions, accelerating decision making, and partnering with us in a way.” One underlying tenet of the HEO concept is the fact that planners do not want to interfere with an operator’s basic situational awareness. “That training that you get with assessment and selection still comes into play,” he said. “We don’t want to reduce that. The operators still have got to look up and use their own vision to see and discern. We don’t want the technologies or the Hyper Enabled Operator concept to become a distracted operator concept.” Reflective of TALOS’ lessons learned, the way forward involves experimentation. “From the Joint Acquisition Task Force perspective, we’re really honing in on that operator on the ground, in the contested and denied environments, with limited ability to push data through data links,” MacCalman said. “How do we push that data through those links? How do we consume all the data assets that will arrive from these cloud architectures or platforms? How do we consume all the variety of sensing modalities, in every spectrum that you can conceive of, that would aggregate into and pass through the data link, such that the processing of this information is done in a distributed smart way, so that you can deliver the insights and accelerate decision-making? “This is not just raw numbers, but analyzed, filtered, prioritized decision-quality data delivered on a tailorable human machine interface,” he added. It is likely that the human machine interface will also evolve through a future experimentation process. Asked if experimentation might begin with the currently fielded Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK), he noted that the current system requires the operator to be “head down” for use. However, he returned to TALOS experimentation results, noting that advances achieved in visual augmentation, combined with some emerging acoustic and haptic technologies, offered some promising approaches to move forward. “We’re encouraged by the research involved with the effectiveness of these technologies, their projected time frames, and potential distractions as we converge on the right set of technologies that ultimately will enhance the operator,” he said. He added, “In my mind, it goes into trade-off analysis; understanding that trade space as early as you possibly can, so that you can get those trades in front of the user and they can make those critical decisions along the way. That’s part of this experimentation, working with prototypes as early as possible to identify the trade space so that we can make those key design decisions up front, so that, by the end of the endeavor, you’re going to converge onto a viable product for the operator.” Asked about experimentation plans over the next two years, he asserted that specifics remain to be seen.

“But I can tell you that, in the near term, we’re certainly interested in experimenting with the existing prototypes that we have on hand from the TALOS experience,” he said. “They will help us transition into the next endeavor. Ultimately, our focus will be on our operator needs from the components that are aligned with our high command’s vision to hyper-enable the operator.” “Other experimental opportunities involve building out architectures that incorporate the digital pillars of sensing data assets, of communication, of computing, and the humanmachine interface. This is ongoing. It is not just something that our organization as a Joint Acquisition Task Force is getting after. This is a collective effort across all our components, who are getting after this in different ways. It is a cohesive effort across the entire enterprise to better understand how to immerse ourselves in these technologies, in the virtual environment, the augmented reality environment, and how we interface with information,” he said. As such, he agreed that it would be fair to brand the Joint Acquisition Task Force as “an experimental problem refinement tool focused on HEO” for a much larger enterprise. “This is a process that we’re trying to champion, along with other components and innovation groups, such that you have an understanding of the current capability gaps,” he observed. “Then you feed that into some of the science and technology foundry events we will do, where we will go to cities that have a lot of innovative companies and work closely with our components, entering into these events focused on future concepts for a particular mission. We will try to conceptualize these future operating concepts, and then follow through that endeavor or that event with this collaborative environment, and with users and industry working to narrow down a better understanding of a problem, which we can address with technology.” He noted that the actions will be accompanied by prototyping opportunities at SOFWERX, within the Joint Acquisition Task Force and across SOCOM components. “We will come out of those events with better insights of what the problem is,” he said. “Ultimately this is how we want to focus on getting after disruptive innovation, by first understanding problems. We incrementally innovate when we start with existing solutions. But we’re disruptive when we have a clear understanding of a particular problem. And it’s only then that we can start ideating on new solutions that we can test in a crude way, as early as we can, to get the learning and insights so that we can pivot, invest more, or just kill an idea.” Noting that much of the past TALOS coverage has focused on the integrated ‘Iron Man’ suit and when a particular prototype of that suit might be ready, MacCalman observed, “I think that the point of emphasis should be the fact that we’ve been demonstrating subsystem prototypes for a year now. As we speak right now, we have our operators up in one of our vendor sites putting on an exoskeleton. We are continuously demonstrating the system component prototypes as well as subsets of integrated system component prototypes. And the endeavor to integrate all those components into the originally envisioned TALOS suit has to be weighed against the worth of doing that, knowing where we are in the state of technology and what the opportunities are.” He concluded, “From our perspective, the idea of integrating everything into an ‘Iron Man’ suit wouldn’t be something that would be beneficial, given the state of technology. But, by having that as a charter from the get-go, and having the government as a prime integrator, we had a ‘North Star’ to move towards and ultimately converge on what we have now with all of this collective learning across these prototypes.”


AFSOC Turning to a New Heading

U.S. AIR FORCE SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND (AFSOC) has roots going back more than 75 years, to the Air Commandos of World War II. Since then, it has faced conflicts, changes in national strategy, and the rise and fall of threats. In 2018, the new “National Defense Strategy” (NDS) made readiness for great power conflict the top priority. Yet at the same time, as AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb said in Washington on Sept. 17, 2018, “The NDS stresses that we must maintain irregular warfare as a core competence.” On Oct. 29, 2018, the Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) announced that they would jointly carry out two congressionally mandated reviews to “find the right balance between continuing to challenge terrorist organizations while simultaneously addressing growing irregular warfare threats posed by nation-states.” The events of 2018 will shape the future of AFSOC for decades to come. 34

Special Operations Outlook



A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey from the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, is refueled by a KC-10 Extender from the 6th Air Refueling Squadron, Travis AFB, California, during an aerial refueling training mission over New Mexico.



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In 2018, AFSOC was six years into a program to recapitalize its fleet; more new-production aircraft are on its flight lines. Older aircraft are being upgraded. But to meet the full spectrum of potential future threats – bookended by those of great powers and irregular warfare – the Air Force thinks that its forces, including AFSOC, need to be bigger. An additional seven AFSOC operational aircraft squadrons would have to be added to the current 20. In addition, other AFSOC special operations forces (SOF) remained committed to combat operations in 2018. The Combat Control, Pararescue Jumpers, Tactical Air Control Parties, Special Operations Weather, and Special Operations Surgical Teams are part of SOCOM’s efforts. Worldwide operational commitments and intensive international training and exercises – more than one a week – make AFSOC airplanes and personnel in demand by America’s combatant commanders.


AIRPLANES “Everybody wants a gunship,” Chief Master Sgt. Corey Fossbender told Air Force Times in 2018. “Before, in the wars, a gunship was called in if needed. Now the missions don’t go without a gunship. We’re good at what we do.” The big four-turboprop Lockheed Martin AC-130 gunships are the symbol of AFSOC the way, a century ago, dreadnought battleships were for the Navy (and pack broadside firepower to match). AC-130s provide unmatched day or night situational awareness, extensive communications, and accurate firepower, especially in “danger-close” situations where there is a risk of lethal collateral damage. Gunships have proved decisive on the battlefield, time and time again, especially in support of special operations forces teams that have to operate without weight of numbers or heavy firepower. By the end of 2018, AFSOC had 13 AC-130J Ghostriders. These achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in 2017 and will reach full operational capability (FOC) in 2025. AFSOC will start deploying AC-130Js operationally in 2019. The AC-130Js joined 15 AC-130U Spooky aircraft and nine AC-130W Stinger IIs, each with a different fit of weapons, communications, and sensors. When all 37 AC-130Js are delivered by the mid-2020s, they will replace the earlier AC-130Us.

Air Force Special Operations Command’s first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship arrives at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 6, 2019. This is the first Block 30 AC-130J for the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt, and will replace the AC-130U Spooky gunship as it retires from service after more than 20 years of operation.

The first AC-130Js were delivered in Block 10 configuration, their largest gun a 30 mm GAU-23/A, although also able to carry the GBU-39B Small Diameter Bomb and the AGM-176 Griffin air-to-ground missile. In mid-2017, AC-130Js started being delivered in Block 20 configuration, with a 105 mm howitzer and improved infrared countermeasures systems. These aircraft successfully completed initial operational testing and evaluation (IOT&E). In 2018, new AC-130Js were delivered as Block 20+ aircraft, with improved software for the guns and provision for future upgrades that will bring the fleet to Block 30 configuration. Preparation was underway for AC-130 upgrades providing new, rapidly modifiable, electronic warfare systems (these went through risk-reduction testing in 2018) and expanding the capability to use underwing racks for Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and other munitions. In 2018, an AC-130 demonstrated the Thales I-Master turret-mounted synthetic aperture radar (SAR). The All-Weather Engagement (AWE) program, to allow AC-130s to engage ground targets with accurate gunfire through an overcast, went through early technology assessment in 2018. “The MC-130J Talon III program provides adverse weather terrain following/terrain avoidance, radar threat avoidance/protection, and communication networking capabilities significantly more advanced than our current MC-130H Talon II fleet built in the 1980s,” Webb told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on April 11, 2018. Specialists in penetrating hostile airspace, the 52 Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando IIs and MC-130H Combat Talon IIs are AFSOC’s largest air mobility assets. Twenty MC-130H Combat Talon IIs are being fitted with the Raytheon AN/APQ-187 Silent Knight low probability of intercept (LPI) radar, which enables terrain-following flight



Four CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group Detachment 1 fly above Tokyo, Japan, April 5, 2018. Approximately 100 Air Commandos and five Ospreys deployed to Yokota Air Base to participate in regional exercises.

in all weather conditions without alerting hostile sensors. They will also receive operational flight program upgrades as part of a contract signed with Lockheed Martin in 2018, with work to be completed by 2022. MC-130s will receive the same electronic warfare upgrade as AC-130s. In 2018, AFSOC continued to operate single- and twin-turboprop aircraft as air mobility and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, training friendly air arms as well as deploying operationally where larger aircraft are not needed or desirable. AFSOC has said that it is looking for 12 to 22 replacements, in the 2025-30 time frame, for its current 28 Pilatus U-28 ISR aircraft that have seen extensive service, especially in Africa. This would be enough for one operational squadron plus training and reserve aircraft. It had not yet been determined whether this would be an off-the-shelf design or will be the Next Generation Manned ISR platform; its requirement was being validated during 2018.

ROTORCRAFT Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey tiltrotors have seen extensive combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan. New-production Ospreys continued to be delivered to AFSOC in 2018. Five Ospreys of Detachment 1, 353rd Special Operations Group arrived at Yokota Air Base in Japan, the first of 10 planned to be based there, according to an announcement on April 3, 2018, making this the second CV-22 unit to be based outside of the continental United States. All of the more than 50 Ospreys that have been ordered are scheduled to be delivered to AFSOC by 2019. In 2018, AFSOC’s Ospreys were being upgraded to Block 30 configuration. Improvements to internal protection and the


Special Operations Outlook

ITT Avionics AN/ALQ-211 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC) provide enhanced survivability. They are also receiving the APQ-187 Silent Knight radar, replacing the current AN/APQ-186, an upgrade that will be complete by the end of 2021. In 2018, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, an Osprey demonstrated Elbit Systems’ counter-DVE (degraded visual environment) technology. Using a helmet-mounted display, it presents an integrated picture from multiple sensors, enabling an Osprey to land safely in brownout or whiteout conditions.

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES In 2018, AFSOC completed taking delivery of 37 General Atomics MQ-9C Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) upgraded to meet SOCOM mission needs under the Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Tactical (MALET) program, with enhanced signals intelligence sensors, improved full-motion video (FMV) capabilities, extended range, and new software, including an operational flight program optimized for SOCOM missions through the Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) combat evaluation program. In 2018, SOCOM’s Reapers – extensively used for close air support and overwatch roles in support of special operations forces – were upgraded to make them capable of using the Dynetics GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition (SGM) and the Boeing GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), with the Raytheon GBU-53/B SDB II as a follow-on capability. In 2018, AFSOC was committed to maintain one combat line: keeping a round-the-clock UAV flown remotely from Hurlburt Field on station for 24 hours. AFSOC UAV capability is being expanded to a second combat line. In December 2018, AFSOC activated the 65th Special Operations Squadron, making it the first active-duty Air Force Special Operations Command MQ-9 Reaper squadron stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It will be part of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base (AFB) New Mexico, with personnel from Hurlburt and Creech AFB, Nevada, to share operational commitments with UAVs piloted from Hurlburt.


Above: A U-28A fixed-wing aircraft, assigned to the 34th Special Operations Squadron, takes off from Hurlburt Field, Florida, Oct. 18, 2018. The U-28A provides airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of humanitarian operations, search and rescue, and special operations missions. Left: An RQ-21A Blackjack UAV in flight. AFSOC used these in conjunction with Project Maven artificial intelligence.

In 2018, AFSOC was looking to bring new UAVs into service. A request for information (RFI) to industry went out for a small UAV that could be used to survey airfields. The demanding requirements of AFSOC operations means that off-the-shelf designs may prove inadequate. The Tactical Off Board Sensing (TOBS) UAV that is launched, in flight, from tubes on AC-130s and MC-130s is an AFSOC and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) program of record for an expendable ($100,000 target cost) UAV to provide aircraft with under-theovercast situational awareness. TOBS builds on 2016 testing of a Raytheon Coyote UAV launched from an AC-130W. Other AFSOC investigations of small air-launched UAVs include the AFRL and Area-I Altius – first launched from an AC-130 in 2018 – and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Gremlins program, for in-flight launch and – eventually – recovery of swarms of autonomous UAVs.

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE “A concerted effort that we are doing in conjunction with SOCOM and the Air Force, with Strategic Capabilities Office, DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory [AFRL], etc., to look at some new concepts and new technologies” is how Webb described, in his April 11 testimony, AFSOC’s experiment to mount a laser on an AC-130. A laser’s ability to engage moving targets at the speed of light, capable of producing nonlethal effects, enables it to carry out covert attacks. The

experiment will build on an earlier Office of Naval Research project, using its laser beam control system, beam director, power supply, and cooling and casing, with the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center serving as government lead systems integrator. In 2018, AFSOC risk reduction identified airframe vibration and airflow around the laser port. This enabled work to start on a mounting and a laser port design, to be flight-tested in fiscal year (FY) 2019. After initial testing of the laser system at 4 kilowatts (kW) of power in FY 2019, full funding would permit the full 60 kW prototype to be tested by FY 2021, followed by a flight test in FY 2022. AFSOC lacks funding to do this. Webb said on April 11, “We’re $58 million short of having a full program.” AC-130s were the targets of cyberattack over Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve, Gen. Raymond Thomas, SOCOM commander, said in Tampa, Florida, on April 23, 2018. This demonstrated the rising threat of cyberattacks, along with increases in electronic warfare, including electronic attack. On Dec. 5, 2018, the Air Force issued a request for information to industry for a quick-response capability to protect AFSOC MC-130s and EC-130s from attacks on their GPS navigation systems until system-wide hardening can be put in place by 2021. Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to change the “character of the future battlefield,” according to the “Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense AI Strategy.” A major advance in AI took place in 2018 when an AFSOC Insitu RQ-21 BlackJack UAV, flying in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR), used AI algorithms developed under the DOD’s Project MAVEN to aid with analysis and interpretation of its sensor data. “We are partners with USSOCOM, AFRL, and industry for Project MAVEN,” Webb said during his April 11 testimony. Based on its success, DOD has requested reprogramming of funds to provide a similar capability in the near-term future at all SOCOM analysis facilities.

COALITION AIRPOWER SPECIALISTS “AFSOC must lower the resource and opportunity costs of conducting persistent counterterrorism operations,” Webb said on April 11, 2018. AFSOC will do this through increasing and enhancing the contributions of allies and partners, identified in the 2018 NDS as




Left: Airmen undergoing training with the Special Warfare Training Wing carry weights as teams through Medina Annex at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, April 19, 2018. Right: A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Force Medical Element from the 1st Special Operations Support Squadron works with Royal Danish Air Force medical personnel to simulate rescuing and on-loading a downed pilot on a U.S. Air Force C-146 Wolfhound at Field 6, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, during flight operations for casualty evacuation training as part of Exercise Emerald Warrior 19, Jan. 17, 2019.

a pillar of U.S. national security. “Our Combat Aviation Advisors (CAA) are the vanguard of AFSOC’s Irregular Warfare force. Specializing in Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (AvFID) operations, CAAs recently enhanced indigenous aviation operations in the Kingdom of Thailand, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Republic of Poland,” Webb said. Some 180 CAA personnel – a number, AFSOC announced, it was looking to double – were authorized to wear their own distinctive brown berets in January 2018.


AFSOC’S PEOPLE AFSOC is a total-force command; its order of battle includes, and it trains personnel for, active, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard units. All have to meet the same exacting standards. In addition, Webb said, “The Air Force proudly promoted our first female Air Commando to the rank of brigadier general this year, and over 13 percent of our senior enlisted formation is female.” In 2018, AFSOC had to meet serious challenges to its most important resource: its personnel. In 2018, the 330th Recruiting Squadron was activated, with the mission of bringing high-quality entrants into AFSOC’s demanding training. Recent shortages of pilots and technicians have had an effect throughout the service, and shortfalls have been particularly felt by AFSOC. In 2017, AFSOC’s dwell rate – the ratio of time deployed to time at home base – was approaching 1:2, 1:1.5 for AC-130 airmen. In 2018, these numbers were – slowly – improving. Webb told the SASC on April 11, 2018, about the effect of the “demands of multiple deployments, back to

back, at this stage in the ongoing countering-violent-extremist type of fight … it is not a rare exception at all for airmen to be on their 12th or 13th, 14th deployment.” The need for repeated deployments while having to train for and maintain difficult and complex skill sets has led to a broad spectrum response from AFSOC, SOCOM, and the Air Force. Service-wide approaches have included increased bonuses and shorter contracts offered to multi-engine pilots to keep them from going to the airlines. The widespread 120-day deployments have been replaced, when possible, with 90-day deployments. In 2018, deployed teaming was introduced, to ensure that airmen would not train and deploy as an individual replacement but as part of a group that can offer support. The Culture and Process Improvement Program is aimed at retaining personnel working with UAVs, especially pilots, offering less intense duty commitment, an increased range of basing options, and more money. To expand its training pipeline, AFSOC has been experimenting with emerging technologies. The initial results using virtual reality in training have been successful. AFSOC has been participating in Air Force-wide introduction of autonomous learning and AI. To improve its training pipeline for its special warfare specialists, AFSOC stood up its Special Warfare Training Wing at Lackland AFB, Texas, in October 2018, building on the Battlefield Airman Training Group that was established in 2016. AFSOC has improved training for its special warfare personnel to increase fitness and reduce injuries and attrition. Acknowledging today’s reality of future threats ranging from great powers to iregular forces, Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said in a U.S. Air Force Association panel discussion that airmen need to “train to those two bookends of the threat.” He continued, “Many thought that was impossible… and the secret decoder in all this was the talent of our airmen. [T]hey can do it, and they have done it, and they’re prepared for it better than they ever have been in the past. … we are on a positive glide slope [against] both of those threats.” Webb’s words on May 14, 2018, as he presented 24 Distinguished Flying Crosses to AC-130 crewmembers, perhaps best sum up the year for AFSOC: “The men and women of this command live our ethos every day.”




we should all know has been evident ever since we q “What had airplanes: mobility is power. Mobility is something you do not want to be without,” said Maj. Gen. John Alison, who in 1943 was one of the creators of the Air Commandos and in 1944 led them on their first combat mission. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) requires its own air mobility, provided by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC). For years these commands have been in intensive combat. Along with training and exercises, both in the United States and worldwide, they have also been extensively used in situations such as humanitarian relief and evacuations. It requires expertise to plan, sustain, and execute SOCOM air mobility missions, and a critical mass of such personnel ensure that this is reflected both in high-level planning and in the research and development that will lead to next-generation capabilities. The aircraft and personnel of AFSOC and USASOAC are an example of SOCOM cooperation with the services. They fly modified versions of aircraft used by other services or commercial operators. The services develop and acquire the aircraft and train personnel. SOCOM pays for mission-specific training, equipment, and modifications to aircraft. SOCOM is also supported by other U.S. air mobility assets. The transport aircraft of U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC) enable inter-theater SOCOM deployments and combat missions; for example, AMC provides crews trained for special operations low-level missions and Boeing C-17 transports modified to deploy Naval Special Warfare craft, dropping them by parachute.

Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Air mobility is AFSOC’s single largest mission area, with operational squadrons in the 1st Special Operations Wing (SOW) at Hurlburt Field, Florida, the 27th SOW at Cannon Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, the 352nd SOW at RAF Mildenhall in England, and the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units include both associate units that share aircraft with the active force and those that operate their own aircraft. SOCOM air mobility assets are also involved in its aviation foreign internal defense and advisory missions, enabling coalition air arms


Special Operations Outlook

to create their own capabilities. The worldwide network that links SOCOM with friendly and allied forces is literally given wings by AFSOC. Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II and MC-130H Combat Talon II. The 36 big four-turboprop MC-130J Commando IIs, along with 15 older MC-130H Combat Talon II versions they are replacing, equip five operational and one training squadrons. Their specialty is penetrating hostile airspace at night, under 300 feet altitude and at high speed, loaded full of personnel and equipment, relying on their terrain-following/terrain avoidance radar (TF/TAR) and pilots with night vision goggles (NVGs). They usually go into combat alone, enabled by detailed mission planning and as much situational awareness as can be provided. The MC-130J uses the C-130J Hercules transport airframe, which, compared with its MC-130H predecessor, has more powerful and efficient engines, modern avionics and navigation systems, and a high-technology “glass” cockpit. Its fuselage is stretched by an additional 15 feet, increasing usable volume by a third. The MC-130’s



Loadmasters with the 15th Special Operations Squadron walk to an MC-130H Combat Talon II in Barbados, Sept. 24, 2017. Approximately 50 Air Commandos were part of a group deployed to provide humanitarian aid after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated islands in the Caribbean.

electronic countermeasures capabilities and terrain-following radar (TFR) are currently being upgraded. The versatility and importance of the MC-130s have been demonstrated in recent years. In 2017, an MC-130 delivered a 10-ton GBU-43 MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst) bomb against a terrorist cave complex in Afghanistan, a weapon so large that it had to be parachuted out the rear ramp because it cannot fit in any Air Force bomber. In 2017, AFSOC demonstrated its capability to support combat aircraft operations at forward air refueling points (FARPs) – which can be vital if major bases are put out of action – during exercises on Okinawa and in England. MC-130s carried out the ground refueling of Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B

Lightning II Fighters and Air Force Boeing F-15C Eagle fighters. In 2018, an MC-130 airlanded an M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) launcher of the 14th Marines on an unimproved airstrip to simulate an artillery raid, opening fire on enemy positions during a live fire exercise at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. In 2018, MC-130s transported SOCOM teams that eventually rescued a boys’ soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. The EC-130J Commando Solo II broadcasting platforms also are capable of mobility missions. Light Transports. Used for transport missions in support of SOCOM, the Sierra Nevada C-146A Wolfhound is a modified version of the Fairchild Dornier 328 twin-turboprop airliner. AFSOC took delivery of the first of some 20 in 2011, and they equip two operational and one training squadrons. These have been upgraded to Block 20 configuration, with a cockpit suitable for NVG use. Some light transports are leaving the inventory. For example, two C-145s (modified PZL-Mielic M28 Skytrucks) will be transferred to Estonia. The remaining five C-145s are being used in the training role.





Above: A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, performs a flyover Feb. 22, 2019, in Sheffield, United Kingdom. Right: A C-146A Wolfhound of the 524th Special Operations Squadron, Duke Field, Florida, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Oct. 26, 2018.

Other light transports, including the single-engine Cessna U-27 (Caravan), the twin-engine CASA C-41 (C-212), and the Basler turboprop version of the classic Douglas C-47, have been used operationally, but now are mainly used with training and advisory missions for coalition partner air arms. Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. The CV-22 is the rotorcraft counterpart of the MC-130, a major element of the AFSOC force structure, with some 50 aircraft in three operational and one training squadrons. The CV-22 has the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of a rotorcraft along with the range, speed and payload of a twin-turboprop transport. It can use terrain-following radar, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, and advanced avionics to penetrate hostile airspace at low altitude, normally at night or in adverse weather. The CV-22s are currently being upgraded to Block 30 configuration, with a new TFR and defensive systems. The CV-22 has seen extensive combat, starting in Afghanistan in 2010 and including Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria. Mil Mi-17 Hip. Small numbers of Russian-built Mi-17 Hip helicopters are operated by AFSOC’s 6th and 711th (Air Force Reserve) Special Operations Squadrons. Currently, the Mi-17 is used primarily for training coalition air arm personnel. Others, including some GOCO (government owned, contractor operated) aircraft, take part in SOCOM training. In previous years, Mi-17s were used operationally, although this has been reduced due to post-2014 sanctions on Russia that reduced parts availability and the decision to reequip




Afghanistan’s helicopter force with U.S.-built aircraft. The Army also flies a small number of Mi-17s.

Formed in 2011, USASOAC is responsible for training and equipping SOCOM’s Army Aviation assets, freeing operational units to concentrate on their mission. Like AFSOC, USASOAC flies a range of SOCOM missions and provides partnership, advisors and training to friendly air arms. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). The 160th SOAR, known as “the Night Stalkers,” have provided the core of SOCOM rotary wing air mobility since the 1980s. The largest subordinate unit of USASOAC, the 160th’s active-force components include four helicopter-equipped aviation battalions, plus a company with General Atomics MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and several detachments and specialized units. Boeing A/MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB). The latest in a series


Special Operations Outlook


U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC)

Top: 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) training using an MH-6 Little Bird helicopter, Fort Carson, Colorado, March 13, 2018. The training builds the soldiers’ combat skill set and confidence. Above: The MH-60M Black Hawk already brings many impressive capabilities to Army special operations aviation, including state-of-the-art day and night optics systems, enhanced integrated weapons systems, and multi-mode radar with all-weather capability, but is being upgraded with Silent Knight radar and new armament options.



Above: U.S. Army MH-47G Chinooks of the 160th SOAR at Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 20, 2019.

of light helicopters used in combat since the 1980s, at least 51 M-model MELBs have been delivered. They are currently being operated in Block 2.2 configuration. The MH-6M is usually employed as a mobility asset carrying personnel. The AH-6M is usually configured as a light-attack helicopter, including using precision-guided munitions such as the BAE Systems APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System), a laser-guided version of the standard 2.75-inch aircraft rocket. The MELB’s 8-meter diameter rotor allows it to operate in urban terrain, flying between buildings. MELB Block 3 configuration provides higher gross weight, and improved cockpit design, flight controls, crew survivability and infrared countermeasures. It will achieve initial operation capability (IOC) in 2021. Sikorsky MH-60/M Black Hawk. The SOCOM version of the U.S. Army’s standard utility helicopter, at least 72 MH-60M versions of the Black Hawk have been delivered, mainly to the 160th SOAR. The Black Hawk first entered combat in 1983 and has been used in support of SOCOM since then. The MH-60M is upengined to provide enhanced hot temperature and high altitude performance and is capable of air refueling. The MH-60M is being upgraded with the Raytheon Silent Knight terrain following radar. The Block I upgrade, starting in 2019, will include additional armament options.

Direct Action Penetrator. These highly modified MH-60L/M Black Hawks are armed for escort and attack missions. They can carry 2 7.62mm miniguns, an M230 30mm chaingun, Hydra rockets, and Hellfire missiles. Boeing MH-47G Chinook. The long-range twin-rotor MH-47G is a workhorse of SOCOM air mobility. All of the 69 MH-47Gs were upgraded to Block I configuration, including air refueling capability, additional internal fuel tanks, and a more powerful electrical system. They are currently being upgraded with the Silent Knight radar.

Air Mobility: The Next Generation The 2018 National Defense Strategy prioritizing readiness for a high-end fight means SOCOM air mobility may be called on to operate within threat anti-access/are a denial (A2AD) coverage. Penetrating these may require heavily armed, high-performance, network-capable, and stealthy aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35. SOCOM air assets may be tasked to penetrate the same environment alone, unarmed, at low altitude, in a non-stealthy MC-130J or MH-47G. At the same time, SOCOM’s air mobility assets and their personnel have had only a limited opportunity to recover and recapitalize from the intense operational tempo both have had to sustain since 2001. MH-47G Block II. The Army plans to upgrade all its Chinooks to Block II configuration, starting with the 160th SOAR’s MH-47G Block I Chinooks. This reflects the high operational tempo and demanding




flight profiles the MH-47Gs have been subject to in recent years. Block II offers improved performance, especially in hot and high conditions. USASOAC currently has eight Block II aircraft in its MH-47G fleet. The remaining MH-47G Block IIs will all be new-builds, with machined fuselages, upgrades to sensors, and a glass cockpit. FA R A . T he Future At tack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) represents the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program’s Capability Set 1. The U.S. Army, after four failed attempts, wants an armed scout helicopter. If the FARA program does go ahead, it would be a likely


Special Operations Outlook


Above: One of the competitors for the U.S. Army’s FARA will be based on the Sikorsky S-97 Raider, a compound helicopter with a pusher propeller and computercontrolled coaxial rotors. Left: The Bell V-280 JMR TD tiltrotor aircraft represents a potential way to replace many of today’s helicopters, starting with those in the MH-60 category.



replacement for the 160th’s Little Birds, SOCOM’s acquisition executive James Smith said in 2019. FLRAA. The Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) represents FVL Capability Set 3, effectively a replacement for the Black Hawk. This size rotorcraft had been the Army’s priority before the appearance of FARA in 2018. This led to the funding of the two Joint Multirole Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) designs: the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor and the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant compound helicopter (with a pusher propeller and co-axial main rotors). The Marines and SOCOM are working with the Army on this project; SOCOM pilots have already flown the simulators for the two JMR TDs. FVL Capability Set 5. There are no near-term plans to develop FVL’s Capability Set 5, the only one of the five FVL capability sets for which the Air Force rather than the Army is responsible, but as Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AFSOC’s commanding general, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 11, 2018, “We are interested in developments relating to Next Generation Vertical Take Off and Landing capabilities. We see this presenting a revolutionary leap in vertical lift range and speed using advanced turbofan technology.” Similar to the pre-2001 MC-X and post2001 M-X projects, Capability Set 5 requires a design with payload, range, and speed basically comparable to a C-130 but routinely capable of vertical takeoff and landing. It may require extensive use of stealth technology. Bringing such a design to the prototype stage would obviously require major investment, building on the work currently in progress on the

The future? Artist’s impression of the Aurora XV-24 Lightning Strike VTOL aircraft, incorporating Rolls-Royce and Honeywell power and technology, may offer an alternative to rotorcraft for SOCOM and other missions.

Low Observable Infiltration Platform, a SOCOM research and development priority. Emerging Technologies. The diverse requirements of SOCOM’s air mobility may lead to future aircraft relying on technologies that are currently in development. SOCOM research and development efforts include network capabilities that can link air mobility assets to each other and to ground or naval forces, increasing situational awareness without alerting enemy forces. Future unmanned air vehicle designs could be used for some of the resupply and airdrop missions currently handled by manned aircraft. Electric power offers the potential for reduced acoustic and infrared signatures. Some of the commercial proposals for urban air taxis would be potentially applicable for SOF insertion. Autonomous flight offers the potential for a helicopter to fly with two pilots, one pilot, or no pilots, depending on the mission. Sikorsky is currently demonstrating autonomous operation with a modified version of its S-70i (a commercial Black Hawk) and the Army will test it on a UH-60M Black Hawk in 2019. “We are going to build these vehicles so they are optionally manned,” Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, head of the Army’s FVL cross-functional team for development, said of future rotorcraft.




Marines with 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion and Operational DetachmentAlpha Special Forces soldiers conduct movement to a landing zone for a low altitude resupply drop at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, Aug. 5, 2018. The purpose of the training was for Army Special Forces and MARSOC to improve upon their joint training techniques.


Special Operations Outlook

MARSOC An Agile Force Adapts to New Challenges BY J.R. WILSON

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was born in 2006 as the Corps’ dedicated special operations unit and their component of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), fighting an asymmetric war on two fronts – the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. As the U.S. military commitment to those two countries has declined, MARSOC has begun retailoring itself for future conflicts worldwide, possibly including peer-to-peer combat for the first time since World War II.


MARSOC guidebook for this evolution, issued in March 2018, is q Their MARSOF 2030. It is the goals and requirements statements by


Special Operations Outlook

Marine Raiders from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) K-9 Unit, along with Naval Air Station Key West’s Search and Rescue Team, conduct helicopter casts in Truman Harbor during the special operations command’s multipurpose canine handler training.

That provides MARSOC with the flexibility to make changes quickly and efficiently – as listed in MARSOF 2030 – as one of four core pathways of innovation, along with MARSOF as a connector, combined arms for the connected arena, and the cognitive operator. “Each of the pathways are individual concepts capable of standing alone; however, they are interrelated and mutually supporting,” according to the document. “The pathways are multifaceted and represent a range of ideas; many of the possibilities are as yet undiscovered. These concepts represent the ‘what’, conceptual visions which can provide MARSOC distinct value in the future operating environment. “None of the innovation pathways are necessarily ‘end state’ oriented as much as they each create a broad field of opportunity. The ‘how’ will be a greater challenge. Implementing these concepts to achieve concrete capabilities will require time, effort, resources and flexibility. We must recognize the connection between these concepts and programmatics. This will require leveraging both USMC and USSOCOM capability development mechanisms.” According to MARSOF 2030, “the consequences of the information environment relate to how it affects the cognition (perceptions, beliefs, decisions, etc.) of its relevant actors.” “Our units must be able to thoughtfully combine intelligence, information, and cyber operations to affect opponent decisionmaking, influence diverse audiences, and counter false narratives. Furthermore, we must be able to synchronize operations, activities and actions in the information environment with those across


which MARSOC will determine the best unit compositions, training, equipment, concept of operations (CONOPS) and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for any conflicts in which they may engage or other deployments. “The future operating environment will challenge MARSOC in the same way that warfare has challenged militaries throughout history. However, the pace of change today is accelerating exponentially. The interplay of technological innovation, global demographic shifts, challenges to the post-WWII world order and the rise of both state and non-state powers portend a future operating environment that is increasingly uncertain, volatile, and complex. The degree to which MARSOC will contribute to our nation’s future defense will depend on its ability to recognize and adapt to the challenges of the future operating environment,” the document states in its introduction. “We’ve really come up with a vision in continence with SOCOM, looking at the applicability of SOF. Our vision – MARSOF 2030 – gives us a roadmap of innovation pathways we need to be relevant in an operating environment that continues to change,” said Maj. Gen. Dan Yoo, who took command of the Marine Raiders organization about six months after MARSOF 2030 was issued. “There is a lot of work to do to implement some of those things. As a relatively new component – we just had our 13th anniversary – and as we move forward, it gets back to the daily challenge you have in force deployment as well as force development and, more importantly, force design, which is where 2030 takes us. The cognitive Raider is the centerpiece of that, how we select, train, and educate on deploying forward into the different environments.” An additional 368 personnel will be added to MARSOC through October 2022 to bring the command to its full authorized size. Yoo said he does not see any need to expand MARSOC beyond that number, noting, “It’s not about the numbers, but the capabilities.” “We’re continuing to evolve our Raider training center, where we certify spec ops officers and critical skills operators and spec ops-capable specialists, increasing the advanced courses associated with that. As resources, from a monetary perspective, get reduced, we’re trying to turn training into a joint venue and bring in coalition and interagency and conventional forces and replicate as much as possible what we will see downrange,” he explained. “This year we’re bringing in the next 50 new Raiders in combat support and combat service support and integrating them into the formation. That is the first draw of 368. We’re also looking at flexible deployment models to build readiness. By 2025, we’re trying to get to the cognitive Raider with a better model where we’re doing force development, as well as some efficiencies on force posture. “Our base unit of action is the Marine Special Operations Company, about 125 individuals across multiple functions and led by a major. Compared to our fellow SOF components, it is what the Army would put out as an AOB [Advanced Operational Base]. We have the ability to add on to that, and one thing we’re looking at is putting out hyperenabled teams, about 14 individuals with some of the enablers across different disciplines, so we have a very flexible unit of action that can go forward.” Yoo believes there are a number of advantages to MARSOC’s size – the smallest of the four service SOF components of USSOCOM. “From a component level, we’re a very flat organization. We have a little more than 200 civilians and active-duty personnel in my headquarters. About 80 percent of the whole component is available for deployment,” he noted. “So we can turn and focus on problem sets we’re tasked by SOCOM much more agilely than some of the other SOF components. Having a flatter command and control organization, the ideas are both bottom-up and top-down driven.”



Above: Marines with 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion post security during a medical evacuation exercise at a training area in Hawthorne, Nevada, during Training Readiness Exercise II, July 28, 2018. Right: A Critical Skills Operator with 1st Marine Raider Battalion participates in horsemanship training as a part of the Special Operations Forces Horsemanship Course aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, June 20, 2018. The purpose of the advanced horsemanship course is to teach the special operations forces (SOF) personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load pack animals, and maintain animals for military applications in remote and dangerous environments.

operational domains and, when necessary, fuse cognitive and lethal effects. Given current trends, effects in the information environment will become increasingly decisive across the conflict continuum.” That is where the cognitive Raider comes in, the report continued. “Sharp regional competition by adversaries with the ability to mitigate or deny traditional U.S. military strengths will increasingly drive missions demanding a high degree of skill and nuance to discern the sources of the problem and develop meaningful solutions. These problems will strain current conceptions of conflict and joint phasing, thus requiring SOF capabilities that can effectively address them while minimizing open hostilities. “The Raiders we send into such environments must be able to understand them and then adapt their approaches across an expanded range of solutions. While tough, close-in, violent actions will remain a feature of future warfare, MARSOF must increasingly integrate tactical capabilities and partnered operations with evolving national, theater, and interagency capabilities across all operational domains, to include those of information and cyber.” That effort will emphasize the plan’s goal for enterprise-level agility, using MARSOC’s small force as an advantage to rapidly re-orient to confront new challenges as they emerge. “The unity of purpose and organizational dexterity over which MARSOC presides provides SOCOM with an agile, adaptable force to meet unexpected or rapidly changing requirements. Seen from the bottom up, forward-deployed Raider echelons are able to reach directly back into a responsive component command headquarters to assist in innovating solutions for operational problems,” the report stated. “The results of our wargames are in line with most of the future operating environment assessments that forecast increasing

uncertainty, volatility, and complexity … An institutionally agile MARSOC provides USSOCOM with a component that can rapidly orient, focus, or retool capabilities to meet emerging requirements or work a discrete transregional problem set with full-spectrum SOF from onset through resolution. “In realizing this vision, MARSOC will remain true to its Marine Corps values and warrior ethos, while simultaneously challenging its own organizational culture and service paradigms. Mere declarations of agility will be insufficient to achieve this vision; MARSOC will have to examine processes, assess emerging requirements and adapt capabilities across DOTMLPF [Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities] to achieve a capability that currently resides in only one area of the SOF Enterprise. Unity of purpose and effort, as well as a shared identity as Marine Raiders, provide MARSOC with the institutional resiliency to pursue new constructs and approaches that optimize capability, flexibility, versatility, and adaptability. This new level of agility and adaptability also requires willingness and the processes to critically assess performance, internally identify flaws, and make the necessary corrections. MARSOC may provide singular value to USSOCOM by actively striving to be its most agile, adaptable and responsive component.” For Yoo, MARSOF 2030 outlines a natural progression of MARSOC, reflecting changes occurring throughout the Marine Corps and other services as well as within SOCOM and its Army, Navy, and Air Force components. “As you look at the four pathways, MARSOF has a connector with combined arms. The focus as we move forward is the cognitive Raider and providing training to those individuals,” he said. “The area we’re focusing on is interoperability, the global combatant commands, and


U.S. Marine Corps Raiders with the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion ride in a 1st Special Operations Support Squadron watercraft at Eglin Range, Florida, May 30, 2018.

other non-kinetic capabilities in the combined arms connected arena, which have not been traditional parts of military effects.” MARSOC also is looking to SOCOM, the “Big Corps,” and the Navy to provide access to the latest technologies and advanced equipment, from communications and cyber warfare to battlefield transport and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)-capable unmanned platforms. Again, MARSOC’s small size could serve as an advantage, making acquisition, training, and implementation of developing technologies far easier than is typical for the larger organizations. “We’re trying to ensure we have access to those new systems [including] machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence] as we go forward to access information no matter where you are and work in a degraded comms environment; semi-autonomous capabilities; Group 2-level UAS – something more expeditionary and long duration that doesn’t need a runway,” Yoo said. “As we bought equipment, there are some things we off-ramped, such as the large MRAP and other heavy vehicles, relying on some of the new GMVs [ground mobility vehicles] coming in and buying just what we need to train with and outfit units going forward. We want to increase our equipment sets so there is more stability in units without having to share. We’re also involved in the development of new technologies.” In the coming years, new, far more size, weight and power (SWaP) – reduced technologies also will continue to evolve the individual


Special Operations Outlook

Raider and small units into increasingly advanced, self-contained warfighters across fronts never before possible. In the late 1980s, when the world and war were a different place, an Army Special Forces colonel said, “If you want to kick down doors and kill people, call the Marines; if you want to teach others how to kick down doors and kill people, send in the Green Berets.” While both Big Corps Marines and Green Berets are far more sophisticated in their skills and abilities today, the Raiders rapidly are becoming something only imagined in science fiction not so long ago. When asked if he sees a greater MARSOC reliance on wearable electronics, including direct individual Raider control of remote devices and electronic warfare/cyber warfare equipment and training, for example, Yoo replied: “Everything is leading that way. From the cognitive Raider to the hyper-enabled team SOCOM is looking for, each individual team member, yes. We’re also working with SOCOM and the Marine Warfighting Lab on autonomous and semi-autonomous air and ground vehicles for resupply, medevac, weapons, etc. We’re already utilizing quad copters, but need autonomous vehicles to go into tunnels and assisted learning/machine learning to access and share the vast amount of data that’s out there. “Awareness of the vulnerabilities we have in the virtual domain we’re in means everything you do has significant [electronic] profiles out there. We’re doing some things with MARFORCYBER [Marine Corps Forces, Cyberspace Command] and U.S. Cyber Command. In the future, every operator will be a cyber specialist. The cognizance of everyone in the information environment about the vulnerabilities that exist is critical.”





Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller and Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo view the Memorial Wall etched with the names of fallen Raiders after MARSOC’s 13th Anniversary Ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 21, 2019. The organization has paid a high price for the victories it has achieved. The youngest and smallest component of the DOD’s special operations forces, MARSOC has lost 43 souls in combat and in training, including two multipurpose canines.

While the military as a whole is restructuring to follow the Department of Defense’s (DOD) shift of focus from Southwest Asia and Europe to the Asia/Pacific, Yoo said that will have little effect on MARSOC. “As Marines and Raiders, we never lost our focus on Asia. We’ve been supporting global ops, primarily in the Central Command arena and Africa, but we have 500 operators in 18 countries, many of them in the Indo-Pacific, in support of our partners out there. When you talk about what other regional powers are looking for, our engagements in support of our national objectives and diplomatic relationships, the forces we have there facilitate those. The five potential threats in the national defense strategy are all there. China, for example, is a global competitor. So you can still affect decision-making in support of U.S. objectives whether you’re in that region or not. “The support we’re providing Africa right now is not and will not change in the near term. There are 54 countries on that continent, each with their own say in the kind of support they need. For MARSOC, the support we have there will remain consistent. I don’t think there will be any major increases [for MARSOC] in one region or another. We’re a global force.” MARSOC retains as its fundamental structure the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) construct, despite having no organic aviation component. For that, it relies on other parts of the military, although it could be said their increasing use of UAVs might be considered a 21st century aviation capability. “If you look at SOCOM in general and what is required for air support, it is hard to get the same level of support on the West Coast as the East. We get good support for interoperability here because of our location [Camp Lejeune, North Carolina]. As far as owning our own SOF-capable platforms, there is a shortfall. We try to deal with that in dealing in a joint environment with our fellow SOF components. “Right now – and everybody is measuring unmanned aerial systems [UASs] with what we currently have in the inventory – the Stalker has been an evolutionary process. That has gone very well since the initial deployment about a year ago. The Big Corps also is procuring those. Having those ISR platforms has proved out very well for us in terms of support for our deployed teams.” The record-setting combat period in South West Asia – and the subsequent drawdown – have negatively affected retention and recruitment across the military – and brought claims of reduced quality of recruits in some areas – but MARSOC stands out as a notable exception. However, Marine special ops has yet to include a female operator since the Pentagon’s change in policy regarding women in combat. “Retention is exceptional, probably better than the Corps at large,” Yoo said. “And recruiting has been very good. In our last class, we had 31 officers and 161 enlisted. Our capacity to get through that is 120, so recruiting has been very, very good. We’re getting everyone from aviation specialists to communications to intel who want to be part of this formation.

“If anything, quality has gone up as we institutionalized our schoolhouse and turned it into an MOS-producing school. The female who made it through phase one and phase two last year was one of 24 – her and the rest males – who were dropped because they did not meet the metric based on the indicators we have found will predict success based on four or five years of collecting data on individuals who have graduated and gone into teams as members of a successful deployment.” Three more women are scheduled to make the attempt during the spring, summer, and fall assessment and selection processes this year. While Yoo, who has been with MARSOC since its inception, believes what has been achieved to date is “truly impressive,” he sees the future of SOF in general and MARSOC in particular to be one of increasing value and utility to DOD and the nation as a whole. “SOF at large – and MARSOC specifically – is a relevant force, whether counterterrorism or the regional challenges we have out there. I honestly believe SOF is a contact and blunt force. You have to get out there, forward deployed on a regular basis, building capacity and supporting allies and being able to provide options for military leaders going forward. SOF is a huge force multiplier for governmental and interagency collaboration in the Pacific, CENTCOM, and AFRICOM. Look at where we‘ve been helpful in the Pacific, such as the height of the counter-ISIS fight in the Philippines, allowing nations in CENTCOM to restore their sovereignty and in Africa allowing nations to build capacity to maintain security and stability,” Yoo said. “The need for SOF in the future will be as relevant as it is today; quite honestly, more relevant due to the significance of a small footprint. There are coalition partners as reliant on China or Russia as they are on the U.S. for trade, for example, so having a small unit to support their military needs is less provocative when you compete below the threshold. As we start cyber and info ops more as the norm rather than an afterthought, such small, less intrusive support will help enable countries to deal with problems on their own. The Philippines was an example of that, understanding the political sensitivities and allowing them to take care of their problems with advice and assistance to enable ops.”


SHOT 2019



Special Operations OUTLOOK


Following its participation in USSOCOM’s ISOF Range Day event, the Maxim Defense PDX appeared on the SHOT Show range.

the last few years, an increasing y Over number of special operationsrelated demonstrations and briefings have been held in conjunction with the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade event known as “SHOT Show.” And the January 2019 gathering was no exception, with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) practically formalizing the special operation forces (SOF) tie-in with the Las Vegas-based event. Clear evidence of the tie-in could be seen in a June 13, 2018 request for information (RFI) announcement, in which USSOCOM representatives outlined their plans to hold an International Special Operations Forces (ISOF) Range Day(s) event in January 2019. The selected days were immediately prior to SHOT Show, and the event was held just north of Las Vegas at Creech Air Force Base. The RFI described the intent of the event as “provid[ing] participants with the opportunity to gain International Special Operations Forces (ISOF) insight/ perspective on participant technologies,” adding that USSOCOM would “explore [the] emerging technologies, technical applications, and their potential to provide solutions for future SOF capabilities.” Specific areas of technology interest identified in the RFI included: machine guns, suppression systems, lightweight ammunition, crew-served sighting systems, counter-defilade solutions, mortar systems, and optical systems. As representative examples of machine gun and accessory technologies that would be explored during the ISOF range event, the announcement highlighted

interest in: a lightweight assault MG (beltfed and weighing less than 14 pounds) in 6.5 Creedmoor (CM) caliber; a lightweight medium MG (belt-fed and weighing less than 24 pounds) in the .338 Norma Magnum (NM) caliber; MG suppressors for the 6.5CM, .338NM, and 7.62x51mm calibers; MG optical systems providing between 8X and 12X magnification for day optic; MG lightweight ammunition and lightweight linking solutions in 7.62X51mm, 6.5CM, and .338NM calibers; and a Mid-Range Gas Gun (MRGG) – a semi-automatic, magazine-fed, sniper support rifle with barrel length of 20-22 inches – in 6.5CM caliber. While the RFI clearly explained that there was “no intention on the part of USSOCOM to purchase or procure equipment based solely on participation in the event,” the private USSOCOM event served as a catalyst for other more public demonstrations in the days surrounding SHOT. Together, these public demonstrations served to provide “a glimpse behind the curtain” of several ongoing materiel development activities.

“Unofficial” Range Events One of these unofficial demonstration subsets was held at a privately owned desert range in the foothills outside Las Vegas. This particular demonstration featured a range of potential SOF items, including a new prototype “purpose-built” Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle [See “Ground Mobility” chapter] from Navistar; .50-caliber M2 machine gun suppression


The Paradigm Talon weapon stabilization system is capable of carrying weapons up to .300 WinMag caliber.


demonstrations by suppressor designer Delta-P; two weapon stabilization systems from Paradigm SRP; a modified Can Am allterrain vehicle from RPAMS (partnered with Franklin Armory for the demonstration); and several weapon and ammunition programs from Franklin Armory.

Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle “This is our latest generation of special operations tactical vehicle,” said Mike Hawn, Navistar business development director for SOCOM and the Middle East and North Africa region. “It is built from the ground up as a purpose-built military vehicle designed to look like a small commercial pickup that you might see our special operators operating in around the world, sometimes in commercial vehicles that have been up-armored.” Hawn explained that adding armor to a vehicle platform that was not designed to carry armor creates durability concerns. “The vehicles wear out very quickly,” he said. “So the companies that up-armor the vehicles do things to make them more robust. But that adds cost.” He added, “Initially, after 9/11, when we started operating that type of vehicle, the concept of sustainment was: ‘It’s a Toyota vehicle. There are thousands of Toyota dealerships in the Middle East and North Africa. You can pull into a Toyota dealership, get spare parts and you’re out the door.’ Well, the challenge with that


The Year in Special Operations OUTLOOK


today is that the vehicles have been modified so heavily to improve on the durability concerns that they’re really no longer a Toyota vehicle. They can get some parts, but a lot of the major components have changed in order to address the durability concerns.” By contrast, he said that a purpose-built vehicle, like the Navistar prototype present at that event, came with the logistics support benefits of Navistar Defense/International Truck, with commercial dealerships in 70 countries around the world. “So our special operators … have that opportunity to use that concept of sustainment at our dealerships,” he said. “They can buy spare parts that way or we can push parts to them, much like we’ve sustained our other military platforms for the last 14 years that our military has been in combat.” Moreover, the purpose-built concept, which is designed around “a monocoque welded safety cell,” allows the use of blendable panels to quickly change the vehicle appearance in terms of vehicle make or even color. “But again, it’s designed to give operators a more durable vehicle,” Hawn reiterated. “And it’s designed for reset. So our plan is to bring the vehicle back into our plant or wherever they are operating – we can do this remotely as well – to do a reset at five-year intervals, to give a 15-year life cycle for the truck.” As CEO and founder of Paradigm SRP LLC, Todd DeGidio outlined the Talon and Talon ASP weapon stabilization platforms. Citing his own “former special forces background,” as well as experiences as a helicopter pilot for the Houston Police Department, DeGidio pointed to current deficiencies in providing stable overwatch protection. “With the technology that we have available to us, it annoys me greatly that we don’t have a team piece of equipment that could provide precision accuracy from something like a moving vehicle,” he said. “So I came up with the Talon system, working with highly capable stabilization engineers, able to stabilize an un-dynamic payload, which is a feat in and of itself, down to 50 micro radians.” Noting that the system could be used on any platform, from rigid inflatable boats to helicopters, he highlighted design versatility that would allow transfer between vehicles in 2 to 4 minutes as well as the accuracy provided. He said that the Talon is capable of carrying weapons up to .300 WinMag caliber, primarily semiautomatic rifles, and has been demonstrated with the 5.56 mm squad automatic weapon (SAW). “We’ve actually tested it on shooting drones down as well,” he added. “So it has that capability now as well with a 500-round ammo box that can go in it. But again, precision is our key.” Although the company is bound by a range of international non-disclosure agreements, he offered that one Talon client he could mention is the French GIGN anti-terrorist unit. In addition to the Talon, the company has also developed a heavier Talon ASP design, which is capable of carrying heavier weapons like .50 caliber, .338 Lapua, and .338 Norma Magnum. “It’s a little less mobile,” he acknowledged. “But it’s still going to be more mobile than anything of its stature. It’s going to be a hand-controlled system, just like our Talon. And it’s going to have the capability of actually getting out there, reaching out and touching something or somebody at a distance that you can’t do with a .308 platform.” According to Dave Strong, vice president of business development for Delta-P suppressors, the company offers a complete line of 3-D-printed suppressors, produced in a high-volume, ISO-qualitycertified operation, in caliber sizes ranging from 4.6 mm (for the Heckler & Koch MP7) up to 12.7mm/.50 caliber.


Left: Firing Talon “on the move” from a Can Am all-terrain vehicle. Below left: A SIG Sauer Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.


“Delta-P has focused on machine guns because that’s the most challenging thing that a suppressor could possibly do,” Strong explained. “It’s easy to suppress a rifle. It’s easy to suppress a semiautomatic weapon. But to suppress an automatic weapon, the stresses, the temperatures, and pressures are extreme.” He continued, “NATO has established a working group with different areas of expertise for different countries, and one of the things they’re focused on is the toxicity of gas and what happens in a machine gun. In terms of backpressure, for example, you fire one shot, you got a burst of gas going through the suppressor, and it comes out the other end just fine if it’s a semiautomatic. But when you’re cycling a machine gun very quickly, it’s like cars backing up on a freeway. Think about a four-lane freeway necking down to one lane. And that’s what the suppressor will do.” He said that Delta-P’s patented design process features one piece of metal continuously printed out of an Inconel alloy. “You can print features into a suppressor that cannot be made by any other process,” he said. “Imagine trying to machine a hollow sphere in one piece. That’s impossible. But I can print a hollow sphere in one piece. So that gives you an idea of the kinds of design tools that engineer has when he can print. And it’s a combination of technology, using the design tools, as well as design for manufacturing.” While Delta-P company representatives demonstrated the company’s suppressor design on a .50-caliber M2 machine gun, Franklin Armory showcased a modified Can Am ATV equipped with the Paradigm Talon weapon stabilization system. Opportunities were provided for invited visitors to live fire the system, initially from a static posture and then demonstrating its live fire stabilized capabilities during off-road movement.


Official Range Day/SHOT Show Along with these types of unofficial range events, the SHOT structure features an official “media/industry day at the range” event on the day prior to show opening. Once again, the event provided a venue to glimpse some recent special operations technology developments. One example was the unveiling of the newly designed “PDX” in both short barrel rifle and pistol formats by Maxim Defense. Developed in both 7.62x39mm and 5.56mm NATO, the new PDX design emerged from the company’s response to the USSOCOM solicitation for a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) (USSOCOM awarded the PDW contract to SIG Sauer in early 2018). According to Michael Windfeldt, president of Maxim Defense, the PDX was “designed to meet the demands of the Tier-1 community” and is “able to dominate close-quarter encounters” in a package measuring just 18.75 inches in overall length and weighing only 5 pounds 11 ounces.

Left: The Delta-P suppressor at work on a .50-caliber machine gun. Right: A Navistar purpose-built Special Operations Tactical Vehicle prototype.

Windfeldt said that the weapon had been shown at the ISOF Range Day the week prior and that the initial “enthusiastic response” had included the immediate purchase of two systems “for testing by a special operations element” of a United States ally. One individual who participated in the PDX design and development was Kris “Tanto” Paronto, former U.S. Army Ranger and one of the CIA annex security team members “on the roof” in Benghazi during the attack depicted in the book and movie, 13 Hours. “We’re trying to get it out as one of the new ‘sub guns’ for guys going downrange,” he explained. “It was developed for the SOCOM PDW solicitation. We have a great team at Maxim Defense. C.J. Dugan, a former unit guy, is the brainpower behind this. He knows what his guys need. I like to think I know what the OGA guys need. But when it comes down to it, C.J. is the brains: a brilliant tactician who is responsible for the design of the PDX.” “The 7.62 x 39mm and 5.56mm calibers make sense,” Paronto added. “What is the most common weapon system downrange? Whether you’re in North Africa or anywhere in Southwest Asia, it’s the AK-47. You can’t find .300 Blackout in Kabul. Heck, sometimes it’s hard to find 5.56. And, in comparison to other rounds, the AK round is inexpensive, so you can afford to train more. “It’s also easily concealable, with an amazing tactical buttstock design,” he continued. “And if you are going to utilize it in a vehicle, one of the hardest things to do is where to best place a weapon where you can get to it quickly in a combat environment. You’re not going to put it in a bag. And if you have a long gun in there, you are not just going to put it between the seats and still hide it when you come to a snap checkpoint. But you can hide this, pull it out quickly, and it’s ready to go.” Asked which SOF elements might be looking at the design, he deferred, noting, “Because of the contracts and because of who they are, we can’t identify them. But that kind of tells you in itself who they might be.” The SHOT Show, which begins the day following industry range day, is closed to the public, focusing instead on industry participation. However, as with the prior private and public range events, the show displays include a number of technologies with direct application to the special operations community. Representative examples of SOF equipment exhibited during the 2019 gathering ranged from the “first” official public display of the new USSOCOM Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) design from SIG Sauer [contract award late July 2018] to the TANGO6T tactical sight, which was selected for use by USSOCOM elements under contract awards in October 2018 and January of this year.


NAVSPECWARCOM INTERVIEW Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, Commander Naval Special Warfare Command

NSW Vision 2030 Charts NSW’s Course for Countering Violent Extremist Organizations and Great Power Competitors BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

Rear Adm. Collin P. Green graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1986 and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Class 149 in 1988. Green holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Catholic University of America, and is a distinguished graduate of the Naval War College with a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Green participated in special operations in Europe, Africa and Asia. Tours in Naval Special Warfare include assignments at SEAL Teams 2, 3 and 5. He served as operations officer, Naval Special Warfare Task Group U.S. 6th Fleet; executive officer, Naval Special Warfare Unit 10; and assistant chief of staff for Plans, Policy and Operations, Naval Special Warfare Command. Other assignments include naval special warfare officer, Navy Operations and Plans Branch in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; naval special warfare officer, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet; U.S. Central Command branch chief, J3 deputy directorate for U.S. Special Operations, Joint Staff; director of operations, NATO Special Operations Component Command/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan; and executive officer, Supreme Allied Commander Europe/Commander, U.S. European Command. His command tours include SEAL Team 3, where he deployed as commander, Naval Special Warfare Task Group - Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Naval Special Warfare Unit 3; Naval Special Warfare Group 1, and most recently as U.S. Special Operations Command South. 60

Special Operations Outlook



U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land team members conduct military field operations during exercise TRIDENT 18-4 at Hurlburt Field, Florida, July 11, 2018. Exercise TRIDENT is a United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) sponsored, Naval Special Operations Command (NSWC) executed, joint maritime certification and validation Mission Readiness Exercise (MRX) which provides realistic and relevant readiness training to U.S. special operations forces, conventional forces, partner forces and inter agency participants in an irregular warfare scenario.

Special Operations Outlook: You’ve referred to Naval Special Warfare (NSW) as “the force our nation expects.” Tell us a little bit about that perspective. Rear Adm. Collin P. Green: Today, we have more than 1,000 special operators and support personnel afloat deployed to more than 35 countries, addressing security threats, assuring partners, and strengthening alliances while supporting joint and combined campaigns. We are also networked with the U.S. Navy, joint forces, interagency, and our allies and partner nations to achieve national objectives. Our ability to understand the operational landscape, adapt quickly and evolve capacity, capabilities and concepts based on operational requirements is one of our great strengths, and these characteristics, I think, are what our nation most expects from us. Dating back to World War II and the Underwater Demolition Teams of the 1940s, we have a long history of transforming and leveraging

our capabilities at the time and place of our choosing to provide increased effect. It is who we are. It is what we do. The events of 9/11 were a watershed moment in our nation’s history, and in typical NSW fashion, the response by our force was decisive, and it has been relentless. Now, after nearly two decades of sustained operations against violent extremist organizations (VEOs), great-power competitors [GPC] – China and Russia – have reemerged as urgent challenges to our national security. While the great power threat may not be as apparent as the attack of 9/11, it is no less ominous. After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested. We must think more creatively, beyond the physical domain, and redefine the “X.” Targets will be multi-domain and include cognitive and virtual objectives. We must act with urgency as we continue


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and virtual objectives. We must act with urgency as we continue the VEO fight while challenging great-power competitors [GPC] and countering rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. That is what the nation expects from Naval Special Warfare. Given these rather dramatic shifts, how are you shaping the NSW force now and for the future? We’ve conducted a comprehensive, enterprise-wide review of how we organize, train, and operate in light of these security challenges. The result – Force Optimization – involves the most impactful organizational changes since NSW 21 in the late ‘90s. Our most significant effort is a three-phase overhaul of our legacy structures, realigning capacity from geographically fixed formations into agile, strategic capability formations. This will enable more efficient command and control by streamlining support for Theater Special Operations Commands and the U.S. Navy’s numbered fleets through tailorable, flexible, and sustainable O-6-led task forces in support of competition, crisis, and contingency operations. Recently codified in our new NSW Vision 2030, Force Optimization is the iterative engine driving realignment at all NSW echelons and forward-based elements – from headquarters to “edge.” Its implementation will help ensure our ability to effectively counter both new and existing threats. I know you can’t divulge operational specifics, but can you talk about the focus areas of your vision, and how you plan to achieve those objectives? Of course. How much space do you have? Let me first acknowledge the tremendous work my predecessor did to “set the table.” He established our Cognitive Health Program, initiated Force Optimization to achieve greater mission effectiveness, and prioritized innovation and effective and efficient resourcing. I have continued that work and I am proud of NSW Vision 2030. Aligned with strategic guidance, NSW Vision 2030 sets NSW on a course to carry out our role in national defense, and will enable us to provide agile, lethal, and sustainable forces positioned to compete, disrupt, deter, and win. NSW Vision 2030 is a call to action along three paths: to strengthen, compete and reform our force.

SEAL Team 7 members jump from an MC-130J Commando II during Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, California, January 19, 2019. Emerald Warrior/Trident is the largest joint special operations exercise, where U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict.

Strengthen: NSW’s competitive advantage has always been, and will continue to be, our people. Strengthening our force involves prioritizing and investing in the training, development, and wellness of the entire NSW team – operators, support personnel, civilians, and our families. Professional education and career progression are key components in sustaining the success of NSW’s sailor, civilian, and Reserve force. We are intent on establishing a professionalized career path to build a cadre of highly-trained SEALs and operationally experienced leaders who understand the resourcing and acquisition processes to successfully build the capabilities, capacity, and concepts that will posture us for success in future operating environments. We are also creating a program for developing civilian leaders who provide the experience, specialized skills, and continuity that are so critical to the success of our long-term efforts. For our Reserve force, we intend to advance, further recruit, and leverage the unique education, training, experience, and technological expertise of our reservists in areas such as analytics, data science, and commercial technology applications. The skilled Combat Support and Combat Service Support manning Naval Special Warfare receives from our larger Navy has never been better. These sailors are invaluable to NSW mission accomplishment and come from a wide variety of ratings, such as intelligence and information warriors, logisticians, chaplain corps, and medical support. We are developing standardized combat support and combat service support training en route to assignments with NSW. This training will facilitate a more efficient and effective transition into the NSW community and maximizes support to our gaining commands. Ultimately, these efforts will mutually benefit our larger Navy as our support teammates return to the fleet and incorporate tactics, techniques, and procedures applicable to great-power competition. We are committed to developing a portfolio of programs to support all of our personnel from the time they enter service, throughout their





Special Operations Outlook

Above: Sailors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) throw line to Special Warfare Combatantcraft Crewmen (SWCC) with Special Boat Team (SBT) 20 during a training exercise in the ship’s well deck. The team practiced mooring and maneuvering their craft inside the ship’s well deck. Below: Rear Adm. Collin P. Green shakes the hand of Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski after relieving him as commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, during a change-of-command ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

prevention and reduced injury recovery rates. Our Neurocognitive Surveillance Program was established in November 2017 in response to the early recognition of neurocognitive injuries during training and operational deployment. We now have an enterprise-wide policy in place. We have completed baseline brain health testing for nearly all of NSW SEAL/SWCC Operators and Combat Support personnel and have completed our first cycle of operational surveillance of a SEAL Team using blast gauges during unit-level training. The baseline brain health testing now occurs for all candidates through our training pipeline, and we are poised to retest all personnel every two years. Comparison to one’s own performance, versus reliance on population norms, is the gold standard for cognitive rehabilitation, optimization efforts, and ultimately “driving the science” toward a better understanding of training exposures. We also have formalized a program we’re calling Readiness for SOF Transition (R4ST). This is a holistic initiative aimed at tracking and assisting with our personnel’s physical, spiritual, mental, and family needs across their selection, development, and operational career to ensure they are prepared for post-military life prior to their release from active duty. R4ST complements the Navy’s Transition Assistance Program and the SOCOM Warrior Care Program for wounded, ill, and injured service members. Finally, we are very proud of the positive impact our dynamic Gold Star and Surviving Family Program provides with its support to our spouses, children, parents, and siblings of the 165 NSW active-duty personnel who have died on active duty since 9/11. The support provided for NSW Gold Star spouses, children, parents, and siblings comes in the way of connecting them to DOD [Department of Defense] and benevolent resources, facilitating information sessions, invitations to retreats, workshops, children’s camps, and other command-sponsored events. The shared loss of their loved one is heartfelt, and for their sacrifice, we will always be here for them. Compete: Remaining ahead of our adversaries in the


is to create career-planning programs and provide the mentoring and educational opportunities (formal schooling, on-the-job-training and self-guided learning) that are crucial to developing high-performing and fast-learning teams. On another front, our Preservation of the Force and Family Program is stronger than ever, due in large part to the continued and valued support we receive from throughout the Navy, U.S. Special Operations Command, Congress, and a variety of foundations. We are fortunate to have increased our staff of psychologists, case managers, and life counselors. This support has allowed us to mature and institutionalize our efforts, resulting in improvements in the resilience and long-term health and well-being of our active-duty members and their families. We have seen a significant decline in stigmatization with our force seeking help when it is needed from the embedded care providers. Another area I want to talk about is our Human Performance Program, which focuses on the operational physical and mental readiness of the individual operator and has brought about increased injury




Above: A file photo taken in February 2002 of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Britt K. Slabinski at Bagram Airfield. President Donald J. Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Slabinski during a White House ceremony May 24, 2018, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Takur Ghar in March 2002 while serving in Afghanistan. Right: Members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 conduct military dive operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Oct. 11, 2018. U.S. Navy SEALs engage in a continuous training cycle to improve and further specialize skills needed during deployments across the globe.

Compete: Remaining ahead of our adversaries in the evershifting global battlespace we face today involves innovating sustainable capabilities, capacity, and concepts for competitive advantage. Beyond the realignment of our force structure to increase both capacity and capabilities, we are employing an aggressive approach to leveraging technology and data-driven means that will enable us to maintain or regain our operational overmatch, stay ahead of our adversaries, avoid or mitigate surprise, and provide unique solutions to our nation’s security needs. We are approaching this using two primary avenues: operational competitiveness and business, force generation, and readiness improvement. We are focused on innovations that provide transformational and exponential disruptive opportunities, are organically employed to reduce risk to mission and force, and enable precision, speed, and lethality while also reducing costs. In essence, we endeavor to create capability without incurring additional manpower and other costs. As most people already know, and as I have talked about before, Naval Special Warfare’s enduring value proposition remains maritime access and placement. We plan to merge our surface and undersea capabilities to form a robust maritime operations group which will further maximize the effectiveness of our maritime operations as well as the development, acquisition, and sustainment of future undersea and surface mobility platforms. We continue to invest in, operationally employ, and leverage our unique NSW maritime access, placement, and technology across the full spectrum of competition and conflict to create enhanced options for joint and fleet warfighting. The transition from legacy to more complex and capable combatant craft has provided Geographic Combatant Commanders with platforms that have increased lethality and unique operational attributes. We strive to meet the demands of Theater Special Operations Commands, joint force commanders, and others through incremental

improvements, innovation, and craft evolution. This iterative process leverages the latest technologies from across industry to maximize craft lethality while ensuring compatibility and interoperability with our fleet partners through programs, training, exercises, and operational employment. Our approach recognizes both threats and opportunities of globally accelerating technology trends, and focuses on the speed of adaptation and adoption of these technologies for our asymmetric advantage. Some of these trends include the rapid advancement in areas such as advanced communications and artificial intelligence for human-machine teaming to increase speed, accuracy, and hyperenable the joint warfighting team. Other areas such as virtual and augmented reality and the digital transformation of training and planning processes will enable our force to become more capable faster while reducing time, costs, risk, and error. We are confident that exploring and exploiting these emerging technologies will enable our NSW force to operate successfully in increasingly contested or denied environments. Finally, we have increased the pace and volume of fleet, joint, and combined war-gaming, operational exchange meetings, and experimentation to rapidly develop concepts and capabilities to provide complementary and real options and solutions. Reform: We are driving to reform our culture and processes to achieve greater accountability, relevancy, speed, and affordability. Efforts to reform our resourcing, requirements, and acquisition processes and procedures are ongoing and are already paying dividends in the form of faster on-ramps and scaling. For example, collaborative efforts with industry, acquisition professionals, and our SEAL operators now include the initial government acceptance and future operational testing of the first Dry Combat Submersible. Along these lines, we have established a recurring divestiture board to evaluate programs and capabilities for relevancy and efficiency. One example is the August 2018 divestiture of the


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Cmdr. Gary Ryals, outgoing commander of Special Boat Team 22, John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, departs his changeof-command ceremony via a simulated hot extraction utilizing a Special Operations Craft-Riverine boat.

Combatant Craft Assault (CCA) air drop capability. Cost-benefit analysis determined the ability to reposition the CCA via airlift and parachute insertion was not readily executed by operational commanders due to the high-risk nature of at-sea parachute operations. We are looking at lower-risk alternatives to prepositioning the craft and SOF passengers, along with the mission’s command, control, and logistics sustainment forces. We are also prioritizing all current and future military construction, range infrastructure investments, and modernization projects to achieve primacy, privacy, and proximity. In addition, we are anticipating material requirements needed to conduct efficient and effective great-power competition operations. The single most important military construction effort impacting current and future operational readiness of the NSW force is the build-out of the 10-year, $1 billion, congressionally supported Silver Strand Training Complex-South. Since August 2017, the first of 29 projects – our indoor-training range facility and three other facilities that provide critical operational support to our forces forward – have been opened and are fully operational. At this time, 18 projects valued at $728 million have been awarded, including MFP-2 Navyfunded projects for demolition, utilities infrastructure, and a new entry control point. With operational units and advanced training located in a single, state-of-the-art campus, this new facility gives our force more time at home with their families, ultimately creating a more resilient and ready NSW team. We continue to collaborate and integrate with DOD, interagency, and our multinational allies and partners to maximize the use of command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence technologies. These efforts are aimed at enabling a fully integrated operator to exceed mission objectives in all environments and against any adversary. Our ability to move rapidly and innovate faster than our competition is hampered by traditional processes and fiscal unpredictability. Policy updates such as other transaction authority, commercial solutions opening, and middle-tier acquisitions are significant steps forward to enabling agility and partnership with industry, and the authors of those policy updates are to be commended. Continued efforts to adapt contracting and resourcing authorities are needed if we are to leverage and implement emerging technologies and improve processes while ensuring an environment of affordability and accountability.

Going back to the topic of people, when you spoke at West 2019 in February, you mentioned commissioning a study to look at the culture of NSW. What were the results or findings from that review? I believe leadership is at the foundation of all we do in Naval Special Warfare, so it is incumbent upon us to continue to develop competent leaders with character who care for their teammates, and who will do everything in their power to protect the integrity of our Navy and our nation. In March, we concluded that comprehensive 90-day review on how we prepare our operators and support personnel to confront tough ethical dilemmas. Our findings confirm that we do, in fact, have a credible process in place to deliberately focus on character development and the construct of a sound ethical foundation in our SEAL and SWCC training pipelines. NSW’s courses further build on that foundation by weaving ethical decision-making scenarios into every NSW leadership training opportunity. This is an important and ongoing effort to ensure we are properly balancing a culture of operational excellence with a culture of sound ethical compliance. The review identified additional opportunities to reinforce our core ethos during the first six years of individual and team development. We are reinvigorating our focus on small unit-level leadership and mentorship while simultaneously employing human factors councils, which look at individuals holistically to identify problems early and execute timely corrective measures. We will incorporate ethical scenarios into our tactical training to further prepare our operators to navigate the inevitable ethical decisions they will face in ambiguous environments. Many of our leadership teams have excellent programs that we are institutionalizing with force-wide guidance. These programs will ensure our culture and values – from the tactical unit to headquarters – are aligned with the standards of behavior that enable us to act according to the highest potential of our character. Ultimately, we remain committed to developing a force whose moral foundation and ethical adherence is as important as our tactical proficiency on target. Are there any closing comments you’d like to leave with our readers? Thank you for that question. We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force. Our families serve as our bedrock and their health and well-being are essential to our success. We are entrusted with some of the most precious of our national assets: the men and women of Naval Special Warfare. We seek out those “with an uncommon desire to succeed.” The sailors, civilians, and reservists serving their country in Naval Special Warfare embody that sentiment, and strive to earn the trust of the American people every day. They reflect the heart of our nation in their utmost dedication to preserving our freedoms, defending our homeland and protecting our national interests.




MARITIME MOBILITY A Dynamic Maritime Environment

marks a continuation of dynamic activities across a q 2019 range of SOF maritime portfolios as special operations planners work to recapitalize both surface and subsurface elements of the SOF fleet.

Surface Activities One recent example of these activities could be found in a lateMarch 2019 Capability Collaboration Event focused on the planned “Mk 2” element of the Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH) fleet. Reflecting a cooperative effort between the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Program Executive Office (PEO) – Maritime’s Program Manager for Surface Systems and the SOFWERX enterprise, the event explored the possible expansion of the current three-craft CCH fleet. As “the heavy end” of specialized SOF surface craft, the CCH fleet currently consists of three “Mk 1” platforms produced by Vigor Industrial LLC in Clackamas, Oregon. Also known as SEALION (Sea Air Land Insertion Observation and Neutralization) I, II, and III, they include two 77-foot-long technology demonstrators that transitioned to operational craft in 2012 and 2013 as well as an 81-foot-long craft ordered in 2017 and on track for delivery in the first quarter of FY 20. While everything seems on track for the fielding of the third Mk 1 craft, on Feb. 20, 2019, USSOCOM released a special notice outlining a planned follow-on Mk 2 platform as “a specialized maritime mobility platform in support of Special Operations Forces (SOF) core tasks primarily involving the insertion and extraction of military personnel along with the launching and recovery of specialized military hardware.” It added, “The CCH Mk 2 is expected to be a diesel-powered craft capable of open ocean transit and well deck interoperability with the ability to insert and extract SOF forces and host, clandestinely launch, and recover smaller manned and unmanned surface and subsurface systems. For industry partners with existing designs, USSOCOM anticipates modifications will be required to address specialized applications such as survivability; payload launch and recovery; munitions; and command and control, communications, computers, cyberdefense, combat systems, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C6ISR) systems.”


Special Operations Outlook

The announcement pointed to a planned Mk 2 craft design with a maximum length of 200 feet and maximum width of 49 feet, identifying command interest in a notional maximum payload volume of 25 feet in length, 5 feet in width, and 5 feet in height, with a “preferred” ability to accommodate “an additional payload (smaller items in aggregate) of similar size and weight as cargo.” Potential production for the Mk 2 CCH would be in the FY 21 – FY 23 timeframe. At the same time that fleet planners are looking toward expanding platform size and tactical capabilities of the CCH fleet, other planning elements are also focusing on enhancing the strategic deployability of current and soon-to-be-fielded Mk 1 elements. Evidence of this approach can be found in a fall 2018 USSOCOM sources sought/request for information (RFI) released on behalf of the Maritime Program Executive Office (PEO-M); Program Manager Surface Systems (PM-SS) calling for market information “in support of preliminary planning for the acquisition of one CCH Transporter, hereafter referred to as Transporter.” The RFI identified the purpose of the CCH Transporter as “to provide over the road transport, and aircraft loading and unloading for the fleet of three, existing CCH craft.” The “heavy end” of SOF surface mobility capabilities is hardly unique, with other activities underway across the entire platform weight/capability spectrum. The Combatant Craft Medium (CCM) Mk 1 is USSOCOM’s multi-role surface combatant craft, with the primary mission of inserting and extracting SOF
in medium-threat environments. The program emerged in 2013, following government testing of competing designs, with the contract awarded to Vigor Industrial. The 60-foot-long aluminum craft have been credited with possessing “the best iron triangle” by USSOCOM program representatives, who have noted that the platform also provides an opportunity to add several new technologies and resulting capabilities to the fleet. CCM Mk 1 achieved initial operational capability in FY 15, with full operational capability planned for FY 22. USSOCOM representatives recently indicated that the command has fielded 23 out of 30 planned craft.





Above: Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson transits the San Diego Bay aboard a Combatant Craft Medium boat alongside a Combatant Craft Assault boat assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 during a visit of San Diego and Naval Special Warfare. The CCM is a reconfigurable, multimission maritime surface tactical mobility craft with a primary mission to insert and extract special operations forces in a medium threat environment. Right: A Combatant Craft Heavy unballasted and at speed.

The Combatant Craft Assault (CCA) has the primary role of medium-range maritime interdiction operations (MIO) in mediumto-high threat environments. It can also perform insertion/extraction of special operations forces and coastal patrol operations. Manufactured by U.S. Marine, Inc., the carbon-fiber CCA provides expanded range, speed, and payload capacity over existing Naval Special Warfare combatant craft of similar size. Initial operational capability occurred in FY 15 with full operational capability planned for FY 20. Significantly, USSOCOM has used CCA to demonstrate successful execution of the first ever Low Velocity Air Delivery System (LVADS) from an AFSOC MC-130J. The ability to airdeliver the platform allows the CCA to satisfy some of the specialized mission sets that were formerly performed by the Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System (MCADS) program, a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) airdrop platform system that was previously used in conjunction with the 11-Meter Naval Special Warfare

(NSW) RIB that has been removed from NSW fleet inventories and replaced by CCA. USSOCOM representatives have recently indicated that the command has fielded 27 of 32 planned CCA platforms to date. Not currently targeted for replacement or upgrade, the 33-footlong Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) is currently in sustainment.





The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations will honor Americans who have served at the “tip of the spear. “ It will educate the public about the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom. It will inspire future generations to serve their country. Its technologically advanced exhibits will offer visitors an unparalleled experience. It will be built in Northern Virginia close to Dulles International Airport and the Dulles Technology Corridor. The museum’s iconic design was inspired by the spearhead, a symbol associated with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II and used today by its successor organizations. The spearhead continues to point the way forward.




Two significant areas of potential surface craft enhancement include the Combatant Craft Forward Looking Infrared 2 (CCFLIR2) and Maritime Precision Engagement (MPE). CCFLIR2 replaces the boat-mounted legacy forward looking infrared sensor that has been in service since the early 2000s. Among new technologies being introduced in the new design is high-definition video. USSOCOM received the first four fullrate production assets in December 2018, with combatant craft integration currently underway on a planned total of 58 systems. In March 2018, USSOCOM also validated its internally developed requirement for MPE, which command representatives describe as “a family of standoff, loitering, man-in-the-loop weapon systems [to be] deployed on combatant craft and capable of targeting individuals, groups, vehicles, high value targets, and small oceangoing craft with low collateral damage. The program consists of combatant craft alterations, launcher systems, and weapon/munition. Requirements validation led to the initiation of a feasibility study in support of MPE on CCM Mk 1 and CCH Mk 1. Industry input on the weapon solution was solicited in an October 2018 RFI, producing multiple white paper responses for evaluation. Additionally, USSOCOM maritime representatives are participating in studies with Naval Surface Warfare Centers Dahlgren and Carderock to address related issues, including necessary combatant craft alterations/integration. Finally, under an umbrella effort designated Combatant Craft Mission Equipment (CCME), USSOCOM has been working with advanced technologies to correct system deficiencies, improve asset life, and augment mission requirements. Designed to provide rapid response solutions to support SOF combatant craft systems, subsystems, and their evolving requirements, CCME modifies existing high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) items for integration onto combatant craft, with recent efforts focused on multispectral beacon and satellite communications (SATCOM) on-the-move solutions.

A U.S. Naval Special Warfare Combatant Craft Assault boat sails aboard French amphibious assault ship LHD Tonnerre (L9014) during a bilateral training exercise. The Tonnerre , with embarked Marines and sailors from Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and U.S. special operations forces were conducting maritime security operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

With some redundancy with work already underway on programs noted above, 2018 saw SOF maritime surface planners point to command interest in a variety of emerging technologies and capabilities, including: SATCOM on the move; wireless intercoms interoperable with National Security Agency (NSA) Type I certified radios, other communications scenarios and systems, improved antenna technology, enhanced radar systems, shock and vibration mitigation (for both crew and equipment), precision-guided munitions, extended range operations, navigation in GPS-denied environments, enhanced lightweight armor, threat awareness/warning, underwater mapping, and vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial systems for launch and recovery on combatant craft. Many of the identified technologies were highlighted in a June 2018 request for information in support of USSOCOM’s Technical Experimentation 18-4: Special Operations Forces Maritime Surface Systems. The experimentation, which took place in mid-September at Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story Virginia Beach, Virginia, was designed to “provide an opportunity for technology developers to interact with operational personnel to determine how their technology development efforts and ideas may support or enhance SOF capability needs.” According to the RFI, the experimentation focus was “to highlight technologies that support SOF surface combatant craft of various sizes up to 80 feet long,” with identified technology areas for exploration including: command, control, communications and computers (C4) and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance


Above: Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) with Special Boat Team (SBT) 20 secure lines in the well deck aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). The team practiced mooring and maneuvering their craft inside the ship’s well deck. Carter Hall was underway with the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) participating in ARG/Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (ARG/MEUEX). Below: A member assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 conducts military dive operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Oct. 11, 2018. SOF combat diving programs target individual equipment such as navigation boards as well as propulsion, communication, and protective gear.

(ISR) systems; innovative propulsion systems to extend the range and performance of combatant craft, including alternative energy systems and diesel-electric systems; flexible, lightweight armor suitable for expeditionary installation and removal from interior combatant craft hull and/or compartments to protect crewman and critical craft systems from small arms fire and larger; medical gear suitable for use in open boats exposed to rain, sea spray, and mechanical shock, including litters, chest seal, hemorrhage control agents, anti- hypothermic systems, and vital sign monitors); signature reduction technologies; unmanned aerial vehicles suitable for launch and recovery on combatant craft up to 80 feet long; unmanned surface vehicles (USV) supporting low probability of intercept and detection, autonomous operation, launch and recovery from combatant craft, and over-the-horizon endurance for a wide variety of unknown missions; weapons; and immersive training, identified as a “360 degree training simulator for Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman (SWCC) to view and operate craft and subsystems including navigation, radar, communications, engineering, weapons, UAS/ISR, and other sensors and capabilities.”

Subsurface Activities In addition to a broad spectrum of maritime surface capabilities, myriad USSOCOM scenarios call for subsurface/underwater capabilities, with supporting programs ranging from combat diving to submersible craft and their submarine support systems. SOF combat diving programs, for example, support the individual diver as well as integration into PEO Maritime systems. Planned efforts target equipment such as maritime protection, propulsion,


Special Operations Outlook

navigation, and communication. In addition to directly supporting combat divers, the programs help to support future undersea mobility development involving wet or dry submersibles. Common themes across programs include reduction in equipment size, focusing on a “system of systems” approach, and the integration of combat diving equipment onto PEO Maritime platforms. One example of these integration challenges across platforms and applications can be found in the announced 2018 USSOCOM requirement for award for a quantity of the Aqua Lung Combat Swimmer Assault Vest (CSAV). As part of the requirement justification for other than full and open competition on a new assault vest, program planners offered, “The CSAV by Aqua Lung is the only AMU [authorized for military use] commercially available device with an integrated life preserver, buoyancy compensator, and able to meet all operational requirements for DDS [dry deck shelter], Mk 16 and Mk 25 UBA [underwater breathing apparatus] diving operations. The CSAV has been tested in all facets of SDVT-1’s [SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1] mission capabilities and is the sole BC [buoyancy compensator] used in SOD DDS diving operations. There






Left: Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) model. Right: Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) model.

are currently no other Life Preservers that integrated the MOLLE [modular lightweight load-carrying equipment] system that meet the performance and certification requirements established by NEDU [Naval Experimental Diving Unit] as a load carrying system and Life Preserver System for all three of these requirements.” Along with specialty equipment like CSAV, the USSOCOM combat diving portfolio has recently identified areas of interest to include maritime environmental protection, propulsion systems capable of carrying multiple team members and some equipment, communication to/from divers and support platforms, and modular navigation to include GPS tracking “from the water column.” Underwater mobility is being enhanced by the Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS), which achieved initial operational capability in FY 18 as a replacement for the current Mk 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV). Like its predecessor, the SWCS is a free-flooding wet combat manned submersible to transport special operations forces (SOF) personnel and equipment in hostile waters for a variety of missions. In terms of size and weight differences, SWCS is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 4,000 pounds heavier than the SDV. Enhancements incorporated in the new boat include Intel Core i7 Processors and GB Ethernet backbone, improved software and user interface, higher accuracy navigation, and bow thrusters. Teledyne Brown Engineering (Huntsville, Alabama) delivered the first two boats in May and June of 2018 and is slated to deliver the third and fourth boats in September 2019. In addition, a contract for a fifth boat was awarded in May 2018. Introduction of the SWCS is also prompting several “field changes” to the SOF Dry Deck Shelters (DDS). The DDS is a certified diving system that attaches to modified submarines. The shelter includes a vehicle garage, transfer truck, and hyperbaric chamber. However, SOF program representatives are quick to assert that DDS “is a lot more than just the garage sitting on top of a submarine.” Rather, it is a certified diving system with hyperbaric treatment facilities, airlock capabilities and the ability to carry/index out a variety of payloads, including SDV, SWCS, and potentially others. The U.S. Navy currently has six DDS, built in the 1980s (the last one in 1991) and, with a goal of maintaining the systems in service until 2050, current program activities address issues associated with modernization, like the Dry Deck Shelter Extension Program; managing the obsolescence; and incorporating other field changes like those prompted by the introduction of SWCS and involving the data connection from the battery management system to the hangar, portable track and cradle, and hangar rearrangement/hydraulics.

Planners emphasize that the Dry Deck Shelter Extension Program, for example, is much more than a 50-inch extension to the DDS, summarizing overall objectives to include increasing the payload volume by 30 percent, increasing the weight capacity by 300 percent, creation of a remote hangar outer door operation from the Virginia-class host submarine, reduction of risk to the host submarine, and reduction of operator fatigue. The Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) is another subsurface combat swimmer delivery vehicle that introduces a key warfighting capability to keep divers in a warm, dry, one-atmosphere environment to and from their mission destination/location, allowing divers to be fresher and ready to go when they arrive on station. In addition to the dry atmosphere, a key difference in DCS is that the initial versions will launch from surface ships and not interoperate with submarines in their current form. The contract was awarded in 2016 to Lockheed Martin with teammates/major subcontractors Submergence Group, LLC and MSubs Ltd. The initial boat was anticipated to be delivered for government acceptance during early 2019, at which time it will enter developmental and operational testing. Initial operational capability is anticipated with delivery of the first boat to the user community during the first quarter of FY 20, with full operational capability of three DCS delivered to users, now projected for the second quarter of FY 22. Significantly, program planners have also highlighted the availability of “small amounts” of research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funding beginning in FY 20 to start looking at possible capabilities, technologies, and materiel solutions that will be needed to develop the follow-on version of DCS, which will be interoperable with submarines. They note that the period between now and then will feature market research requests for information to set the stage for that RDT&E effort. Longer range plans reflect the follow-on program efforts shifting to technology development from approximately third quarter FY 21 through the end of FY 22; engineering and manufacturing development from FY 23, and a possible production start in FY 26. In the meantime, other broad program efforts include enhancements to the “first generation” DCS designs. An example of these emerged during February 2019, when Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, on behalf of USSOCOM’s Program Management Office contracted to “modernize the DCS acoustic navigation system” through the introduction of the Pioneer Doppler Velocity Log that will be part of the Integrated Bridge System. The examples cited here provide just a glimpse of the tempo and scope of efforts taking place or planned across the SOF maritime arena, with many of these efforts likely to see closer examination in the pages of Special Operations Outlook over the coming years.




Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY Gen. Francis Beaudette assumed command June 8, 2018, of U.S. Army Special Operations Command q Lt.(USASOC). Prior to commanding USASOC, Beaudette was commanding general of 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Beaudette was commissioned in 1989 as a military intelligence officer. In his first assignment, he served as a battalion assistant S-2, M1A1 crewmember, and armor platoon leader in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He went on to complete Special Forces training in 1995. His first assignment was to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he commanded two Special Forces Detachments, commanded the Group Headquarters Company, and served as the group assistant S-3. He then served as the aide-de-camp to the commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and went on to serve as aide-de-camp to the deputy commanding general of Kosovo Forces. He commanded a Special Forces company at Fort Carson, Colorado, and in Kosovo, as well as served as a battalion executive officer and group operations officer for the 10th SFG (A), both at Fort Carson, and in Iraq. Following a tour on the Joint Staff in the J3 Deputy Directorate for Special Operations, Beaudette commanded 1st Battalion, 10th SFG (A) in Germany and Special Operations Task Force 10 in Afghanistan. He then served as the G3 and chief of staff for the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) prior to commanding the 1st SFG (A) and the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. Beaudette then served as the executive officer to the commander, United States Special Operations Command. Beaudette served as the deputy commanding general, 1st Armored Division and director of CENTCOM Forward (Jordan). He then served with Joint Special Operations Command as the assistant commanding general. Beaudette’s previous assignment was with 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), where he served as the commanding general. Beaudette is a graduate of the Citadel, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.

Special Operations Outlook: How does Army Special Operations contribute to sharpening America’s advantage over the changing strategic environment? Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette: Our nation is in direct competition with near-peer adversaries right now. As the strategic environment and national strategic guidance has shifted, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) have taken a fresh look at our strategy and the demands of the future operating environment. Our 4,000-plus deployed men and women are positioned on the leading edge of our national interests in over 70 different countries. Although many of our current missions are aimed at countering violent extremist organizations, disrupting threat networks, and building relationships, the effects of our missions all contribute to enhancing American advantage in great power competition. Named operations, such


Special Operations Outlook

as Operation Inherent Resolve, put us in the NDS [National Defense Strategy]-defined “contact layer” facing off against state proxy forces, on the ground and in cyberspace, and countering Iranian, Russian, and Chinese malign activities and influence. We are able to do so with a small U.S. footprint by investing in and leveraging partner forces. Bottom line – ARSOF provide our nation proactive, scalable options around the world to erode the influence of our adversaries and, when directed, compete, deter, and win. We do so in stride with our allies and international partners, and especially with our teammates in the joint SOF and interagency community. ARSOF’s role in the National Defense Strategy is clear: We will remain relentless and lethal against terrorism and extremism that threaten our homeland, dominate our adversaries in competition, and win in large-scale combat operation.



Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) fire the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, April 2, 2019, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Green Berets fired multiple weapon systems during the live-fire range, including the M240B machine gun, M320 grenade launcher, and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.









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How is the National Defense Strategy driving change in the USASOC enterprise? The National Defense Strategy is driving important changes in our force generation, readiness, modernization, and culture to ensure we are ready and lethal now and in the future. We are aligned to the Army’s 2028 Strategy. We are strengthening alliances and partnerships, refining joint force interoperability, and training in the most challenging environments to be ready to win in competition, contingencies, and when required, in large-scale combat operations. Through U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army, we invest in the best capabilities to maintain our competitive advantage, optimize our formations for efficiency and effectiveness, and care for our people and families. Missions which support near-peer competition are uniquely suited to what ARSOF were always designed to do. Our relationships and networks – cultivated over time – generate understanding, create opportunities to influence specific actors, and deter or pressure our adversaries, especially the “competition space” by making war less appealing and more costly. Our persistent contact builds trust and resilience with our partners to resist coercion and embolden them

U.S. Army Rangers of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conduct multiple night raids at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, April 23-26, 2018. The Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) helps the Army evaluate emerging concepts, integrate new technologies, and promote interoperability within the Army, with other services, U.S. allies, and other coalition partners. JWA is the only exercise venue assessing 27 concepts and capabilities while aligning with U.S. Army Europe Readiness and other component exercises such as Combined Resolve X and Blue Flag 18, with a focus on a ready, interoperable joint force capable of accomplishing the mission and overmatching current and future enemies across the range of military operations.

to challenge our adversaries – in short we specialize in “resistance activities.” Additionally, with direction from U.S. Special Operations Command, we established a contingency Special Operations Joint Task Force Headquarters within 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) to create an expeditionary SOF command and control capability in the event of a contingency against a near-peer threat. Are there any challenges in balancing the complementary capability sets against the current fight as well as future near-peer or




Special Operations Outlook

A U.S. Army Special Forces Multi-purpose Canine Team provides security for a mortar firing position from an abandoned rooftop in the Middle Euphrates River Valley’s Deir Ezzor province, Syria, Oct. 11, 2018. Coalition Forces were providing indirect fire as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) moved closer to ISIS-held positions in support of Operation Roundup.

our interoperability with the Army and joint force, and ensure we are certified and validated. We must increase the rigor and intensity of our training environment and ensure our men and women have the best capabilities and have honed their skill sets to win in the harshest of environments. The future battlefield will demand that ARSOF survive and thrive with indigenous populations in contested and denied areas, farther from and less connected to secure Joint Operations Centers and rapid response forces. We continue to evolve and employ more decentralized tactics, requiring us to empower and trust our most junior soldiers to be lethal, flexible, agile, and creative. In some cases, this may require us to double-down on skill sets that allow us to thrive without technology – our 21st century soldiers must be able to navigate with a compass and map, communicate


peer capabilities? Where do you see the greatest challenges to USASOC over the next two years? The next five years? We will continue to deploy ARSOF to defend the homeland from threats of terrorists and violent extremist organizations (VEO), while competing with our near-peer adversaries below the level of armed conflict, and maintaining readiness of our forces to fight on tomorrow’s increasingly lethal, multi-domain battlefield. The national demand on ARSOF will continue, and our men and women are up to the challenge. Even so, resources are finite and we must make disciplined and informed decisions on which missions we are fulfilling. Our nation needs ARSOF to be ready and available for contingencies against anyone who challenges us. The top priority of USASOC and our components is to recruit, train, man, and retain the most ready and lethal forces. We are committed to achieving a true 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio, meaning our men and women are home two days to every one day deployed. Stabilizing this operational tempo provides our men and women predictability and time to generate readiness against our adversaries. ARSOF are participating in every Combined Training Center and most Warfighter Exercises to hone



A pair of U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment MH-60M Black Hawks prepare to conduct an aerial refueling exercise in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-18 above Yuma, Arizona.

without cellphones, and satellite radios. Simultaneously, we must leverage industry and technological visionaries to ensure we can rapidly expand and field tools to empower our teams with modern capabilities at the sharpest edge of the force. We must continue to out-innovate our adversaries and strive every day for competitive advantage. What technologies do you see as having the greatest impact on our special operations forces? Advances in electronic warfare, cyber-electromagnetic activities, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomy have forced us to adapt. Our competitors – enabled by significant investments in technology and an aggressive willingness to employ it – have rapidly accelerated their information warfare capabilities on a trajectory that currently outpaces our own. USASOC is driving modernization and innovation to identify and address these capability shortfalls

through experimentation and battlefield experience in order to incorporate timely tactical feedback into industrialized solutions across the force. In early May, we participated in Joint Warfighter Assessment to operationalize our experimentation. Capitalizing on emerging technology such as AI, machine learning, and neural networking also requires game-changing concepts for employment, and the authorities, permissions, and legal frameworks that enable us to effectively “weaponize” information against our adversaries. Expeditious approval is necessary to exploit the “golden hour of influence” in a dynamic information environment to more effectively integrate physical and informational combat power and enable effects on the battlefield. Additionally, our soldiers are our greatest asset, and we must continue to invest in empowering their performance and resilience. Our groundbreaking research on neurocognitive health is examining the cumulative impact of operational trauma our soldiers experience during training and deployments and their effect on specific areas of cognition and sensory processing. This growing body of research on human performance and resilience will allow us to better tailor treatment, training, and equipment solutions to ensure the long-term health of our people in service and beyond transition.


BARRETT MRAD EXPANDS TO GRAB ADVANCED SNIPER RIFLE CONTRACT BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) y Among acquisition programs executed over the past year is the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR). As outlined in a relatively simple “sources sought” announcement on April 6, 2017, ASR was envisioned as “a complete system” to include three caliber conversion kits – 7.62mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum; “any tools needed to complete the conversion”; and “a light/sound suppressor that can be attached to the system when needed.”


Special Operations OUTLOOK

According to the April 2017 announcement, the new ASR system would also feature: a total system weight, less suppressor and with unloaded magazine, not to exceed 17 pounds (T) [threshold], 13 pounds (O) [objective]; Length with stock extended, less suppressor, not to exceed 50 inches (T), 40 inches (O); and length for transport, by means of folding or collapsing 40 inches (T), 36 inches (O). The initial specified accuracy criteria for each of the three caliber configurations was: 7.62mm 1.0 MOA [minute of angle] (ES) [extreme spread] at 328 yards (300 meters); (T) 0.5 MOA at


328 yards (300 meters) (O); .300 NM 1.0 MOA (ES) at 328 yards (300 meters) (T); 0.5 MOA at 328 yards (300 meters) (O); .338 NM 2.5 MOA (ES) at 328 yards (300 meters) (T); 1.5 MOA at 328 yards (300 meters) (O). On March 11, 2019, less than two years after that request for information (RFI) and following extensive interaction between USSOCOM and industry, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing received the ASR award. During a visit to the Barrett manufacturing facility two weeks later, Special Operations Outlook learned about how the company worked toward the ASR program as well as a number of other SOF sniper weapon support programs around the world. Bryan K. James, senior vice president of sales at Barrett, noted that he was limited as to what he could say about the March 11 USSOCOM (Program Executive Office, Warrior Systems, SOF Lethality) ASR award. In addition to the date and contract issuer, the only available specifics included the fact that the five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract is based on the

Left: The ASR is based on Barrett’s MRAD sniper rifle, shown here in 7.62mm. Top: The folding buttstock is adjustable for length and height. Above: The modularity of the rifle’s chassis allows for a platform that can be upscaled or downscaled relatively easily.

Barrett MRAD Rifle System, with a maximum procurement quantity of 2,675 units, and a maximum contract value of $49,936,299.50. “That’s all that’s official on ASR,” he said. As a result, discussion focused on the company’s Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle platform, which is not only fielded across several special operations elements but was also modified to meet the specifics of the ASR requirement.

Origins of MRAD “MRAD started off with Chris Barrett and the Model 98B, or the 98 Bravo as some people call it, which was a bolt action, .338 Lapua Magnum dedicated rifle platform,” James said. “That was


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2019-2020 EDITION




Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics COURTESY OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND



Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (SOF AT&L), a part of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), ensures special operations forces (SOF) have special operations-peculiar equipment and services required for them to complete missions across the globe.

Display until Aug. 31, 2019

INTERVIEWS • Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, AFSOC • Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, MARSOC


Special Operations Outlook



A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey from the 8th Special Operations Squadron prepares to infill a joint special operations team of Air Force Special Tactics and U.S. Army Special Forces operators during a capabilities demonstration for Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson at Eglin Range Complex, Florida, May 3, 2018. CV-22s are being upgraded with new radars and situational awareness capabilities.

SOF AT&L is divided into eight program executive offices (PEO) and four directorates. The PEOS are Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4); Fixed Wing; Maritime; Rotary Wing; Services; SOF Support Activity; Special Reconnaissance; Surveillance and Exploitation; and SOF Warrior. The Directorates are Acquisition Comptroller, Logistics, Procurement and Science and Technology. SOF AT&L is manned by military and civilians from all four military services. While SOF AT&L is co-located with USSOCOM headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, these SOF acquisition professionals live and work around the country on bases and posts such as Fort Eustis, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, the Navy Yard, Fort Belvoir, and Natick. SOF AT&L provides full life-cycle management by seamlessly developing technologies within the Science and Technology directorate, to producing and fielding that technology in programs of record through the PEOs, and finally to sustainment and eventual divestiture through USSOCOM’s logistics directorate.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE USSOCOM’s directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) vision is to “Discover, enable, and transition technologies to provide an asymmetric advantage for special



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Barrett Firearms Manufacturing’s Advanced Sniper Rifle.

his design, with a barrel that was in an upper receiver that had a bolt go directly into the barrel extension, sort of like an AR-15, as opposed to a barrel that gets screwed into a receiver and then a bolt that gets ‘headspaced up.’ You had direct interaction between the bolt and the barrel extension in the barrel. The chassis was there just to facilitate the meeting of the two.” He said that the design provided accuracy and ease of manufacturing. “Then, when the original PSR came out, the Precision Sniper Rifle, that was the base platform that then had the modularity of barrel changes. We already had the direct interaction between the bolt and the barrel. So now all someone had to do was change the bolt and a barrel, keeping the same chassis. And now the design is caliber convertible from, in this case, .260 Remington all the way up to .338 Lapua. We had the basic design already. We just had to make a few tweaks on it and made it interchangeable.” This interchangeable flexibility is reflected in the fact that the 98B is now available in nine different calibers. While the most popular caliber choices are the .300 Win Mag, .308/7.62, and .338, James noted that other popular calibers are the .300 and .338 Norma Mags, 7mm Remington Magnum, .260 Remington, and 6.5mm Creedmoor. “6.5 Creedmoor is hugely popular now because this is a solid platform to shoot it from,” he said. “There’s no recoil, so you can see your hits and see your misses through the optic. You can see your own trace, actually watching the path of your ‘boat’ going in, because of the lack of recoil.”


Modifying the MRAD While MRAD performance has already made a positive impression on the global SOF community, James acknowledged that the specifics of the ASR requirements mandated a few minor changes in the rifle design. Caliber options were not a problem, he observed. “They said three calibers: .308 [7.62mm NATO] is a given. We already made it in .308. But they asked for it in .338 Norma Magnum and .300 Norma Magnum. And we had already made that for the commercial market, so we had it. For us it was a COTS [commercial-off-theshelf] item. It’s like, ‘Oh, they want this one. Here you go. Here’s your .338 and .300 Norma Mags.’” James identified several other minor program alterations. “The magazine release can be hit from either the right or left hand by pushing forward, and the magazine drops free,” he said. “The magazine well is cut out so that when you’re behind the gun, you can stay on target to reload the magazine without having to tip the gun.” Another modification of MRAD was the use of a USSOCOMspecified Harris bipod with adjustment knob, James said, “a specific design that cannot fold to the rear. It can only fold forward, so that when you are loading the gun or pushing forward on it, it can’t collapse into the dirt.

Other ASR changes were incorporated into the folding buttstock design, including both length adjustment and vertical adjustment. The suppressor, which is made by Barrett, is also unique, featuring a secondary locking device that eliminates the risk of the device unthreading off the muzzle brake. Other MRAD alterations ranged from a new “toolless” disassembly of the bolt to the replacement of the adjustable trigger on the traditional MRAD with a non-adjustable design. “They didn’t want guys in there messing with the triggers,” James said. “On the MRAD, it’s a fully adjustable trigger. On the ASR it’s not adjustable.”

New Tool Asked what the MRAD and now ASR will provide to the SOF warfighters, Joel Miller, director of Global Military Sales for Barrett offered, “What it’s going to give right now is, I think, a lighter weight system that’s going to replace many of the current systems that are in place. If you look at the ASR, it’s intended to replace M107s, for the anti-materiel solution, Mk 13s, M24s, and M40s. So essentially what it’s going to give is that uniformity, that one platform that’s capable of doing multiple things that essentially everybody will have, with commonality for ammunition, systems, parts, so on and so forth.” Emphasizing the modularity of the chassis, Miller added, “One of the beauties of this system is that we are capable of providing multiple calibers,” Miller added. “The modularity of the chassis is, what if somebody comes up with a ‘.336 Lapua Improved’? Oh, well great. It’s a barrel and bolt change and we’ll keep running with it. “It becomes a very easy ECP [engineering change proposal], as opposed to having to go through an entirely new procurement program for a new caliber and all that.” “This becomes a platform that we can upscale and downscale,” said James. “So let’s say that some new caliber comes out between the .338 Lapua, which is a relatively small cartridge compared to a .50 BMG, and the .50 cal. Now we can take this chassis and grow it, upscale it, to a .416 Barrett, for example. You know, we just set a land record, at Vegas, in that caliber. The guy was shooting a 500-grain bullet at 3,150 feet per second. And a guy two weeks ago just set another record: three hits, cold bore with two follow-up shots, at 2,100 meters on a 1-meter plate. And so yes, we could upscale it. So, instead of an MRAD, we could have a bigger MRAD. And now you’re chambering your .408 CheyTac [Cheyenne Tactical], your .375 CheyTac, your .416 Barrett, .460 Steyr, whatever caliber is out there. “We … want the warfighter to know how much confidence he can have in this rifle to perform day in and day out, multi-calibers, multi distances,” James said. “This rifle will help them accomplish every mission they need, from training to urban combat to longrange shooting. It absolutely inspires confidence in a platform because it’s simple and it’s accurate.”




“… Modernizing key capabilities to increase lethality includes accelerating recapitalization of air, ground, and maritime mobility systems and strike aircraft. We continue to enhance agility, proactively shaping the environment by placing capability and infrastructure where we can enable agile, timely, and effective responses. …” - USSOCOM 2018 Posture Statement

with increases in lethality qAlong and precision, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has placed significant focus on the mobility of its forces across ground, sea, and air domains. Command leadership has noted that the mobility focus assists in “rapidly positioning and focusing” special operations forces (SOF), resulting in enhanced options and effects. The command’s ground mobility capabilities, which are encompassed within the Family of Special Operations Vehicles (FoSOV), provide many representative examples. Speaking at a government/industry conference in February 2019, Logan Kittinger, FoSOV deputy program manager at SOCOM, provided a broad overview of the command’s current ground mobility capabilities and future needs. “Today’s brief is not intended to leave you an expert on SOF mobility,” he began,


Special Operations Outlook

“but just to give you the once-over-theworld lay of the land of where we’re at in SOF mobility, where we’re going, and where we can use some help from industry.” Kittinger explained that the FoSOV program office includes about two dozen individuals working to “field highly advanced and specialized ground mobility across the full spectrum of mobility.” On an annual basis, he said that the office manages a budget of approximately $300 million, which is targeted at sustainment of more than 3,000 vehicles deployed worldwide. “This true ‘family of the vehicles’ approach is really working on that blend of off-road mobility performance with protection and with mission payload,” he said. “Some folks refer to that as the ‘iron triangle.’ And one of our daily battles is figuring out that proper blend of performance, protection, and payload.”

U.S. Special Forces soldiers conduct vehicle movement during a training event at Panzer Kaserne, Germany, aboard an LTATV and GMV 1.0.


The FoSOV portfolio features four vehicles – Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.0, MRAP-ATV, MRAP RG-33A1, and MRAP RG-33 AUV – in the sustainment phase; three vehicles – GMV 1.1, Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle (NSCV), and Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) - Diesel – in production; and three vehicles – V-22 Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), Purpose Built Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle, and Next-Generation Armored Ground Mobility System (AGMS) – in the “concept” stage.


SUSTAINMENT Turning to the sustainment slice of the portfolio, Kittinger highlighted the GMV 1.0, which he described as “a modified service common Humvee” that has become “the longest running kind of workhorse vehicles for SOCOM.” While previous fleet plans had envisioned a pure fleet replacement of all GMV 1.0s with GMV 1.1 platforms (see “Active Production”) he said that the 1.0 “will stick around in the SOCOM inventory for a number of years as well. “Due to budget constraints, we won’t [receive] the full numbers of GMV 1.1s that we were targeting,” he added. “So you’ll see some mixed medium tactical mobility fleets with 1.0s and 1.1s for SOCOM. These vehicles are in active reset, so opportunities exist here to

continue to insert technology, suspension upgrades, and payload improvement-type stuff for this vehicle.” He continued, “The other vehicles in sustainment include three different variants of the MRAP fleet which remain in high demand. Those were very much service-common solutions, but by the time SOCOM got done with them, they became very unique SOF variants. A number of those [are] still in the inventory and I see them staying in the inventory for years to follow.” Reiterating that the MRAP fleet “is not unique to SOCOM,” he said that the platforms, which are approximately at their first decade mark, provide “a life-saving and game-changing capability for SOCOM, something that we intend to have around for years.” “Our focus is on continued sustainment and reset of this platform,” he said, “and we will also be moving into the planning of what the future MRAP for SOCOM is going to be.”

ACTIVE PRODUCTION SOCOM’s three active prime contracts are the GMV 1.1, the NSCV, and the LTATV. “GMV 1.1 is SOCOM’s biggest ground-up vehicle program,” Kittinger said. “We went this alone. It was a true SOF-unique solution based on the elimination of the JLTV [Joint Light Tactical


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Vehicle] variant that was going to meet our needs. So we ended up down that road.” Noting that “a big driving factor” of the GMV 1.1 program was MH-47 internal transportability, he added, “We also have unique to this platform a center drive capability that provides enhanced driver situational awareness as well as added security from having two side passengers that can operate in the gunner positions. “The current contract is with General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems and Flyer Defense. We are in full rate production on that vehicle, which also includes an Army-directed requirement to procure and field an Army variant, a modified version of our SOCOM variant, a nine-passenger-type vehicle that’s fielded to their infantry brigade combat teams. So that was a big one for SOCOM. The Army is also buying a number of vehicles for our USASOC [U.S. Army Special Operations Command] Special Forces components and helping to ensure that we’re getting the guys what they need,” he said. He noted that 2018 witnessed the first deployments of the GMV 1.1s, which led to “some solid praise downrange with its improved off-road vehicle mobility as compared to the aging fleet that we’ve got downrange. There has been positive feedback there.” Kittinger said that the program focus is now shifting toward capability upgrades on GMV 1.1, citing examples ranging from lightening the load through the use of lightweight armor to the implementation of some sort of hybrid electric propulsion design. “We have dedicated funding in FY 20 and 21 for that [hybrid electric] capability,” he said. “At the moment, it’s very loosely defined. What does hybrid electric mean to SOCOM? And that’s what we really have to figure out with our operators. So, during the course

The GMV 1.1 improves upon the mobility of the GMV 1.0 and is internally transportable in an MH-47.

of the rest of this fiscal year, we intend to start doing a case study or an analysis of alternatives to go through things like whether that means fully electric, a series hybrid, or some combination of something else. And we will explore the tradeoffs of each. We have got to do that with our operators to better inform their requirements, so we can execute those dollars in FY 20. So you’ll see us moving into that. Some of that may be ‘Fed Biz Opps’ opportunities. Some of that may be via industry collaboration events at our SOFWERX facility in Tampa. We’re still trying to define what that’s going to be.” Another production system involves the Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle (NSCV). The NSCVs are provided by Battelle Memorial Institute at an annual rate of approximately 70 vehicles per year under a contract that runs through FY 23. Kittinger said that initial emphasis on producing modified Toyota vehicle platforms was recently expanded to include a modified Ford design, adding, “We are AOR [area of responsibility] dependent on what vehicle types we [deploy], but obviously trying to blend in with the local populace.” “This capability has been around in SOCOM for almost 15 years, probably starting in the mid-2000s,” he said. “It’s a heavily modified commercial vehicle enhanced with armor, electrical mods, SOF commo [communications] radio packages, and electronic countermeasure packages.” He acknowledged that unique SOF demands on these platforms include “a very aggressive payload and a very aggressive off-road


Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting .50-caliber weapons training in 2017, during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria with two generations of Ground Mobility Vehicle.

mission profile” that combine to drive a number of the platform modifications. “We are continually looking for upgrades in this vehicle. … So we have opportunities for technology insertion into this,” he noted. “The No. 1 focus on this platform is lightening the load. By the time we’re done with these vehicles, they’re well over 10,000 pounds after we put four SOF operators and their kit and mission payload in there. That severely decreases and taxes the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] frame. So we’re looking for your help on lightweight armor solutions and then also any lightweight vehicle components that we’re using on these platforms.” In addition to seeking industry support to lighten the vehicle, he pointed to the communications package as an area where SOCOM would like to seek cost reductions. “We always struggle to maintain pace with SOF radios,” he said. “And SOF radios are going through a technology insertion themselves,


Special Operations Outlook

which will drive new vehicle mounts, vehicle amplifiers, antenna packages, and whatnot to these vehicles. And I’ll tell you right now, our commo package in that vehicle almost makes up a third of the cost of the vehicle alone. So we’re looking for cost reduction efforts there to ensure that we can maximize our dollar across the board.” He also pointed to the extreme SOF mission profiles for these vehicles as leading to an approximate three-year life for downrange operations and five-year life for home station training assets. “We’re looking for some kind of a black box-type data-logging capability that can help allow us to better understand the true life of the vehicle. Because I’ll tell you that, on an annual basis, we definitely have to replace vehicles that should not have been replaced. So we’re looking to better understand that life cycle: Tell us about the terrain; tell us about its true life; and allow us to more effectively execute dollars from life cycle replacement of these platforms.” Kittinger said that SOCOM’s Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles (LTATV) started several years ago in an effort to provide operators with “a highly flexible and easily transportable and reconnaissance type vehicle. “Our first solution was a modified COTS [commercial off the shelf] vehicle from Kawasaki,” he explained. “But we did all of the government modifications ‘in house’ and kind of learned our lessons that




we weren’t the best integrator and those platforms didn’t have the best life cycle.” In response, SOCOM shifted to what he described as “one-stop shopping for a militarized OEM solution,” which is currently provided by Polaris Government & Defense, with its MRZR series platforms. “The contract that we have with Polaris expires in FY 20, and we’ll be moving into an acquisition phase for a competitive full and open competition on that [follow-on LTATV],” he said. “The team is actively putting together that RFP [request for proposals]. We hosted an industry day back in November [2018] and had over 25 different industry partners come in interested in that capability.” He added that a future system would likely target “increased capability on the platform” as well as “some hybrid electric options.”

CONCEPT VEHICLES Shifting to SOCOM’s “concept” vehicle designs, Kittinger described them as “in requirements refinement or operational evaluation.” The three major platform categories here are the V-22 Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), Purpose Built Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles, and Next Generation Armored Ground Mobility System (AGMS).

Acknowledging that SOCOM currently has a V-22 internally transportable vehicle in the form of its LTATV, Kittinger explained, “It’s still a COTS solution. It still has a short life cycle attached to it. So we’re looking at trying to go to a more durable, rugged platform that has some increased capabilities, increased payload, heavy weapons capability, and in some kind of V-22 60-inch [wide] window. “The Marine Corps is doing efforts on that that we are monitoring and well connected into at the moment,” he added. “So we’re not really trying to drive the train on that. But we are monitoring and we’ll go from there.” The concept of Purpose Built NSCVs transitions from the current approach of enhancing commercial vehicle platforms to meet SOF requirements to one that builds visually similar vehicles on a platform that is initially designed for SOF use. Reiterating that current NSCVs are modified Toyotas and, more recently, Fords, he asserted, “They have a short life cycle attached to them once we put them in the SOF operator hands and deploy them worldwide.” Under the Purpose Built NSCV concept, SOCOM is looking for a vehicle platform that could be sent through depot or industry reset to achieve a 10-year to 15-year life cycle. “So, while my up-front cost may be more, over the life cycle of this vehicle the investment and sustainment costs will be significantly decreased,” Kittinger explained. “The other target of this is that we’re going to move away from the complex engine and vehicle electronics that exist on these Toyota platforms and continue to evolve. We also will get out of the cyclic nature of OEM model year changes that drive new designs and new testing and ultimately drive our costs and our schedule on an annual basis. ‘Purpose Built’ will help that. We will have a controlled baseline vehicle that has a drive line package that we can manage and control and understand its life cycle, and get out of that evolution that we’re currently in from Toyota kind of controlling what we do.” He continued, “We’re looking for a flexible vehicle type that can change vehicle skins [that] allow it to change colors on a quick basis as well as also change from a vehicle type, maybe from a truck to an SUV or from one truck to another. This provides us mission flexibility when shifting in a vehicle from one AOR to another; I can still have it look like what it needs to look like in that AOR.” As of this writing, SOCOM is receiving industry white papers on the Purpose Built concept, with the evaluation of those papers leading toward a proposal process that will likely award multiple Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) for prototype platforms. “We will put them in the test gauntlet, run through various tests – safety tests, performance tests – and then ultimately put them in our operators’ hands and do a little user evaluation over the course of FY 20,” he said. “A follow-on production contract is planned pending successful completion of the OTA [testing]. That would be in the FY 21 time frame.” The Next Generation Armored Ground Mobility Vehicle concept answers a question that is seldom asked: What is the future for SOCOM heavy armor? One of the reasons for that is that SOCOM seldom talks about its current AGMS capabilities, which it has in the form of a small number of Pandur armored vehicles from General Dynamics. Acknowledging that the February 2019 update marked “the first time we have briefed industry on this,” Kittinger explained, “We have a limited number of armored personnel carriers within the SOF inventory. They are also in their end of life here in the next five to 10 years, as will be the MRAPs. That’s all the heavy armor capability for SOCOM.




“We’re looking to see whether we can blend those two requirements together and kind of get a joint solution for SOF,” he said, adding, “A key driver is in MRAP type protection while still being able to fit in a C-130. And, while MATVs may fit in C-130s, it takes multiple to be able to travel around the battlefield. “You will see us having all our operators doing an evaluation of the Pandur and the MATV later in the year, trying to figure out if they can find a way to blend the two requirements,” he said. “That’s the first answer that we need to have. And from there, we’ll either move on into two separate paths or we’ll move into a joint solution. He noted that the current Next Generation AGMS concept development phase targets determining/finalizing AGMS replacement requirements “by FY 22,” with the program really kicking off in the FY 22 to FY 23 time frame “for some form of most likely an OTA prototype, since this really fits the bill of an OTA, with follow-on production.” In addition to SOCOM’s program of record, the command is also monitoring the JLTV program. The U.S. Army began fielding its JLTVs in January 2019 and, as of this writing, the Marine Corps is scheduled to begin its fielding at the end of February. “JLTV is a service program that SOCOM is monitoring closely,” Kittinger said. “Where it fits into the SOF family of vehicles we do not know yet, but we intend to have our operators this year get


Special Operations Outlook

behind the wheel in some of these, start giving us that feedback on what capability this can provide for SOF. The services are already going to be fielding these. Our target right now is to limit the SOF mods so that this doesn’t become a unique variant like it did for MATV and MRAP. So you’ll see us really targeting commo and jammer type integration on this platform.”

TECHNOLOGY INSERTION Building on that theme, Kittinger pointed to a SOCOM and FoSOV acquisition philosophy that “targets service solutions or modified service solutions with SOF mods. And when those aren’t available, we will go it alone, attempting to do COTS, modified COTS, or other non-developmental item solutions.


Above: Personnel from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula cross a highway median in order to avoid unnecessary stoppage during a convoy of new RG-33 vehicles to Baghdad, June 2, 2008. The RG-31 and RG-33 MRAPs remain important vehicles in the SOCOM inventory. Right: A Marine sniper with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command provides security from the back of an M-ATV during a medical engagement as part of a pre-deployment exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. USSOCOM is evaluating its heavy armored vehicle needs for the future.



A key aspect of that involves technology insertion. As reflected in some of the platform descriptions provided above, FoSOV research and development efforts have traditionally been focused on incremental improvements to the vehicles. “That has been due to the budget,” Kittinger stated. “But the [research and development] budget is increasing for us in our ground mobility office. So we need to start moving away from the incremental-only approach and start looking at game-changing technology and the insertion of that. That doesn’t always mean that SOCOM is going to be the one driving the train. We will rely heavily on our government labs – the DARPAs and our service counterpart research labs. … We’ve got the money to do so now to get it out in the hands of operators. And if it is ‘fail faster,’ that’s what we’ll do to try to get the feedback and move forward in the right direction.” In terms of specific technology needs, he pointed to the repeating themes of lightweight armor and hybrid electric propulsion, as well as the exploration of autonomous capabilities. In the case of autonomous operations, for example, he offered, “The LTATV is currently our first platform for autonomy. I’ll certainly say that SOCOM is not leading the charge on that, but really monitoring what our Army counterparts are doing. We believe this vehicle provides a capability with autonomy. It just is yet undefined by SOCOM. So I think we will continue to monitor all that. And as SOCOM is often the proving ground for some service-type solutions, we will look to leverage their capabilities to put out in our operators’

U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group prepare to board a Hawaii Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 21, 2019, at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with their LTATVs and GMV 1.1s.

hands a little bit early to get some operational feedback and help define our requirements.” The next step in that process will likely involve industry responses to a draft RFP slated for release in early 2019. “We are seeking your feedback on the performance specs that are in there,” Kittinger said. “There’s a very loose definition of autonomy. We’re just really trying to ensure that we embed hooks into the vehicle to make it ‘autonomy ready’ when we’re ready to start deploying that capability.” Along with industry feedback to things like draft RFPs and industry day events, he added, “We also have a SOFWERX facility in Tampa that allows industry to come in and connect with [program management] representatives as well as the operator representatives. So, on a lot of these capabilities, I see us employing their expertise and their manpower to set up events and learn what industry has to offer, as well as conceptually what CONOPS [concepts of operation] we can use to employ the technologies. The big thing with autonomy is that we can’t put it on paper, because we don’t have the CONOPS defined as to how it could improve mission effectiveness by doing X, Y, or Z. But you’ll see that in the future.”


INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES SOF’s Strategic Shift Toward State-on-State Unconventional Warfare

the international special operations forces (ISOF) commuq With nity still heavily engaged with countering violent extremist organizations (VEOs) around the world, senior commanders are growing increasingly concerned with maintaining the tactical advantage over near peer and high capability adversaries across more contested areas of operation. Nowhere is this threat more prevalent than across NATO’s eastern border with Russia, where an ISOF community remains on high alert following Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine. Indeed, Russia’s ongoing employment of information warfare across this particular area of responsibility continues to drive ISOF developments regarding how best to operate in command and control denied and disrupted environments (C2D2Es). Multiple concepts aimed at enhancing such capabilities across ISOF continue to be led by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) through its increasingly capable “Global SOF Network,” which includes NATO’s Baltic partners of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as well as Poland, Georgia, and non-NATO entity Ukraine. Concerns regarding this emerging operating environment in Eastern Europe were clearly defined by USSOCOM’s outgoing commander, Gen. Tony Thomas, as well as members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services (SCAS) during a committee hearing on Feb. 14, with officials highlighting “growing focus on competition with China and Russia – our peer competitors.” The committee heard how Russia, as well as China, continued to create military advancements that pose “new and increasingly complex challenges” to U.S. national security, with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (SO/ LIC) Owen West proclaiming: “This is a unique time to serve the SOF


Special Operations Outlook

enterprise because it is an inflection point. … The National Defense Strategy has challenged all of the Department of Defense to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China. … In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the SOF enterprise, challenging professionals to innovate relentlessly in pursuit of decisive competitive advantage.” Highlighting the importance of ongoing collaboration with the ISOF community, Thomas disclosed: “Our SOF network, integrated with interagency and international partners, is focused on producing unorthodox yet complementary capabilities and solutions in support of U.S. policies and objectives. We continue to maintain strong, enduring international partnerships while leveraging authorities and core expertise to convert indigenous mass into combat power to deter, deny, disrupt, and ultimately defeat our adversaries. “To build a more lethal force, strengthen our alliances and partnerships, and reform for greater performance and efficiency, we are reshaping and focusing our current forces and capabilities while simultaneously developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse missions that SOF will face in the future,” he explained. Much of USSOCOM’s focus – in partnership with ISOF partners – remains on its three major mission sets, which include counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; and the most recent addition, messaging and counter-messaging designed to negate U.S. airmen assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct freefall airborne operations near Kiruna, Sweden, Feb. 24, 2017. The Arctic winter training included four weeks of basic winter warfare exercises.







mature information operations currently being mastered by Russian armed forces and intelligence organizations. “SOF has a long tradition of solving hard problems, adapting to changing conditions, and fielding innovative technology and tactics to give us the decisive advantage in combat,” Thomas said. “We believe that this tradition will continue to serve us well in the future. We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence and machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, just to name a few. “We are in the formative stages of establishing an experimental force which will more coherently focus and integrate our future force, development in the pursuit of the required peer competitor capabilities.”

ISOF PARTNER SUPPORT With an international presence covering more than 80 partner nations around the world, USSOCOM’s influence on the ISOF community continues to gather pace as the Global SOF Network is further extended. As West explained to the SCAS, forward deployed SOF elements represent a “vanguard force [tackling] our most pressing challenges in the most hostile environments.” Cooperation across the global network includes close collaboration and 95 percent funding of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) as well as the U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) Theater Special Operations Command, which is tasked with strengthening European security collective capabilities and interoperability as well as countering transnational threats. As an example, NSHQ and SOCEUR, as well as multiple ISOF partners including Poland’s Special Operations Component Command (POL SOCC), remain heavily involved in the shaping and development of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces, which continue to conduct counter-insurgency operations at home as part of the joint forces operation. On Feb. 15, Ukraine’s SOCOM convened with ISOF partners to discuss how best to counter Russian proxy forces currently operating


Special Operations Outlook

in the country, as well as consideration of threats posed by potentially invasive Spetsnaz brigades from within Russia. Addressing the media after the event, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Gen. Viktor Muzhenko explained how the current security situation in the region had been discussed by senior service commanders, before adding: “The general staff analyzed the actions of the special forces of the Russian Federation, and we already prepared the plans for counteracting various scenarios of crisis situations. Our task is not to slow down the pace of introduction of new standards in training, technical equipment, and comprehensive provision of domestic special operations forces.” The event was supported by the U.S., U.K., Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, and Denmark, as well as Canada, thereby illustrating a collective ISOF resolve to enhance Ukraine’s special operations capabilities. Concerns regarding Russia’s information warfare capabilities arise at a time when Russian SOF continue to receive significant investment from the Kremlin, including the acquisition of next-generation materiel upgrades as described on Feb. 27 by President Vladimir Putin, who announced ongoing “reinforcement and development” in Russian Spetsnaz brigades in order to ensure “security, sovereignty and national interests.” Addressing SOF personnel in Moscow, Putin said that Spetsnaz brigades continued to demonstrate “tactical skills for special operations on the ground, in the air and at sea,” supported with technology designed by indigenous manufacturing bureaus. Russia’s emphasis on rebuilding its own SOF capabilities has seen Spetsnaz brigades equipped with a series of next-generation technologies to support ongoing operations in Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East. Solutions include the purchase of multi-purpose all-terrain vehicles, fast attack craft, swimmer propulsion vehicles, and rotary-wing airframes. Russian aggression in Eastern Europe has also led to a series of doctrinal shifts in the ISOF community as commanders seek to optimize their own special mission capabilities as well as interoperability with ISOF partners. Examples include the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF), which, on Jan. 10, disclosed plans to extend the Special Operations Brigade’s (SOB’s) order of battle. According to Chief of the General Staff of the GAF Maj. Gen. Vladimer Chachibaia, the SOB will realign its strategic objectives to allow special mission units to more autonomously react to internal security breaches. In 2017, Georgian SOF were certified up to NATO standards for special operations. Conducted under the auspices of the NSHQ, any reconfiguration is expected to include the establishment of a second, permanent operating base to augment the SOB’s current headquarters in the capital city of Tblisi. One course of action open to the SOB will be the relocation of the SOB’s Naval Special Warfare Group to an alternative base somewhere along Georgia’s Black Sea coast, allowing for more responsive maritime counterterrorism capabilities by fast attack craft. Elsewhere, SOF components in Central Europe have responded to events in the contemporary operating environment with plans to pool resources in order to establish a Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC).


Ukrainian special operations forces and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a raid during exercise Combined Resolve XI at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Dec. 10, 2018. During Combined Resolve XI, an exercise with more than 5,500 participants from 16 nations, SOF conducted operations in enemy-occupied territory to support and interoperate with conventional forces.

Estonian and U.S. SOF during exercise Trojan Footprint 18 in Estonia, June 2, 2018. Approximatelly 2,000 special operations forces and armed forces personnel deployed to the Baltic region for the exercise.

Officially announced by NATO on Feb.13, SOF components from Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Austria signed a letter of intent to support the venture, which aims for the creation of a “deployable R-SOCC for small joint operations.” The move follows a similar and ongoing effort by SOF components from Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands to establish the Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC), which aims to support NATO operations in 2020 and beyond. Development of the R-SOCC will be led by Hungarian SOF. A NATO statement described the concept’s aim as “dramatically [increasing] the ability of these five nations to effectively employ their special forces.” “The non-permanent structure of the R-SOCC enables each participant to use its own contributions separately, while benefitting from the integrated R-SOCC structure once activated for a deployment. The new multinational command will be developed in line with NATO standards, leveraging the expertise of NATO’s Special Operations Headquarters in Mons, Belgium. While primarily intended for NATO and European Union [EU] operations, the command could participate in other multilateral missions, exercises or training,” NATO’s statement concluded. The agreement was praised by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, who described it as “a significant step forward in strengthening special operation forces capacities in the region, and towards a fully integrated multinational regional command element.” Defense sources also explained to Special Operations Outlook that Baltic State SOF components are also considering the creation of some kind of similar R-SOCC. However, defense sources from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were unable to provide comment as Special Operations Outlook went to press. However, ISOF support in Eastern Europe is not only restricted to doctrinal developments. From Dec. 1-11, 2018, SOCEUR organized Exercise Combined Resolve XI (CbR XI) at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany, to “improve readiness

and interoperability amongst allies and partners” across NATO’s eastern flank. The exercise, which involved SOF components from the U.S., Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (now the Rebublic of Northern Macedonia) , Romania, and for the first time, Ukraine, was designed to assist in the visualization of the command and control of joint forces in a simulated scenario. According to a senior officer from Ukraine’s 3rd SOF Regiment, the exercise provided Ukrainian operators with the opportunity to “… learn new military standards” from ISOF and non-SOF partners. “The main achievement for us [was] the coordination of SOF with NATO conventional forces. We were able to observe targets for the brigade Tactical Operations Center and disseminate information concerning those targets and call for fire. We also conducted special reconnaissance and direct action missions on high value targets with multinational Special Operations Task Units,” the senior officer said. An official exercise announcement published by SOCEUR described how the training provided Ukraine SOF with the “ability to increase readiness, showcase their capabilities, and share and refine lessons learned from recent combat experience.” “Ukraine SOF are an increasingly capable partner, who through events like CbR XI are proving their ability to work alongside U.S., allied, and NATO SOF counterparts,” the statement read. “[Ukrainian SOF] understand the importance of special operations forces and conventional forces integration. Ukrainian SOF dedicated two of their personnel to act as liaison officers at the brigade level to facilitate communications with units on the ground. The brigade often relied on SOF to identify strategic level targets, coordinate the passage of friendly lines during limited visibility, coordinate resupply missions, and share intelligence about major enemy movements,” it continued. The exercise also highlighted the importance of joint operations conducted by SOF in support of conventional units. As an example, exercise scenarios included coordinated resupply missions conducted by conventional units to extend the operational longevity of SOF small unit teams conducting special reconnaissance and calls for fire. “We took part in the operation planning process, support, and command and control of operations according to NATO planning





TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT As defense sources associated with Ukraine’s SOCOM described to Special Operations Outlook, SOF small unit teams also remain dedicated to enhancing technological capabilities to assist in operations across C2D2Es similar to those currently being witnessed in eastern Ukraine. In the United States, for example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) continues to pursue the System of Systems Enhanced Small Units (SESU) concept to support SOF teams operating in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments and C2D2Es. Having conducted an initial industry day on March 18, 2019, DARPA aims to identify equipment capable of supporting SOF small unit teams


Above: Slovakian special operations forces provide security Nov. 14, 2018, in Slovakia as part of the Advanced Combat Leaders Course. SOF from Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia attended the U.S.-led ACLC, a train-the-trainer course designed to improve SOF lethality in close quarters battle. Below: Polish and Slovakian special operations forces enter and clear a building after using a flash grenade Nov. 14, 2018 in Slovakia as part of the Advanced Combat Leaders Course.

SOF sources confirmed, before describing how POL SOCC had wanted to implement its own train-the-trainer program on an annual rotation. “So, we reached out to [Lithuanian and Slovakian SOF] and asked them to send their best and brightest as far as who they want to be instructors within their own elements,” the 10th Special Forces Group source concluded.


templates. Now we have advanced experience for performing tasks together with NATO units and also in joint forces operations,” the Ukrainian SOF officer said. Another U.S. SOF participant concluded: “This exercise demonstrated to all the participating elements that we need more SOF and conventional forces integration if we want to be successful in future conflicts.” Elsewhere, SOCEUR also supported the inaugural Advanced Combat Leaders Course (ACLC) in Lest, Slovakia, over the course of October and November, designed to provide an organic training capability for ISOF partners operating across NATO’s eastern flank. A second iteration of the “Train the Trainer” ACLC will be outsourced to POL SOCC in 2019, which, according to defense sources associated with the course, have already started planning the training program. “POL SOCC intends to expand the program and bring in more elements. They are definitely taking the head, as far as they are asking us what we would need to run this,” explained one anonymous U.S. SOF operator to Special Operations Outlook. “They are the ones who are doing all the backside support for it. This was sort of their trial run for when they are leading it next year.” The 2018 iteration of ACLC focused on similar content to U.S. Special Forces’ Advanced Urban Combat (SFAUC) Training, which retains a focus on close quarter battle and special insertion/extraction tactics, techniques, and procedures. “The purpose of this training collaboration is to train future instructors from NATO countries, and to build and strengthen the interoperability between allied forces, develop a standard operating procedure (SOP), and enhance the expeditionary capability of all those involved,” U.S.


Special Operations Outlook



U.S. Army special operations forces assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) climb a cliff face while conducting mountain warfare training in Mittenwald, Germany, July 18, 2018. Mountain warfare training is designed to improve movement over challenging terrain in many operational environments.

“to destroy, deceive, and/or disrupt the adversary’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities in order to enable joint and coalition multidomain operations at appropriate times and locations,” as well as “destroy, degrade, and delay the adversary’s maneuver capabilities,” according to DARPA’s solicitation. According to documentation obtained from DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, SESU’s main effort falls into the organization’s vision of “Mosaic Warfare,” which aims to provide SOF and conventional forces with “new asymmetric weapons via rapidly composable networks of low-cost sensors, multi-domain command and control nodes and cooperative manned and unmanned systems.” This ability to operate outside the effects of Russian information operations represents a significant hurdle currently being considered by the ISOF community with a series of assured communications solutions, ranging from the re-emergence of high frequency (HF) communications sets through to low probability of detection (LPI) and low probability of intercept (LPI) waveforms, and finally through the exploitation of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) channels, allowing units to “hide in the noise.” Disclosing recent communications evaluation and procurement activities in Eastern Europe, defense sources described to Special Operations Outlook how SATCOM continues to be rapidly and routinely disrupted by Russian forces (whether proxy or not). Such interference has led to an increase in demand for HF solutions such as Harris Corporation’s AN/PRC-160(V), which has already been delivered to multiple undisclosed SOF components in the AoR. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, a senior official at NSHQ discussed the importance of “primary, alternative, contingency, and emergency” communications capabilities in order to provide SOF small unit teams with multiple levels in connectivity redundancy when working in C2D2Es. “We are getting back to HF skills we lost because we were so network-centric. This is going to be a drive behind our next NSHQ J6 Symposium in May. We can help deliver that capability [to ISOF partners],” the source emphasized. Alternative technology solutions to assure communications in C2D2Es includes LPD/LPI waveforms that can be integrated into the latest software defined radios (SDRs). Development work in this field continues to be led by the U.S. Army’s Special Contested Environment Waveform Working Group and follows calls by USSOCOM’s Program Manager, Program Executive Office C4 Deb Woods, who describes this capability as a “major trend” moving forward. Addressing delegates at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida, last year, Woods described how both HF and LPD/LPI-enabled SDRs could be used to satisfy “emerging demand from the special operations community” seeking to overcome operational constraints associated with C2D2Es. Finally, multiple ISOF components continue to employ Spectra Group’s SlingShot applique antenna, which can convert VHF, UHF handheld, and manpack SDRs into “SATCOM On the Move” platforms to ensure connectivity in disrupted environments. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, Spectra Group Business Development Manager Billy Bingham highlighted how SlingShot’s electronic signature can be reduced through its reliance on commercial satellite constellations as opposed to dedicated military channels. “Indeed, there is an electronic signature that would be seen by electronic warfare assets. However, it is a commercial signature of which

there are many throughout the globe and It is therefore highly unlikely to be attributed to deployed SOF,” Bingham explained. Similar concerns were expressed to Special Operations Outlook by Capt. Jan Weuts from Belgium’s Special Forces Group, who warned that SOF operators must remain aware of “near peer jamming capabilities” across increasingly “gray zone” operating environments. Weuts called for SOF operators to become less reliant upon high technology solutions, particularly relating to C4ISTAR. Describing how SOF operators must remain “masters of no or low technology,” he warned: “Humans are more important than hardware. But the future SOF operator must be seen as a system for strategic effect towards man/machine-enabled strategic and tactical cognition, decisionmaking, and action.” Such a concept, he explained, could be achieved through a fully integrated C2ISR architecture, providing SOF small unit teams with reach-back to “tailored” open source intelligence analysis as well as collaborative mixed reality to support tactical decision-making. However, Weuts did warn that only relevant information must be selected and pushed down to SOF operators already immersed in high amounts of intelligence. “SOF operators will continue to remain the main system to influence a given conflict’s ecosystem, although artificial intelligence-enabled robots can have a supporting role. One can train for special reconnaissance and direct action, but one needs to educate SOF for military assistance and special warfare in the human domain,” Weuts concluded. In line with emerging operational requirements, the ISOF community looks set to continue expanding its global network – a move that will see increasing collaboration leading to solutions to overcome even the most restrictive constraints associated with the modern battlefield.



JOINT/COMBINED TRAINING WITH INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS The SOCPAC Model BY ANDREW WHITE collaboration between special operations forces q International (SOF) has never been stronger as commanders seek to extend levels in interoperability and cooperation with partner-nation forces around the world as well as their own force-multiplying effects. In the contemporary operating environment, it is not unusual to witness the conduct of joint training exercises featuring dozens of SOF components drawn from across the international SOF community. Examples include U.S. Africa Command’s annual Exercise Flintlock which, between Feb. 18 and March 1, saw a total of 18 NATO/ Non-NATO entity and North/West African SOF components coming together in Burkina Faso and Mauritania, with a focus on countering violent extremist organizations (VEOs). Tasked with organizing similar partnerships across the IndoPacific Area of Responsibility (AOR) is another U.S. Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) – Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) – whose remit is to support the Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) across one of the most densely populated and culturally, socially, economically, and geopolitically diverse regions in the world. As the commander of the USINDOPACOM, U.S. Navy Adm. Phil Davidson explained in a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on March 7, 2019, in Singapore, the Geographic Combatant Command continues to employ a “whole of government” approach to address a series of challenges across the region in order to “enhance our partnerships with all countries – big and small.” According to USINDOPACOM figures, the AOR features a total of 36 state actors that are home to more than 50 percent of the world’s total population. With some 3,000 languages spoken across the region, the Indo-Pacific is described as a “vital driver” to the global economy that is supported by major international shipping lanes and some of the largest ports in the world. Additionally, the Indo-Pacific AOR features 14 time zones covering 12 hours of the day, as well as encompassing 53 percent of the world’s surface area, much of which is maritime. Furthermore,


Special Operations Outlook

SOCPAC sources highlighted to Special Operations Outlook diverse challenges associated with extensive island chains. As an example, service officials described how the Philippines is home to 7,641 islands. Highlighting more than 70 years as a “largely peaceful” region, Davidson explained to IISS how such success had been achieved by the “willingness and commitment of free nations to work together in the rules-based international order, and the credibility of the combat power of USINDOPACOM, working alongside the militaries of allies and partners.” “We can use greater interoperability and information-sharing to ensure we collectively uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he urged, before stressing how he had witnessed precisely this type of concept prior to his address to the IISS with the opening of the Information Fusion Center and Regional Humanitarian Coordination Cell in Singapore. “There I saw the collaborative contributions of 18 countries, including the People’s Republic of China, in addressing maritime security and responding to potential humanitarian crisis response,” Davidson said.

Order of Battle A Sub-Unified Command Component of the U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at Marine Corps Base Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, SOCPAC’s commanding general is U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga. SOCPAC retains access to: USAF 353rd Special Operations Group USA 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) USN Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 USMC elements of MARSOC 1st Raider Battalion




Above: Multinational special operations forces (SOF) participate in a submarine insertion exercise with the fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and combat rubber raiding craft off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, July 9, 2018. Right: Members of a Philippine special operations forces team participate in fast rope insertion and extraction system training during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018 exercise, June 27. Twenty-five nations, more than 45 ships and submarines, about 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

Threat Environment Addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12, 2019, Davidson also warned how the Indo-Pacific AOR comprises a “… heavily militarized region, with seven of the world’s ten largest standing militaries and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations.” The Indo-Pacific features a range of challenges for U.S. force components and their partner-nation forces, including a nucleararmed North Korea, and China – which, according to Davidson, represents the “greatest long-term strategic threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Elsewhere, Russia remains an “active presence” across the region, which also features the ongoing threat of multiple VEOs, including ISIS affiliates that captured the Philippines’ city of Marawi in 2017. “Given these conditions, the strategic complexity facing the region is unique,” Davidson warned. “[But] with allies and partners, USINDOPACOM is committed to enhancing stability in the AsiaPacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, deterring


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Above: A CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20). Green Bay, part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), was in Thailand to participate in Exercise Cobra Gold 2019. Right: The 17th Special Operations Squadron conducts an airdrop during Cobra Gold 19. Cobra Gold is a Thailand and United States co-sponsored Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) and joint theater security cooperation (JTSC) exercise conducted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand.

aggression, and, when necessary, fighting to win. This approach is based on partnership, presence, and military readiness.” In order to “regain the advantage,” the USINDOPACOM continues to position its theater infrastructure across the wider AOR. This includes the deployment of SOCPAC force elements capable of supporting irregular and unconventional warfare. According to SOCPAC Public Affairs Officer Maj. Kevin Boyd, the SOCPAC TSOC “ensures a free and open Indo-Pacific alongside a constellation of like-minded allies and partners, united by mutual security, interests, and values in order to deter adversary aggression, protect the homeland, and be ready to fight and win in armed conflict.” Such a strategy is centrally supported by the deployment of Pacific Augmentation Teams (PATs) across multiple U.S. embassies in the AOR, which provide SOCPAC with a capacity to immediately respond to emerging situations. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, Boyd explained: “These liaison teams are military personnel assigned to SOCPAC and work within regional U.S. embassies alongside the U.S. Country Team to enhance coordination with the interagency and the host nation for USINDOPACOM.

“The PATs give USINDOPACOM the ability to rapidly respond to any crisis or natural disaster by having long-standing relationships with allies and partners built over time. This ability was most recently demonstrated by SOCPAC’s ability to have an operations officer on site at Tham Luang cave in Thailand within seven hours of a request for assistance from the Royal Thai Government. [The PAT] was able to provide the U.S. SOF search and rescue (SAR) team updates while they were flying from Okinawa, Japan,” Boyd continued.


Operational Case Studies

Above: Staff Sgt. Michael Galindo, 320th Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman, demonstrates patient care used during the transport of 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, Aug. 10, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. A search and rescue team was sent to Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand at the request of the Royal Thai government to assist in the rescue of missing Thai soccer players and their coach. Opposite page: Airmen from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) visit Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand to meet with Royal Thai military officials and authorities to assess conditions June 28, 2018, at Chiang Rai, Thailand.

In recent years, SOCPAC’s operational reach has spread from humanitarian aid/disaster relief (HADR) support in Sri Lanka and Nepal through to SAR tasks in Thailand and finally, support of counterterrorism missions in the Philippines. Over the course of 2018, SOCPAC supported a total of 367 operational partnership events, including 159 civil affairs operations; six counternarcotic/terrorism (CNT) deployments; 10 key leader engagements; and 29 military information support operations. Areas of operation included Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2017, SOCPAC responded to severe flooding in Sri Lanka when a PAT at U.S. Embassy Colombo leveraged both a Civil Military Support Element (CMSE) and U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA) (already in country for a joint combined exchange training (JCET) event) to rapidly re-mission for an HADR operation to respond to devastating flooding. Similar support was provided in 2015 when SOCPAC also supported an international response to the Gorka earthquake in

Nepal, which similarly involved the “re-mission” of two ODAs (again in country training with the Nepalese Army Mahabir Rangers). “The PAT and ODAs worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu and government of Nepal to conduct surveys to confirm access to remote areas and help focus the foreign relief effort and aid. That aid also included leading the lone civilian helicopter to Everest Base Camp to recover stranded mountaineers who were isolated after the earthquake-induced avalanche cut off ground access,” Boyd explained. On July 10, 2018, SOCPAC also famously supported the rescue of a junior soccer team from the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai, Thailand – again exhibiting the success of ongoing investment in joint training initiatives with Indo-Pacific partner nation forces. Personnel from AFSOC’s 353rd Special Operations Group supported the Royal Thai Army Special Forces Regiment and the Royal Thai Navy SEALs, according to Air Force Special Tactics Officer Maj. Charlie Hodges, who described how the two-week operation could easily have been inhibited by language and cultural barriers.

“The PAT allows SOCPAC and INDOPACOM to expedite crisis response when requested by the host government and enables short- or even no-notice response times to natural or man-made crisis or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) missions. This ability to rapidly provide immediate aid only comes from years of persistent partnership,” he said.


Special Operations Outlook





“We struggled at first understanding what was offensive and not offensive [to local partners]. We were very direct as far as what we felt needed to be done and how we could help the Thai SEALS. The Thai rescuemen, who had already been out there for some time, were very emotional and were working through that. We were able to come in and offer another perspective and a logically driven decision. We were also able to help make some of those hard decisions while working with the Thai SEALs. Overall, I think we benefited from working together,” Hodges asserted in a post-mission statement obtained by Special Operations Outlook. According to Boyd, SOCPAC managed to deploy an operations officer to the scene within 7 hours of an initial notification by the PAT, with personnel rapidly assuming an advisory role in support of Thai forces. SOCPAC then supported the multinational rescue effort, which required Thai SEAL operators and expert divers from around the world to conduct a rescue operation with self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) through 1.45 kilometers of submerged tunnels. At certain stages throughout the underwater complex, Thai SEALs and international partners were required to remove SCUBA equipment to pass through narrow gaps. The operation sadly resulted in the death of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan. However, as SOCPAC officials highlighted to Special Operations Outlook, operational focus since “9/11” has also significantly shifted toward countering VEOs and combating terrorism across the IndoPacific AOR. Indeed, one of the most recent examples of SOCPAC collaboration with partner-nations forces in this regard comprised the establishment of the U.S.-enabled Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which was created to advise and assist

the government of the Philippines in counterterrorism activities between 2002-2015. Acknowledging how SOCPAC continues to support the Philippines government in terms of ongoing counterterrorism activities, Boyd explained: “SOCPAC continues to assist the armed forces of the Philippines by providing operational advice and assistance to higher level commands for continued counterterrorism progress, humanitarian assistance, and civil-military cooperation.” Ongoing cooperation includes joint training initiatives to ensure interoperability in counterterrorism operations through focused training; counter-violent extremism workshops; and informationsharing and -gathering. On May 23, 2017, the armed forces of the Philippines initiated operations to recapture the city of Marawi from VEO combatant groups loyal to ISIS. Over the course of a five-month campaign, SOCPAC supported indigenous ground and helicopter assault operations with intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets. Cooperation with U.S. SOF followed the shutdown of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in 2015. But according to former commanding general of the AFP Special Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, the so-called “Battle of Marawi” has helped to reinstate cooperation with the international SOF community. Today, SOCPAC continues to facilitate the support of SOF advisors to the AFPSOCOM in order to support small through to larger training exercises, as had previously been the case ahead of operations to retake Marawi. “The DOD deploys special operations forces on a rotational basis to provide subject matter expert advice and assistance


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SOCPAC to their AFP partners. USINDOPACOM reported that advisory and assistance efforts [as of June 2018] included sharing information, enhancing surveillance capabilities and providing counterterrorism training and guidance,” an official DOD statement reads. Supporting the whole-of-government approach across the IndoPacific, SOCPAC also continues to place strong emphasis on close collaboration with other U.S. government agencies in the region. “When looking at one of SOCPAC’s missions, countering terrorism and violent extremism, special operations provides vital tools, but it requires partnership across the government and non-governmental spectrum to solve the root causes that lead to violent extremism,” Boyd said. “Therefore, we partner with law enforcement, judicial, education, agricultural, economic, and a host of other U.S. and partner-nation agencies, NGOs [non-government organizations] and private enterprises to develop solutions to the Indo-Pacific region’s most complex problems.”

Training Case Studies SOCPAC also continues to support an increasing number of training programs with partner forces around the Indo-Pacific AOR. In 2018 alone, SOCPAC supported a total of 27 Indo-Pacific training exercises as well as 77 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) events; six multinational workshops and conferences; and 47 subject matter expert exchanges. The list includes the Pacific Area Special Operations Conference, which is aimed at encouraging growing levels of multinational engagement across the AOR. Some of the most notable joint training exercises include the hosting of a SOF-specific training program during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, last conducted between June 27 and Aug. 7, 2018. Conducted across multiple exercise areas on and off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, RIMPAC resulted in the successful collaboration of force elements from the Indonesian Navy Special Forces (KOPASK A); Indian Navy Marine Commando forces (MARCOS); Peruvian Naval Special Forces; Republic of Korea Special Warfare Flotilla; Philippine Navy Special Operations Group (NAVSOG); and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Special Boarding Unit. Exercises were overseen by a combat dive and direct action ODA team from the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Group, with a focus on the development of concepts of operation (CONOPS), tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to support maritime counterterrorism, airborne insertion, ground assault, small boat, and submarine operations. As the commander of the ODA (who remains anonymous due to security concerns) explained during the exercise, the SOF element of RIMPAC had allowed SOCPAC to encourage interoperability as well as multi-national partnerships under the theme of the exercise – “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.” The exercise also provided Indo-Pacific partner-nation forces with access to scarce naval resources, including the Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776). The submarine was used to launch small boat operations in blue water conditions. Most recently, SOCPAC also supported the 38th iteration of the annual “Cobra Gold” exercise over the course of February. Hosted by Thailand, the exercise comprised the “Laydown” of Joint SOF components from the U.S. and Thailand as well as South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore – many of which were observing the exercise.

Participating force components comprised 454-strong U.S. SOF and 369-strong Thai SOF task forces, operating across air, ground, and maritime domains with support from MC-130J, CV-22, and HH-60H aircraft as well as Combatant Craft Assault and Combat Craft Medium surface vessels, according to SOCPAC exercise documentation. Conducted across five exercise areas spanning the northern half of Thailand, exercise serials focused on force integration training and mission planning; special reconnaissance; unconventional warfare; foreign internal defense; counter-IED; over-the-beach; joint visit, board, search, and seizures; direct-action raids; military operations in urban terrain; close air support; and airborne operations (both static line and military freefall). Exercise serials were supported by a variety of specialist capabilities, including containerized delivery systems; special insertion techniques; tilt-rotor air-to-air refueling; forward air refueling points; personnel recovery; and human network analysis. Finally, SOCPAC continues to explore new opportunities across the AOR as the SOF capabilities of partner nations continue to evolve and increase themselves. As an example, SOCPAC is seeking to enhance levels in SOF cooperation with India – a country that remains in the final stages of establishing its own tri-service special operations division and command in order to encourage greater levels of interoperability between its various air, land and maritime SOF components. According to Boyd, Indian SOF and SOCPAC continue to explore potential for an inaugural tri-service training event, expected to take place in 2020. According to SOCPAC, the exercise would represent the first time force elements from Para SF, MARCOS, and Garud will train together and exclusively with U.S. SOF partners. However, SOCPAC confirmed planning processes had yet to commence. This evolution in the relationship between SOCPAC and Indian SOF follows the latest iteration of Exercise Vajra Prahar, conducted in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The 12-day exercise focused on counterterrorism capabilities and included small unit tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with ground and helicopter assault force operations.

Evolution and Expansion As Boyd described to Special Operations Oulook, SOCPAC continues to explore methods to “expand the network of compatible and interoperable allies and partners” across the Indo-Pacific AOR. This includes cooperation with U.S. partner TSOCs around the world, particularly relating to the threat of trans-regional crime and terrorism. “SOCPAC is working trans-regionally with the other TSOCs who are also very engaged with their partner nations. SOCPAC supports the sovereignty of a constellation of likeminded allies and partners who are willing to support the rules-based international order,” Boyd explained. However, he also warned: “This is something that is universal across all TSOCs. Long-term partnerships yield lasting military-tomilitary bonds. This enables shared understanding, mutual respect, and resilience against short-term change. They also enable other state-to-state linkages. “Being able to partner means that SOCPAC needs to maintain a very close relationship with the other Unified Combatant Commands to utilize their transportation assets,” Boyd concluded. SOCPAC looks forward to continuing to evolve its capabilities in line with partner-nation forces across the Indo-Pacific as international SOF components become increasingly interlinked in line with requirements arising out of a rapidly evolving contemporary operating environment.




the spring and summer of 2014, Army Staff Sgt. Lauren q InMontoya didn’t like what she was hearing from her doctors.


Special Operations Outlook

Team SOCOM Staff Sgt. Lauren Montoya runs a race during the 2018 Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2, 2018.

Her left leg was amputated below the knee in April 2015 and soon a military medical evaluation board, after hearing a case presented with help from Care Coalition advocates, declared Montoya fit for active-duty military service. Today, Montoya is married, with a daughter, and stationed at SOCOM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, a member of the Care Coalition staff helping plan the 2019 Warrior Games. She knows the games well, as an athlete who trained, competed, and won medals in multiple events in the 2016 Invictus Games and 2018 Warrior Games. She’ll also be competing in the 2019 games, which she’s decided will be her last, for two reasons: She wants to step aside and let other wounded warriors have the same opportunities she’s had.


“They were telling me I probably wasn’t going to walk again,” she said, “and that I should stop thinking about staying in the military.” On March 22 of that year, Montoya, a member of an all-female Cultural Support Team (CST), manning a .50-caliber machine gun on an RG-33 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, was returning to base after a day of reconnaissance in and around Kandahar, Afghanistan. The vehicle struck a buried improvised explosive device (IED) that caused an avalanche of heavy equipment to land on her left leg, crushing her heel bone, rupturing her Achilles tendon, and damaging muscles and nerves throughout her lower leg and foot. She was evacuated, evaluated, and treated at hospitals in Kandahar, Bagram, Landstuhl, and finally San Antonio, where doctors were determined to salvage her leg if possible. Over the next year, Montoya endured limb salvage treatments that included nine surgeries, and she wasn’t any closer to walking. She was in pain, tired of getting around with the use of either a wheelchair or crutches. She decided it was time to argue forcefully for the life she wanted, rather than the one doctors projected for her: She wanted to lose the leg and keep her job. As a member of special operations forces (SOF), Montoya knew she would have potent allies: the U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition), formed in 2005 to advocate for and support SOF who return home wounded, ill, or injured. Almost immediately after her injury, an advocate from the Care Coalition was ready for Montoya, and somebody from the program reached out to her every step of the way, from Kandahar to San Antonio. Once Montoya had made the final decision about her leg, she said, she turned to the Care Coalition. “They don’t really take no for an answer,” she said. “My advocate listened to me and … essentially said, ‘Okay, that’s what you want to do, so now we’re going to go and we’re going to fight.’” The advocate, Montoya said, “found doctors who were going to listen to what I was saying about how miserable I was, in trying to save a leg that didn’t even work and was never going to work again. They found opportunities outside of normal military medicine.”




And she wants to be ready if the military needs her to serve in any other capacity. “I’m in the Army,” Montoya said. “And we are still at war. I came into the service wanting to do my job, and now I have the opportunity to do that, because I’ve fought to come back and be deployable and go back to work.”

The Care Coalition The program that helped Montoya to become what she wanted to be was launched under the tenure of Gen. Bryan Douglas “Doug” Brown, the commander who transformed SOCOM to meet the demands of the war on terrorism. During Brown’s tenure, he convinced the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress to increase SOCOM’s size by 40 percent and its budget by $20 million, training and equipping more special operators and giving them the skills and materiel they needed to fight. Brown took command of SOCOM wanting to transform not only the way special operators fought, but also the way they experienced their return from service, especially if they were wounded, ill, or injured. “I grew up in special ops,” he said, “and the motto we always heard was: ‘Once you’re in SOF, you’re in SOF for life.’” During one of his periodic visits to the Walter Reed National Military Center, Brown met a wounded special operator who made him think about the real meaning of the “SOF for Life” motto. The

Above: Care Coalition athletes play wheelchair basketball during the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) All Sports Camp in Tampa, Florida, March 14, 2019. The camp was designed to develop the SOCOM team roster for the 2019 Warrior Games. Below: U.S. Army Gen. Bryan “Doug” Brown speaks with former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates prior to the U.S. Special Operations Command change of command ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, July 9, 2007. Brown, who had commanded SOCOM since September 2003, was retiring from active duty after 40 years of service to the nation.

operator was a young man, wounded badly enough that he would be unable to live independently. “I was talking to his mother,” Brown recalled, “and she said, ‘I want to give him some privacy in his own life, but he can’t live without me.’” The mother wanted to expand the family garage into an apartment for the young man, but didn’t have the money to pay for the remodel. As generous as the DOD and VA assistance programs were, it wasn’t possible to use taxpayer money for the remodel – but Brown knew a number of new charities had been founded since the beginning of the war, chartered expressly to help returning service members. Probably, Brown thought, he could turn to them for help. He wasn’t yet sure where to start, however, and he faced a bigger problem: SOCOM didn’t have a mechanism for keeping track of wounded, ill, or injured special operators. According to Jim Lorraine, who at the time was an Air Force officer and flight nurse in the SOCOM Command Surgeon’s Office, the command had trouble matching the pace of 21st century communications technology: “Our SOF were getting wounded and then evacuated out so quickly,” he said, “that when they would show up at Landstuhl, someone would hand them a cell phone and they would call their family and say: ‘I just got wounded. Don’t worry about it.’ And … the commands had no idea that they’d even gotten wounded, because the reporting wasn’t keeping up with the speed of the evacuation.” For SOF, the problem was compounded by the fact that people were processed into the military medical system and the career transition programs of the individual service branches. “And then before you knew it,” said Lorraine, “a high-functioning Green Beret was out of the military.” Brown decided SOCOM needed its own organization to track special operators, evaluate their needs, and link them to organizations


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CARE COALITION “That wasn’t their job,” he said. “They were just so dedicated that on the weekends, they would do those kinds of things. Whatever it took to allow the family to be with the wounded is what they would do.” Soon Care Coalition partners had funded a small block of simple apartments where visiting family members could stay, and a couple of vans that could shuttle them on day trips to Walter Reed. The Care Coalition evolved rapidly, as did the roles and interplay between care coordinators – staff members focused solely on the needs of service members and their families – and liaisons, who had in-depth knowledge of the people and services at the facilities where clients were being cared for. Lorraine’s emphasis on medical and administrative advocacy was supplemented by his successor, Kevin McDonnell, who, after becoming director in 2011, added jobs and economic empowerment programs to the coalition’s efforts. The successes of the Care Coalition led to its recognition in 2013 by the Pentagon, and then by Congress, as the fifth DOD warrior care program, along with those belonging to each of the service branches. Still known informally within SOCOM by its original name, the Care Coalition, it’s now usually denoted to recognize both its new official status and its heritage: the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition).

The WCP(CC) Today

Army Col. Cary Harbaugh, U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Games 2019 director, briefs local media on the 2019 DOD Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida, Aug. 6, 2018. The games, scheduled from June 21-30, 2019, introduce wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans to paralympic-style sports. More than 300 athletes will compete in 14 events located in downtown Tampa and surrounding areas.

– military, VA, or nongovernmental – that could meet these needs for the rest of their lives. “I wanted these people to feel like they had a personal connection, a face from SOCOM and a voice at the end of the phone they always recognized,” Brown said. With the help of Dr. George Gamble, who remains deputy director of requirements for SOCOM, Brown designed a program and hired Lorraine to be its first director. The program launched with Lorraine and five employees. His first meeting with Brown, Lorraine said, was memorable: “[Gen. Brown] said: ‘I want you to No.1, find all of our wounded or injured since 9/11, because they’ve volunteered so many times that we owe it to them to help them and to connect them to services. And after you’ve found them all, I want you to advocate for them for life.’ And I said, ‘Anything else?’ And he said, ‘No, that’s about it.’” Lorraine and his staff, using a spreadsheet, tracked down 681 special operators who’d been wounded or injured by 2005 – and all but two of them were interested in working with the program, now known as the Care Coalition. While the staff worked on advocating for these warriors, the coalition sent its first two liaisons to Walter Reed, to connect with those returning home. Another was soon dispatched to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. To establish the collaboration necessary to advocate for clients over their lifetimes, the coalition invited representatives from every service branch, the military health system, and the VA to planning sessions. “We had all the experts in one room,” said Lorraine. Brown remembers the early days of the program, when two NCOs on the Care Coalition staff would drive to Fort Bragg to take care of family pets and allow service members’ spouses to visit Walter Reed.

Now recognized as a warrior care program on par with those of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, the program became more formalized as a part of DOD’s organizational structure. It was a necessary step, given the growth in the number of people it served, and it has involved certain trade-offs: The Care Coalition’s current director, Army Col. Cary Harbaugh, hired in 2014, found himself having to adapt to these. Where his predecessors had many constraints in its early years, Harbaugh now enjoys working with an apparatus and authority they didn’t have. Compared to the first years of the program, when Lorraine struggled to find those first 681 special operators to offer assistance, “We now service over 15,000 people,” Harbaugh said. “The sheer numbers have to change the way you do things. When Gen. Brown stood this thing up, he did it with about six people, and now I’m nearing roughly 150.” In the five years since Harbaugh first took over the program, the number of warriors supported by the Care Coalition has doubled. Today’s Care Coalition often begins its support of a wounded, ill, or injured warrior as a medical advocate. Before he was director of the program, Harbaugh was a client; an Army intelligence officer who served as director of intelligence at USSOCOM Europe from 2001 to 2004, Harbaugh was working in Africa when he contracted a blood infection that caused a series of health problems: strokes, blood clots in his brain and lungs, and a debilitating autoimmune response. It was a strange, poorly understood affliction, and the Care Coalition advocates worked to connect Harbaugh with the best available care. “Our job is to plead the case of the wounded warrior,” Harbaugh said. When appropriate or necessary, Care Coalition advocates often work to move clients out of the military health care system into facilities covered under the military’s TRICARE health insurance network – those with melanoma, for instance, may access the expertise of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, while those with liver cancer may consult with experts at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Lorraine recalled the story of Romy Camargo, a Special Forces soldier who was paralyzed from the shoulders down in September 2008 when a sniper’s bullet pierced his neck. After more than a year of intensive and often excruciating physical therapy, Camargo wanted to see if an experimental stem cell transplant might help rejuvenate the nerves in his spinal cord.




Special Operations Outlook

Maj. Sean Hoey, left, pauses for a photo while holding Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo’s certificate of retirement Feb. 26, 2015. Camargo, paralyzed from the neck down by a gunshot sustained in 2008, retired to focus on his nonprofit organization, the Stay in Step Foundation, whose mission is to serve wounded warriors.

debilitating diagnoses, both Harbaugh and Montoya confronted fateful examinations by a medical evaluation board (MEB), which could have medically retired them both. They each faced the board with the Care Coalition’s expert advocates on their side. “The Care Coalition,” said Harbaugh, “really not only helped save my life, but they helped my family through a crisis period and saved my career, too.” The most obvious difference between the Care Coalition and other warrior care programs is in the number of wounded, ill, or injured warriors who return to service: SOCOM’s retention rate is 74 percent, compared to an average of around 10 percent for the other programs. There are several possible reasons for this, said Harbaugh: First, the “special sauce” that makes one a special operator to begin with. “Our guys take 10 to 12 years to build,” he said, “They have to be uniquely tough people with the physical attributes and mental capacity to be able to be a special operator. We have people who have been built up to be resilient – and were resilient to start with, or they never would have made it through the screening to get into SOF in the first place.” Another key factor in that high retention rate, said Harbaugh, has been the support of the program from its leaders. Every commander who has succeeded Brown – Adm. Eric Olson, Adm. William McRaven, Gen. Joseph Votel, and Gen. Raymond Thomas – has stood behind the program, as well as every command senior enlisted leader. Harbaugh describes the incumbent, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick McCauley, as “one of those advocates who keeps


“The U.S. wasn’t doing stem cell treatments at the time,” Lorraine said. “We coordinated for him to go to Portugal for the stem cell treatments, and had DOD pay for it.” Today, Camargo runs his own nonprofit organization for helping people recover from spinal cord injury, Stay in Step, in Tampa. It sometimes happens, Harbaugh said, that a client may need access to a promising medical innovation that’s beyond the cutting edge of DOD and VA medicine, and for whatever reason isn’t covered under TRICARE. In these situations, when physicians believe such care might be beneficial to the SOF client, the Care Coalition can often turn to a willing charitable organization to help offset costs. In addition to helping clients access care that might otherwise be unavailable to them, the coalition, through its Benevolent Support section, assists service members, veterans, and their families by securing grants and other gifts and services that may close gaps in what DOD and VA can provide. For Montoya, whose family was from Austin, Texas, this meant the coalition connected them with organizations that donated gasoline gift cards to help finance their drives to and from San Antonio. The Fisher House Foundation provided housing for her visiting family members. “Initially,” Montoya said, “I was in the hospital for so long that my mom had to take time off of work. So they made sure she was able to get paid as my nonmedical attendant.” At the time, Montoya said, she and her family weren’t fully aware of how these expenses, big and small, could accumulate over time to comprise a considerable burden. The coalition’s Benevolent Support activities are designed to ease that burden. “The DOD and VA can only cover so much,” said Harbaugh. “They’ve got restrictions. Our benevolent organizations are there to assist families through these crisis periods.” Another focus of the coalition’s work is in helping wounded, ill, or injured special operators either continue their military careers, or transition into another career – or retirement, as a veteran receiving benefits and services. Faced with life-changing and potentially


Wounded, ill, and injured service members participate in a USSOCOM Warrior Games training camp at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on May 15, 2017.

us thriving by believing in what we do and ensuring we get the resources we need.” Finally, Harbaugh attributes the coalition’s success to its staff, most of whom come from within SOF themselves. “Most of them were special ops wounded warriors themselves,” he said. “They have a tremendous love for the people they serve. They’re unbelievably dedicated to giving hours that go beyond what normal government civilians and contractors work. And it takes that. It takes a passion and a heart for this.”


Future Battles In the five years since Harbaugh has taken charge of the program, the Care Coalition has changed dramatically in size and structure. Despite SOCOM’s relatively small size – it has about 70,000 personnel enrolled in Care Coalition – it’s the largest warrior care program in the Department of Defense. About 48 percent of the wounded warriors on active duty are enrolled in the SOCOM Care Coalition. This dramatic difference may be due in part to the fact that special operators remain actively engaged on the diverse and increasingly “multi-domain” battlefields of the Earth. “SOF continues to take hits,” Harbaugh said, “despite a lot of change in the dynamics and, certainly, severe reductions in combat wounds and losses in the conventional forces. The special ops force has not seen that abatement.” One of the challenges for the Care Coalition’s future will be the continuing need to accommodate growth: It seems unlikely, given existing doctrine and future scenarios that the military’s reliance on

special operators will decrease anytime soon. In addition to adding resources and personnel, Harbaugh is in the process of structuring the program so that each component footprint contains a unit of activity built like its counterpart at SOCOM Headquarters. “They’re like a battalion, so to speak,” he said, “and we are the group headquarters. I’ve put out these four operating nodes in order to federate a lot of the activity and not have it all run from the mothership here.” Another challenge for the future: As the program enters its 15th year of existence, some of its first clients are approaching middle age and acquiring a set of concerns that hadn’t initially occupied the program’s care coordinators. Today’s military, and special operators particularly, have endured 18 years of intense combat. Harbaugh, who is 60 years old, feels this acutely, both as a soldier and the program director. “This is unprecedented in U.S. military history,” he said, “that you have people who have grown up at war … and that population now moves into retirement age more battered than any in history. Yet we’ve got a VA that’s flooded with folks. I have concerns, and we have to be prepared to continue to support the growing need for care.” Despite these challenges, you won’t find anyone who’s worked for the Care Coalition, past or present, who thinks it won’t handle them. Lorraine, who left the program in 2011, is now president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit veteran advocacy group. “If it weren’t for Gen. Brown’s commitment and vision, this never would have happened,” he said. “Being a great soldier or sailor or airman or Marine isn’t about your brawn. It’s about your brain. You may hit an obstacle, but you can keep being part of the team. Gen. Brown allowed that to happen.” Harbaugh believes this just as passionately. “You are SOF for life,” he said. “We’re going to take care of you. And if you want to get back on the line, we’re going to fight to get you back on the line. That’s why we’ve got guys wearing prosthetics who are still out there kicking doors and taking out bad guys – because we’ve got people who still want to do that, and have got the capacity to do it.”



THE 2019 WARRIOR GAMES ‘‘Be Inspired’’ BY CRAIG COLLINS the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosts q When the Department of Defense (DOD) Warrior Games in Tampa,

Rob Hufford, Department of Defense Warrior Games athlete and Team Air Force member, is lifted up by his teammates after being awarded the “heart of the team” award for Team Air Force during the games’ closing ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018. To determine the recipients of the award, athletes representing each service team voted for the member of their team who they believe embodies the heart of their team.


Special Operations Outlook


Florida, in the last week of June 2019, it will be the 10th year of an event that has blossomed into an international adaptive multi-sport event, a showcase of the grit, determination, and fellowship of the world’s wounded, ill, and injured warriors. Founded in 2010, the first official Warrior Games were hosted by the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado – but there had been other competitions in the years leading up to them. As Army Col. Cary Harbaugh, director of SOCOM’s Warrior Care




Steven Davis, a Navy veteran, participates in the 2019 Navy golf trials at Naval Air Station North Island, California, March 19, 2019. Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor and NAS North Island were hosting the Navy Trials, in which athletes competed to qualify in 13 adaptive sports.

Lorraine said, organizers of the games wouldn’t allow the SOCOM team to choose a uniform shirt color – hence the white T-shirts. Lorraine’s lobbying effort was two-pronged: First, he argued the athletes at the games weren’t representing service branches, but individual warrior transition programs: the SOCOM Care Coalition, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor, and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. Second, he negotiated deals. He told the Navy, for example, that the Care Coalition would take only half the eligible SEALs; the Navy team could keep the rest. “I knew that if we got our foot in the door,” Lorraine said, “we would be able to stay. I was willing to give up anything: T-shirt colors? I didn’t care. Just let us have a team.” The first four annual Warrior Games were hosted in Colorado Springs by the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and they immediately captured the public’s interest. Britain’s Prince Harry, who was at the time a helicopter pilot in the British Army, participated in the opening of the 2013 games, and was so inspired by the games he created a similar event, the Invictus Games, launched the following year in London. The success of the games animated DOD leaders to throw the military’s support behind them and administer the Warrior Games as a DOD program, with a more formalized structure and event classifications. The games became more like the Olympics, with opening and closing ceremonies and each of the U.S. teams taking turns as hosts of the event: • The 2015 Warrior Games were hosted by the Marines and held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. • The 2016 games were hosted by the Army and held at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York. • The 2017 games were hosted by the Navy and, for the first time, held somewhere other than a military base or U.S. Olympic training facility. Athletes competed at sites in and around the city of Chicago, with opening ceremonies emceed by comedian Jon Stewart at Soldier Field. • The 2018 games, hosted by the Air Force, returned to Colorado Springs, where they were held at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “When you go to the Warrior Games now,” said Harbaugh, “you’d think you were at the Olympics, because it feels that way. It has the torch and the cauldron and the march of the teams, the pomp and ceremony. It’s grown as it’s evolved, and now it’s just a beautiful event.”

The Life-Altering Benefits of Adaptive Sports

Program (Care Coalition), remembers the games held from 2010 to 2014 were more like intramural competitions among wounded warriors from the different service branches. At the 2010 games, said Harbaugh, the SOCOM team was in its infancy stage. We were writing ‘Team SOCOM’ with markers on white T-shirts.” Jim Lorraine, the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served as the Care Coalition’s first director, explained why SOCOM athletes might have looked a little shabbier than other competitors: “None of the services wanted us to have our own team,” he said. Through much of his 2005-2011 tenure, Lorraine fought to get warriors who’d been served by the SOCOM Care Coalition to be recognized as a separate team at adaptive sports competitions, but the service branches were reluctant, for two reasons: They thought the Care Coalition’s team would take all the good athletes, and they thought recognizing a Team SOCOM would suggest special operations forces were service branch equivalent to the others. For a few years,


Special Operations Outlook

The Warrior Games can be traced to physical rehabilitation programs that sprang up in the wake of World War II, of which adaptive sports were a key component. Originally designed for rehabilitation and recreation, these sports soon became competitive. After the first official Paralympic Games were held in 1960, a number of organizations began forming in the United States to promote sports for people with physical disabilities. One of the first, Disabled Sports USA, was founded by disabled military veterans, and remains one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. According to retired Army Gen. Bryan “Doug” Brown, the former SOCOM commander who established the Care Coalition in 2005, adaptive sports played an important role in the program since its beginnings, when sports rehabilitation facilities were contracted to help clients improve their ability to perform physical functions. “They were very good at rehabilitation of guys with missing limbs,” he said. “The type of people who are in special operations are traditionally athletic, outgoing, and love to exercise. So those programs were a good fit.”





After the success of the inaugural Warrior Games in 2010, DOD launched its own program, now carried out at three medical treatment facilities: the Military Adaptive Sports Program (MASP). Administered by the DOD Office of Warrior Care Policy, the program attempts to enhance recovery by getting wounded, ill, and injured service members involved in ongoing, daily adaptive sports and activities based on their interest and ability. To those who’ve been clients of SOCOM’s Care Coalition, the benefits of adaptive sports often extend far beyond restoring physical function. “We use adaptive sports to promote wellness and inspiration,” said Harbaugh. “It really helps people heal emotionally.” When her Special Forces team was patrolling near Kandahar in March 2014, then-Sgt. Lauren Montoya suffered a severe leg injury from an IED blast, and spent the next year undergoing painful limb salvage treatments. Montoya had been a multi-sport athlete in high school, and had stayed fit by running countless laps around a makeshift track at her firebase in Afghanistan, but in the year after her injury, nearly every kind of movement hurt, and she was unable to walk even a quarter of a mile. As she imagined a life spent dragging around a useless and painful appendage, she tended toward

Army Sgt. 1st Class Brant Ireland from Team SOCOM celebrates accepting the flame for the 2019 Warrior Games as Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, then-commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, and Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, applaud during the 2018 Warrior Games closing ceremony held at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

despair. SOCOM’s Care Coalition helped her lobby to have the leg amputated, which was finally done in April 2015 – and within 45 days she was running on her new prosthetic leg. “Being part of the adaptive sports program prior to that, I think, affected my mental health more than my physical health, because I was really angry. I was frustrated at the process. And being around individuals who had either gone through the same process, or were just there offering moral support, was something I think really helped during that time.” Harbaugh, who took over the program just as Montoya became a client, saw this happening firsthand. “Adaptive sports brought her back to life,” he said. “I watched a very gloomy young woman who had been very badly injured and was going through limb salvage,


Chief Petty Officer Philip Fong rows during the indoor rowing competition of the Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018. The Warrior Games enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured service members through adaptive sports.

which was very painful, and ultimately made the choice to go the amputation route. And I watched that young woman in a dark, dark hole – you could tell she was there – crawl out of that to be fun and energetic and enthusiastic, a person who is a joy to be around.” Montoya competed in the 2016 Invictus Games and 2018 Warrior Games, medaling in multiple events. At last year’s games, in Colorado Springs, she competed in track, field, swimming, and seated volleyball, and won five gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. She’s carried the motivation that drove her to excel in adaptive sports, she said, into her career and family life. She’s married now, with a daughter, and after fighting to remain on active duty, she’s a staff sergeant on SOCOM’s Care Coalition staff, helping to coordinate the 2019 games in Tampa. “Whether you want to stay in the military or not, in order to thrive in any sort of capacity, you have to have that drive to want to do better, be better,” she said. “So having opportunities to ignite that feeling again was, at least for me, pretty crucial in making me stop – it’s too easy to feel sorry for yourself. But you realize a lot of people in similar situations are doing all of this stuff, so there is no reason for me to be upset or to feel like I can’t do something, because here are – whatever the injury, whatever the illness – here are these people trying to make the best of it.”

The 2019 Games Training for and competing in the Warrior Games has never been the primary focus of DOD’s MASP, but the games offer a showcase, a pinnacle event, for service members and veterans who participate


Special Operations Outlook

in adaptive sports throughout the year as part of their recovery and rehabilitation process. The 2019 games, hosted by SOCOM June 21-30 in Tampa, will feature about 300 service members and veterans representing the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and SOCOM. Athletes will also be competing from an unprecedented number of international teams, including the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defense Force, New Zealand Defense Force, Danish Defense, Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and Canadian Armed Forces. The roster of events includes archery, cycling, indoor rowing, wheelchair tennis, powerlifting, shooting, seated volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball – and, for the first time in Warrior Games history, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, and golf. The Tampa games will feature opening and closing ceremonies in Amalie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League. Other venues will include the Tampa Convention Center, the University of South Florida, the Eagles Golf Club in nearby Odessa, and the Long Aquatic Center in Clearwater. Cycling events will be held both at MacDill Air Force Base and on Tampa’s scenic Bayshore Boulevard. “It’s going to be an absolutely amazing event,” said Harbaugh. “It’s 300 athletes, about a thousand or more family members, and as many people in the Tampa community and surrounding areas as we can get out to fill these stadiums and show these wounded warriors how much the public appreciates their service and sacrifice.” One of the distinctive features of the Tampa games, Harbaugh said, is the degree to which they draw on the support of the community – an established tradition in the city that’s home to MacDill Air Force Base and SOCOM Headquarters. “The way this community supports the military and veterans is like no place I’ve been in this country,” said Harbaugh. Tampa’s community leaders have helped establish a new model for the Warrior Games, one that minimizes taxpayer costs while drawing in private-sector support in a way that respects the dignity and individuality of competitors. In accordance






Above: Retired Navy Lt. Isaiah Staley, a Care Coalition athlete, fires an air rifle during the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) All Sports Camp in Tampa, Florida, March 14, 2019. Right: Medalists celebrate their win in the indoor rowing event of the DOD Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on June 9, 2018.

with DOD rules, for example, operators of the various venues are offering discounted access. “That outpouring has been absolutely phenomenal,” Harbaugh said. Community support has kept the costs of the games down low enough that SOCOM is on track to refund some of the event funding to the DOD for its warrior care programs. It will be the first time in Warrior Games history that the program has been under budget. The support pouring in from the community, however, won’t take the form of corporate logos plastered all over venues or competitors. “Our model is community supported, not corporately sponsored,” Harbaugh said. “The only logo they should wear is the Warrior Games logo, which they earned.” To learn details about the 2019 Warrior Games and receive updates about events, competitors, and schedules, DOD maintains several online information portals, including its website (dodwarriorgames.com), a Facebook page (facebook.com/ WarriorGames) and Twitter feed (twitter.com/warriorgames). All of the games’ competitions are open to the public and free of charge. Visitors to the 2019 games will likely see Staff Sgt. Lauren Montoya, who will be competing for the last time. She’s battled, won, and made lifelong friends among her SOCOM team members

and other competitors. “You can’t stay forever,” she said. “You’ve got to move on and let other people get those same benefits. It’s fun for me now, but it’s no longer essential for my recovery. It’s something I do because I love it, and I love the team, and I love my teammates. But I know there are other people who are still getting deployed, still getting injured, still getting sick – and they need to have that opportunity to go through it, to find meaning and motivation or just to feel like part of a team again.”


MERRILL’S MARAUDERS, 1944 Special Operations Spearhead

BY DAVID C. ISBY called them Merrill’s Marauders. Officially, they y Journalists were the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional). To the transportation planners, they were Shipment 1688. Operationally, they were Galahad Force. The story of their campaign in the jungles of northern Burma showed the capabilities of this improvised force of American soldiers. They gained surprise by undertaking seemingly impossible marches through mountainous jungle and defeated numerically superior forces of the Imperial Japanese Army that previously had an aura of invincibility in jungle warfare. They gained and held their objective despite too few supplies, too much disease, planners that did not understand special operations forces (SOF) and, in the end, exhaustion. Some 75 years after they became the U.S. Army’s largest special operations force to be sent into battle in World War II, this unit – intended to last only for one 90-day combat mission – is part of the heritage of today’s Rangers.

The 5307th originated at the August 1943 Quebec Conference of the Anglo-American political and military leadership. The charismatic British Brigadier Orde Wingate described how he had organized the Chindits, SOF light infantry, and infiltrated behind Japanese lines in Burma. Politicians, generals, and public alike were hungry for news of victories from the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of war, where there had been little except defeats. Wingate offered hope of success in the CBI in 1944. President Franklin Roosevelt committed to send ground combat units to fight under Wingate. The chief of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, enabled the formation and deployment of what became the Air Commandos to support Wingate. The difficult coalition command relationships in the CBI – where U.S., British, and Chinese Nationalist strategic interests all widely differed – made it imperative that the United States have “boots on the ground” in Burma. The U.S. Army pulled together a force of volunteers, mixing combattested infantrymen that had fought the Japanese on Guadalcanal and in New Guinea, and others, jungle-trained, from garrisons in the Panama Canal Zone and Caribbean, with shortfalls made up from Army correctional facilities. A provisional force, intended for only one mission, its personnel arrived with no official commander or staff, no shared loyalties, no shoulder insignia, no colors, and limited cohesion. Few in the U.S. Army had any experience or knew about special operations, whether Wingate’s or any other model. U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Stilwell was tasked with keeping China in the war. He was openly hostile to the British, the Chinese Nationalist,


Special Operations Outlook


The Road to Burma

American troops of Merrill’s Marauders and the Chinese march


side by side down the Ledo Road, Feb. 15, 1944.



and the Army Air Forces leadership; his nickname was “Vinegar Joe.” There were no U.S. Army combat units in the CBI, although Stilwell had asked for infantry divisions. The CBI was the lowest priority for the U.S. Army, at the end of a supply line running halfway around the world. Everything, not just combat units, was scarce. The British, planning to launch another Chindit offensive (supported by U.S. Air Commandos), were primarily concerned with defending India against a Japanese offensive. Stilwell insisted that no U.S. ground combat units would fight under Wingate; he wanted these soldiers in north Burma to, in effect, spearhead an offensive by Chinese units based in India to open up a new land route to China. Since the Japanese had overrun the original Burma Road to China in 1942, U.S. transport aircraft based in India had been China’s only link to the Allies, flying over the Himalayas on a route that their crews called “The Hump.” In October 1943, two months after the Quebec Conference, Shipment 1688 disembarked in India and started three months of training. Its three battalions were organized Chindit-style: a total of six color-coded combat teams, with machine guns and mortars but no artillery, and with limited logistical and medical support. All movement would be by foot, leading the vital pack horses and mules acquired locally after the ship carrying their own mules was torpedoed. Air liaison officers would accompany the 5307th; they would rely on airdrops for resupply and light aircraft for casualty evacuation. Unlike the Chindits, the 5307th, under Stilwell’s Northern Combat Area Command, would seize and hold an objective: the airfield at Myitkyina, the key to northern Burma and a vital way station on both


Special Operations Outlook

the air and ground routes from India to China. But while the Chindits that trained the 5307th assumed that, like them, they would remain in combat no longer than 90 days before withdrawing, sustained combat was implicit in Stillwell’s plans. Also, unlike the Chindits, they would be called on to spearhead an offensive by Chinese units, though they were not told this at the time. In January, they officially became the 5307th. Col. Charles Hunter, who had trained and organized the unit, was replaced by an official commanding officer and now became second in command. Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill had been an enlisted soldier before going to West Point. A trained staff officer and a speaker of Japanese, he had been in Burma at the time of the invasion in 1942, working with both the British and Chinese. But Merrill had no experience with SOF or commanding units in combat. His story – the U.S. Army to take the offensive in Burma – was amplified by the press. Merrill’s Marauders became a household name before firing a shot.

Walawbum The 5307th left their training camp on Jan. 24, to move to their jumping-off point in northern Burma. On Feb. 24, the 5307th, some 2,750 strong, moved out toward their first objective, the village of Walawbum. The 5307th would turn Japanese hammer-and-anvil tactics, nearunbeatable in 1941-42, against them, making a flank envelopment march through thick jungle to get behind them. They would be the anvil. The hammer would be provided by Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions, attacking down the Hukawng valley on the eastern flank of the jungle-covered Kumon Range mountains. It took up to 10 days of hard marching before the 5307th took up blocking positions on the Kaimang Road near Walawbum. The U.S. Organization of Strategic Services (OSS) Detachment 101 led indigenous Kachin fighters to help defeat Japanese patrols while the 5307th made effective use of their three intelligence and reconnaissance (I&R) platoons and volunteer U.S. Army Nisei (JapaneseAmerican) interpreters. “Some of the most valuable men in our


Left: The Ledo Road, built from India to China across northern Burma, was made possible by the results of the 1944 campaign. Above: Marauders and their pack animals rest during a break alongside a narrow trail near Nhpum Ga.




Above: U.S. Army 75mm pack howitzer in Burma. In 1944, two of these were airlifted to the 5307th to help them defend Nhpum Gah. Above right: Kachins with pack animals in a local village. Right: Kachin fighting men, led by OSS Detachment 101 personnel, operated independently from the 5307th for most of the 1944 campaign, but played a critical role as guides and by defeating Japanese patrols.

outfit were the Nisei Japanese interpreters,” wrote John M. Jones, an infantry officer with the 5307th. “Once, an interpreter caused the Japanese to attack into a trap by shouting orders to them.” Japanese attempts to break through the 5307th were defeated by accurate rifle fire and air support. By March 7, the Chinese were able to move into positions near Walawbum. The 5307th resupplied with airdrops. The Japanese 18th Division had been dealt a painful defeat and withdrew. The 5307th learned, Jones wrote, “The Japanese is no suicide soldier – he will run and retreat if surrounded, and once you get him on the run he is not nearly so effective.”

The 5307th’s Advance On March 8, the Japanese launched their long-awaited offensive from Burma into India. This meant that the 5307th could rely on only intermittent air support, as resupply, reconnaissance, and close air support sorties were allocated to these decisive battles. At the same time, Wingate launched his Chindit offensive, in which the 5307th had been intended to participate. The Chindits operated against Japanese supply lines, but battle and disease resulted in heavy casualties, including Wingate himself, who was killed in an air crash. Starting on March 12, the 5307th advanced over the Jambu Bum Ridge into the Mogaung Valley, which led to the great Irrawaddy River that flowed past Myitkyina. The 5307th marched through

increasingly rough terrain. One battalion crossed the ridge, spearheading a Chinese force, and blocked the Kamaing Road, the main Japanese supply line, near the village of Shaduzup, which they took after a battle on March 28. The OSS-led Kachins, operating independently, helped defeat Japanese patrols. The other two battalions of the 5307th, after a lengthy enveloping march, set up their blocking positions near the village on Inkangahtawng. The Japanese launched frontal attacks, trying desperately to break through. The 5307th, supported by airstrikes, held the line, though ammunition ran low.

The Fight for Nhpum Ga Stilwell and his staff were impressed by the 5307th’s defeat of numerically superior Japanese forces (the jungle terrain had prevented them from bringing their greater numbers into combat). With no U.S. Army infantry regiments or divisions within thousands of miles, they committed the 5307th to sustained infantry combat. The 5307th was ordered to withdraw on March 25 to block a Japanese counterattack aimed at the Chinese forces. The 5307th’s 2nd Battalion, ordered to defend the village of Nhpuhm Ga, narrowly out-marched the Japanese to get there first. The attacks on the 5307th’s hastily prepared perimeter defenses started in earnest on March 29. The siege of Nhpum Ga lasted until mid-April. The defenders – with two pack howitzers flown in from India – were aided by the



Air evacuation by light aircraft was a lifeline for the 5307th’s casualties. Here, Kachins carry a casualty to a Stinson L-1 while its NCO pilot waits.

rest of the 5307th attacking Japanese supply lines and hitting the besiegers from their rear. The Japanese withdrew on April 9; Nhpum Ga was held. “The 5307th – all three battalions, just about to a man – was beginning to wear out”, Lt. Carlton Ogburn, a communications officer with the 5307th, wrote. After Nhpum Ga, the 5307th was never the same. Casualties from disease outnumbered those from combat; it

Pack mules that stumbled plummeted to their deaths. It required great exertion from soldiers already weakened through lack of food and, increasingly, wracked with dysentery. Despite this, Hunter and the first of the three columns arrived within striking distance of Myitkyina on May 16. Patrols confirmed that the Japanese were unprepared; they had not thought infantry could cross the mountains. Hunter decided to attack while he had the element of surprise. The attack on Myitkyina airfield on the morning of May 17 was a complete success. Hunter radioed for reinforcements. The soldiers were ready to fly back to India: Mission accomplished. But when Hunter committed Chinese forces to take the town of Myitkyina, the

Casualties from disease outnumbered those from combat; it was now down to 1,600 men. Airdrops provided resupply, but there was rarely enough to eat, even of the unpalatable K-ration packs. was now down to 1,600 men. Airdrops provided resupply, but there was rarely enough to eat, even of the unpalatable K-ration packs. Casualties, including Merrill, who had suffered a heart attack, were evacuated by U.S. light aircraft. Hunter re-assumed command.

Myitkyina: Key to Northern Burma Stilwell wanted each one of the 5307th’s three battalions to spearhead Chinese or Kachin forces in an overland attack on Myitkyina before the monsoon rains curtailed air operations. This would require crossing the 6,500-foot Naura Hkyet pass, marching across the Kumon Mountains while, further south, the Chindits, put under Stilwell’s command, would block Japanese communications. Stilwell promised the 5307th’s officers that, once Myitkyina was captured, they would be flown back to India. Merrill, though not recovered, returned to help plan the operation. Starting on April 28, the 5307th marched on Myitkyina, guided by Kachins over mountain trails that did not appear on Japanese maps.


Special Operations Outlook

Japanese defenders stopped them cold, and there was no U.S. or British infantry that could be flown in to exploit success. The first airlifts brought in U.S. engineers and British air defense gunners to consolidate Myitkyina airfield. But these had to be committed, alongside the 5307th and the Chinese, to fight a desperate defensive battle as the Japanese, now reinforced, launched a counterattack to recapture the airfield. The battle to hold the airfield continued through May 21-31. Merrill collapsed again, returning Hunter to command. The 5307th was attrited away through intense defensive fighting. Sick soldiers were taken from their hospital beds in India and flown to the defense of Myitkyina airfield, gaining time for the arrival of Chinese reinforcements, including artillery, and another improvised unit of U.S. infantry replacements, designated the New Galahad Force. By the end of May, of the 1,310 men of the 5307th that had marched over the mountains to Myitkyina airfield, more than half had been evacuated. The remainder were collapsing from exhaustion and disease and were, according to James E.T. Hopkins, one of

Left: Col. Charles Hunter, commanding officer of the 5307th, points a stick to orient Gen. Joseph Stilwell, who had just flown into Myitkyina airfield the day it was taken, May 17, 1944. Below: Bofors gun crew of the Royal Artillery on alert at Myitkyina airfield. These gunners had to fight as infantry alongside the 5307th.

By the time the 5307th was officially disbanded in August, it had suffered more than 80 percent casualties, mainly from disease. Hunter was relieved and sent home by slow boat. Charlton Ogden, a lieutenant in the 5307th, wrote that what he remembered of its victories was, “The hunger, the exhaustion, the drenchings, the disease, the sores, the denial of every comfort and amenity.” Its volunteer soldiers, poorly supplied, went as far as they could – Myitkyina airfield – carried by their motivation to fight and devotion to not letting their buddies down.



A Legacy for SOF

their medical officers, “Disgusted by the failure of Generals Merrill and Stilwell to meet them in small groups or as a unit to express some gratitude to them and their dead or seriously wounded or sick comrades.” After weeks of close combat and trench warfare, Myitkyina town was finally taken in August. Hunter had only some 200 men of the 5307th left with him on the ground. These were used as a cadre for U.S. replacements and New Galahad, becoming the 475th Infantry Regiment, which continued offensive operations in northern Burma. The new Ledo Road to China was completed. U.S. transport aircraft staged through Myitkyina. China was kept in the war, despite a powerful Japanese offensive in 1945.

The legacy of the 5307th became a battle in itself. For decades, however much they admired the taking of Myitkyina, what the Army’s leadership remembered was the unit’s eventual exhaustion. The Army decided to disband its wartime special operations units. Rebuilding this capability was slow, starting in the 1950s with Special Forces, built on the model of OSS Detachment 101. The Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) companies, redesignated in 1969, and the 75th Ranger Regiment, formed in the 1980s, were perceptive in taking their heritage from the 5307th, along with the Army’s wartime Ranger battalions. The 75th Ranger Regiment number was itself an homage to the unit that the 5307th became. The 5307th’s personnel were retroactively awarded the coveted Ranger tabs, earned in battle. The six color-coded combat teams of the 5307th are commemorated by the stripes in the 75th Regiment’s heraldry. Like the Rangers, the 5307th did indeed “lead the way,” spearheading the advance of larger but less capable and motivated Chinese units. Today’s Rangers are well trained and equipped professionals. The 5307th were hastily trained volunteers, three months of training in India inadequate preparation to turn them into a cohesive unit. Yet they carried out demanding sustained offensive operations, able to use their ability to maneuver to gain the element of surprise. The 5307th’s taking of Myitkyina airfield was a forerunner of today’s Rangers’ missions to seize high-value objectives. Communications problems, shortage of in-theater resources, lack of shared understanding between the 5307th and Stilwell and his staff: these all contributed to unrealistic expectations and the ultimate failure to provide logistical and medical support commensurate required for their extended mission. The 5307th responded by doing all they could – winning battles all the way to Myitkyina airfield – until they could do no more.



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