Special Operations OUTLOOK 2022

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2022-23 EDITION

27th SOW AFSOC’s Pathfinders

FEATURES

USSOCOM AT&L USASOC Brain Health Initiative Minigun Developments








A Ukrainian special forces soldier provides security for a joint raid exercise between Ukrainian special forces and U.S. Navy SEALs during Exercise Sea Breeze 21 on Pervomays’kyy Island, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. Exercise Sea Breeze 21 was a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region.

AUSSOCOM MONTH IN 2022 Commander Outlines Global OPTEMPO q

In his keynote address to the May 2022 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commander of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), provided a glimpse into the operational tempo and mission sets being conducted across his command on a daily basis. “I want to go back three months, to February 2022,” Clarke began. “And I’m going to share four vignettes that capture the range of challenges our special operations forces [SOF] face today, but I also believe will face in the years to come.” The first of Clarke’s vignettes occurred on Feb. 3, 2022. “Under the cover of darkness in the deserts of northwest Syria, our forces successfully removed the ruthless ISIS leader alongside

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with our partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in a precise, high-risk counterterrorism mission,” he said. “Our operators had executed yet another surgical operation, one that was even more complex than the UBL [Osama bin Laden] raid that had taken place a decade earlier, using exclusive capabilities honed over two decades in combat. The operation further degraded ISIS, the region’s most capable, violent extremist organization.” The second representative activity took place a couple of weeks later, in the Arctic at two different places on the globe. “Our SOF were training in the most austere conditions on the planet: one group in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle; while at the same time, others were conducting training in Norway in similar

U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. PATRIK ORCUTT

BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY


U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. KACIE BENAK U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS TREY HUTCHESON

p Above: A Ghana special forces commander and his soldier communicate via radio while conducting a raid during Flintlock 2022, in Côte d’Ivoire, Feb. 27, 2022. Flintlock is a multinational exercise consisting of 11 nations training in Côte d’Ivoire. This exercise helps strengthen the ability of allies and partners to counter violent extremism and provide regional security. uRight: Naval Special Warfare members on the ice after performing a high-altitude low-opening jump over the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) in ICEX, which happened concurrently with the 2022 Arctic Edge Exercise, March 12, 2022. Arctic Edge is a U.S. Northern Command biennial defense exercise designed to demonstrate and exercise the ability to rapidly deploy and operate in the Arctic.

conditions in Europe. In this extreme cold weather exercise, our forces pushed their warfighting capabilities to their limits. All of these temperatures were sub-zero, sometimes reaching minus 30 and minus 40 degrees.” He said that the first event involved Navy SEALs conducting a free-fall operation onto the ice, nearly 200 miles offshore, to rendezvous with a U.S. Navy submarine that had broken through the ice cap. In the second event, Army Special Forces were inserted and extracted after many days and over 100 miles, traversing the Arctic wilderness by skis and snowmobiles. Additionally, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) elements supported the exercise under the world’s most unforgiving conditions. “All of these successful exercises prove that our forces can operate, and most importantly, prevail, in any environment,” Clarke said. He stated that the same month that those two events occurred – one involving a non-state actor and one representing a potential near-peer capability – a third unique operation was undertaken thousands of miles away in West Africa, where U.S. SOF were partnered with more than 10 African nations and allied countries for the annual “Flintlock” exercise, which builds cooperation around a common cause. “In the largest SOCOM exercise in the African continent, our partners and allies hone their capabilities to counter the persistent threat of violent extremism that continues to threaten regional stability,” Clarke said. “And those partners and allies do so alongside the full spectrum of U.S. special operations, our Green Berets, our SOF aviators, our civil affairs, and our psychological operations professionals.”

He added, “Finally, as I was traveling, and personally there in Flintlock in the Côte d’Ivoire, Gen. [Mark A.] Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called me at 4:00 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 24. In those early morning hours, a fourth event was underway. Russia had begun its unprovoked and brutal invasion of a sovereign nation. That act was shocking. It was reckless. But it was not unexpected. We all knew that this was going to take place. We saw it and it had been reported. This act of aggression has threatened stability in Europe and has directly challenged the rules-based international order.” Clarke continued, “Russia set the stage for that morning with a focused campaign of disinformation, cyberattacks, and with irregular forces. These were all tactics that we had witnessed before. Ever since the world first witnessed Russian aggression in 2014 in eastern Ukraine, our special operations forces have trained with the Ukrainian special operations. While little has changed, mostly playbooks since 2014, the intensity this time was far different. And we’re witnessing on the news every night the consequences of which I speak. All four events took place in the month of February; four very different challenges faced by our forces in places across the world.” Clarke summarized, “We faced threats from nations and nonstate actors. We faced increasingly contested and challenging environments. We undertook operations that challenged our communications, that challenged our ability, and that challenged our interoperability with the joint force and with our allies and partners. Our adversaries test our resolve, but we continue to test ourselves.” He added, “I chose February, but I could have chosen any month over this past year. At this very moment, over 6,000 men and women are operating overseas, alongside of partners and allies, in over 80 countries globally. In today’s dynamic environment, this fact remains: Special operations forces provide strategic, asymmetric advantages for our nation across the spectrum of conflict.”

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USSOCOM

USSOCOM SOF AT&L Overview COURTESY OF USSOCOM

COMMAND, CONTROL, COMMUNICATIONS AND COMPUTERS (C4)

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In fiscal year 2021, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) fielded more transformative capabilities while continuing the pursuit of RDT&E efforts and assessments to further transform SOF’s communications and military information support operations capabilities. PEO C4 also provided SOF AT&L and the HQ with capabilities to enable mission performance while teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all while exceeding prior years’ execution goals. PEO C4 executed more than $856.5 million, delivering more than 41,000 communications, information technology (IT), and military information support operations (MISO) items to SOF worldwide.

The Tactical Communications Program Management Office (PMO) fielded:

In FY21, the SDN team completed a successful capabilities assessment and fielding of SDN-Light Satellite Communications (SATCOM) On-The-Move (SOTM) for the Combatant Craft-Medium. Also, the SDN team initiated a test and evaluation for another SOTM for maritime support vessels, which could result in ~80% cost savings over its predecessor. TACLAN awarded three SBIR projects to develop a new, optimized Field Computing Device – Wearable, improving operator interface and situational awareness. The NGTC team completed another operational test for the Next Gen Manpack (AN/ PRC-167) radios, achieving 100% life-cycle replacement quantities for MARSOC, 95% for AFSOC, 68% for NAVSPECWARCOM, and 45% for USASOC. The RIS team processed multiple task orders to integrate gateway software requirements ensuring interoperability between dissimilar military standards and vendor-specific communication solutions, supporting all SOF PEOs and users.

The Enterprise Networks (EN) fielded: • 4 Installation Service Nodes. • 16,816 IT devices/systems • 9 SOCRATES Installation Processing Nodes • 3,384 IT devices/systems • 1 Site Installation Gateway and 10 CERPs • 1 new Satellite Receive Video Terminal Installation

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p U.S. Marine Cpl. Jeremey Samuel, a fire support Marine with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and U.S. Army Special Forces operators with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), use a Handheld Link 16 radio to conduct simulated close air support (CAS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 15, 2022. The training focused on the joint force’s ability to integrate and refine tactics of CAS, which requires detailed planning and careful coordination between pilots and forces on the ground.

In FY21, the PMO assumed execution responsibility from J3 for the Operations Management and Execution Network System, providing leaders with near-real-time SOF readiness information. The PMO delivered a Cyber Security Service Provider (CSSP) “Commercial Cloud” Capability Based Assessment, informing leadership on the tools, training, and manning required to perform commercial cloud CSSP services. Additionally, the PMO completed a dual security domain Agile Reach Laptop Analysis of Alternatives, surveying the marketplace for a “shovel ready” solution; total cost of ownership and an assessment completed.

The MISO Systems PMO fielded: • 4 Next-Generation Loudspeaker System-Dismounted (NGLS-D) Generation 2 Wireless Test Articles • 5 MOBY (Not an Acronym) configurable mission module prototypes • 5 Multi Mission Payload - X systems in support of SOCAF

U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY LANCE CPL. BRIENNA TUCK

• 10,531 Next Gen Tactical Communications (NGTC) radios • 242 Satellite Deployable Node (SDN) systems • 10,168 Tactical Local Area Network (TACLAN) items • 38 Radio Integration Systems (RIS) • 262 Handheld Link-16 radios


USSOCOM / AT&L

U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. PATRIK ORCUTT

A member of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Europe (NSWTU-E) provides cover during a raid with Cypriot army special forces in Cyprus, Sept. 28, 2021. Joint training in the Eastern Mediterranean is essential in maintaining interoperability and strong relationships with ally and partner nations, ensuring stability throughout the theater.

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USSOCOM / AT&L

In FY21, the PMO transitioned two science and technology efforts capable of media manipulation to the Media Production Center (MPC) program of record. The NGLS-D Gen 2 has been tested to provide remote operation, enhancing operator safety and operational flexibility. The Fly Away Broadcast System v4 (Broadcast Dissemination Platform) requirements in staffing to provide a single Software Defined Radio core modularized into three variants, providing operators more employment flexibility with simultaneous multimode broadcast operations for FM/ TV and cellular. The MISO team also initiated an effort to modernize the MPC-Heavy’s servers, cameras, and studio infrastructure.

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY TECH. SGT. SAMUEL KING JR.

FIXED WING From using Other Transaction Authority agreements (OTA) to demonstrate Armed Overwatch prototype platforms to integrated government and industry testing of the AC/MC-130Js, to quickly modifying the Airborne ISR fleet, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Fixed Wing continues to rapidly develop, test, field, and sustain critical capabilities to meet the ever-changing challenges USSOCOM SOF operators face. • The AC-130J team delivered five of the latest Block 30 configured aircraft in FY21, including the first two J-model gunship deliveries to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, and initiated $80 million in contracts to modify 12 Block 20+ aircraft and bring the fleet to a common configuration. • The AC-130J High Energy Laser team completed subsystem development and delivery of the beam controller, heat exchanger, batteries, and laser. Integration and test activities started at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren in preparation for FY23 flight demonstrations. • The Armed Overwatch Team awarded OTA agreements to conduct

u The Air Force Special Operations Command-owned C-145A Skytruck is primarily flown by Combat Aviation Advisor, or CAA, special air mobility aircrew as part of the Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (AvFID) program.

demonstrations of five prototype aircraft and identify nearproduction-ready platforms that meet operational requirements. The team conducted demonstrations and solicited industry for follow-on production proposals. • The MC-130J team completed Capability Release (CR)-1 delivery by installing SOF-peculiar special mission systems (SMS), Electronic Warfare Bus, and defensive systems upgrades on two aircraft. PEO-FW Detachment-1 received two CR-2 modified aircraft for system testing. • The Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) team completed system critical design and inducted the first AC-130J for installation. Compatibility testing demonstrated successful RFCM performance with the Silent Knight Radar. • The AC/MC-130J Integrated Tactical Mission Systems team awarded a $99 million contract to field open architecture Next Generation Special Mission Processors (SMP) to the AC/MC-130J fleets and demonstrated the agile development framework to perform development, security, and operations (DevSecOps) with Amazon Web Services. • The Silent Knight Radar (SKR) team awarded the commands’ first multi-year procurement contract to procure 97 SKRs, accelerating fielding and saving $100 million.

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• The Group IV/V Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MQ-9 program) awarded a production contract for Dual Carriage Systems increasing lethality and preparing to integrate an open system architecture into the aircraft. • The Long Endurance Aircraft (LEA) program continued to provide 24/7 “no blink” airborne ISR through award of a new contract. • The Manned ISR team completed mission modifications and deployments with DHC-8 aircraft, and demonstrations of alternative precision navigation and under-the-weather capability with JAVA and U-28 aircraft, respectively. • The AFSOC Non-Standard Aviation (NSAv) fleet of 20 C-146 aircraft provided training to aircrews and conducted 1,328 missions, flying 2,966 sorties and 6,674 hours while transporting 6,370 passengers and 1,091,916 pounds. NSAv Aircraft operated in/out of 101 different countries worldwide. • As part of the Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (AvFID) program, AFSOC Combat Aviation Advisor personnel enabled host and partner nation support for air operations with five C-145 aircraft

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p A CV-22B Osprey from the 21st Special Operations Squadron (SOS) flies low over the trees as it prepares to land during Exercise Resolute Dragon 21 at the Ojojihara Training Area, Japan, Dec. 9, 2021. The 21st SOS is specialized in the use of the CV-22B Osprey in conducting long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces. The CV-22B is equipped with integrated threat countermeasures, terrain-following radar, infrared sensors, and other advanced avionics that make it a formidable power projection tool in adverse conditions and contested environments.

and three MC-208 armed ISR aircraft providing a total of 371 sorties. • The C-27J team provided 3,650 flight hours during 5,297 jump and air drop sorties and delivered 42,900 jumpers while upgrading its fleet of seven aircraft in support of aerial delivery training. • The Tech Insertion Remote Gunship (RG) team made significant progress toward a surrogate aircraft, ground-based demonstration

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. RYAN LACKEY

USSOCOM / AT&L


U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS SEAN FUREY

USSOCOM / AT&L

of an automated flight deck in October 2021, and an airborne demonstration in FY2022. • The MC-130J Amphibious Capability team completed a demonstration feasibility study that optimized the design and proved MC-130J amphibious capability is possible. They also teamed with Air Force Research Lab to begin demonstration activities through the use of digital design. • The High Speed Vertical Takeoff/Landing (HSVTOL) team completed the study phase of an AFWERX challenge for rapid prototyping and supported a DARPA-led rotor fold mechanism kinematics study.

Key procurements in fiscal year 2021 • 2 MC-130J CR-2 modified aircraft • 2 CV-22 production aircraft • 23 Silent Knight Radars • 11 CV-22 Block 20 Mission Computer Obsolescence Initiative modified aircraft • 5 AC-130J aircraft • 546 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs

p Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen assigned to a special boat team pilot a Combatant Craft Medium during training with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to practice and refine tactics that integrate Naval Special Warfare with fleet operations.

• 977 GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition • 788 AGM-176A Griffin Missiles

MARITIME Program Executive Office-Maritime consists of a team of six program management offices: Surface Systems, Undersea Systems, Naval Special Warfare (NSW), Undersea Special Mission Systems, SOF Combat Diving, and the Maritime Technology Office. The portfolio provides both surface and undersea maritime mobility platforms in various stages of development, production, and sustainment, as well as cuttingedge SOF combat diving equipment. In 2021, Maritime’s successes included delivery of the final Combatant Craft Medium

and Combatant Craft Heavy, delivery of two Combatant Craft Light (CCL), delivery of one Small Class Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) System, completion of SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) MK 11 host submarine interoperability testing, and the completion of Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) acoustic testing. • The undersea portfolio consists of the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS), DCS, SDV, UUV, CCL, SOF Combat Diving (CD) program and the Undersea Craft Mission Equipment programs. The DDS program is a legacy system, with a joint USSOCOM-Navy modernization effort for one DDS to increase the payload capacity, add automation to the DDS pressurization and vent, flood and drain, and launch and recovery functions, with delivery back to

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U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY SGT. DYLAN CHAGNON

USSOCOM / AT&L

NSW in the first quarter of FY22. Undersea Systems commenced developmental testing of DCS 1 in FY21 and continues testing into FY22. DCS 2 is in final assembly and test, and will be delivered in CY22. DCS 3 is nearing completion and on track to deliver in CY22. Pre-contract award activities for DCS Next are ongoing to provide a U.S. Navy submarine interoperable DCS capability. The SDV MK 8 program is in sustainment with a phased replacement by SDV MK 11, which continues in production with five SDV MK11s delivered, two scheduled for delivery in FY22, and the final three in FY23. CCL is undergoing operational assessment to support a full-rate production decision. One MK 18 Mod 1 UUV vehicle completed SOF-peculiar modifications, with the remaining vehicles from systems one and two undergoing modifications for delivery in FY22. SOF CD is a key commonality factor for special operations mobility and utilizes middle tier of acquisition authorities to prototype and field SOF diving equipment. The SOF CD program completed prototyping efforts of a hands-free diver propulsion system and continues procurement of diver navigation systems. • The Surface Systems portfolio consists of the Combatant Craft Assault (CCA), Combatant Craft Medium (CCM), Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH), Special Operations Craft Riverine (SOCR), Combatant Craft Forward Looking Infrared (CCFLIR) systems (First and Second GEN), Combatant Craft Mission Equipment (CCME), and Maritime Precision Engagement (MPE) programs. The CCA program delivered hulls 33 and 34, and CCM program delivered its final production craft in FY21. A Foreign Military Sales (FMS)

p The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729), with a Dry Deck Shelter mounted near Souda Bay, Greece, during training with U.S. Marines from Task Force 61/2 (TF-61/2), conducting launch and recovery training with their combat rubber raiding craft, March 27, 2022.

purchase of six additional CCM executed by NAVSEA will enhance maritime partnerships. The CCH program delivered its final production craft, SEALION III, in FY21; while SEALION II returned from a two-year deployment and underwent a post-deployment reset via PEO-SOFSA. The CCFLIR Second GEN system is installed on all CCH craft, on seven CCMs, and is planned for CCA with development of a new mast design. The MPE program was designated a middle tier of acquisition rapid prototyping effort in FY21 and will deliver its first prototype craft modification kit in FY22; the resultant system will provide NSW with a robust kinetic strike capability. The SOCR inventory of 24 craft remains operational and sustained through PEO-SOFSA.

Key deliveries/fieldings in fiscal year 2021: • 2 CCA, 1 CCM, 1 CCH • 25 CCFLIR 2nd GEN • 1 UUV MK 18 Mod 1 system • 2 Combatant Craft Light

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Program Executive Office-Rotary Wing (RW) provides the Army Special Operations Aviation Command and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) (Airborne) with the most advanced RW aircraft, mission equipment, and training systems available. To accomplish this critical mission, PEO-RW focuses on readiness, advanced technologies, and life-cycle logistics to ensure the 160th SOAR maintains a comparative advantage against all potential threats. Along with the Technology Applications Program Office and Product Manager SOF Training Systems, PEO-RW resources strategies that support a three-part acquisition strategy of technology recapitalization, lethality and survivability upgrades, and planning for the future of SOF vertical lift. This strategy resulted in PEO-RW successfully executing more than $465 million to develop, deliver, and sustain the SOF helicopter fleet in FY21. RW mobility includes the light assault/attack A/MH-6 Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB), medium assault MH-60M Blackhawk, and heavy assault MH-47G Chinook. The MELB Program Management Office (PMO) completed the A/MH-6 Block 3.0 airworthiness and flight characteristics testing effort and began induction of Block R airframe shells and performance kits, with expected deliveries in late FY22. The program office continued support for Block 3.0 configuration management and modifications and upgrades. The MH-60M PMO continued aircraft deliveries of the Block 1 modification, which provides better situational awareness for aircrews, as well as increasing payload availability and reliability for SOF operators. The PMO has delivered 24 of 72 Block 1 aircraft to date. Additionally, the MH-60 PMO has initiated engineering and planning efforts for the Block 2

modification, which begins in FY27 and includes the replacement of a SOF-Peculiar YT706 engine with an Army-Common T901 Improved Turbine Engine in order to reduce P11 flying hour costs. The MH-47G PMO awarded several major contracts supporting the MH-47G Block II program, to include negotiating a ~$500 million contract to procure up to 20 MH-47G Block II aircraft over two order years. In addition, the PMO achieved a significant milestone in September by delivering the first post-production modified Block II aircraft to the ramp of the 160th SOAR(A). Mission Equipment (ME) provides SOF-unique capabilities; specifically, aircraft survivability, avionics, navigation, sensors, and weapons through various development, modification, and upgrade efforts. The ME efforts include the Degraded Visual Environment Pilotage System (DVEPS), Improved Rotary-wing Electro-Optical Sensor (IRES), Mission Processor Upgrades (MPU), Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM), Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC), and Tactical Mission Networking. The ME PMO developed and tested the DVEPS blended with digital terrain elevation data and fielded 17 Small Tactical Terminal (STT) radios (in collaboration w/PEO-C4). The ME team also partnered with the Silent Knight Radar team to initiate an effort to fuse sensor data from the disparate systems to provide enhanced situational awareness, with a demonstration planned for FY22. PM Special Operations Forces Training Systems (PM STS) delivered the second A/MH-6 Light Assault/Attack Reconfigurable Combat Mission Simulator (CMS) to the 160th SOAR (A) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The CMS is an exact replica of the AH/MH-6 Block 3.0

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PHOTO BY U.S. AIR FORCE MASTER SGT. BARRY LOO

ROTARY WING

p An MH-6 Little Bird helicopter transports special operations forces during a capabilities demonstration as part of the 2018 International Special Operations Forces week in downtown Tampa, Florida, May 23, 2018.


USSOCOM / AT&L

cockpit and incorporates state-of-the-art high-definition displays and aircraft panels matched with a shortened motion system that provides pitch, yaw, and vibration to replicate the Little Bird.

p An MH-47G Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment approaches a beach from off shore during training near Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 19, 2020.

160TH SPECIAL OPERATIONS AVIATION REGIMENT (AIRBORNE) PHOTO

Significant Activities: • Fielded 9 Block 1.0 MH-60Ms (increases performance with 105% rotor capability) • Fielded 7 Block 2.2 A/MH-6Ms • Fielded 1st MH-47G Block II aircraft to the 160th SOAR (A) ramp • Negotiated Lot 4 & 5 production contract for up to 20 MH-47G Block II with significant performance upgrades • Fielded 17 Small Tactical Terminal (STT) radios (in collaboration w/PEO-C4) • Fielded 1 A/MH-6 Combat Mission Simulator.

SOF DIGITAL APPLICATIONS The Program Executive Office for Special Operations Forces Digital Applications (PEO-SDA) experienced a successful year of transformation. The team effectively transitioned five acquisition programs to the software acquisition pathway (SwAP) this year, pushing down authorities to the lowest level, and obligated more than $150 million toward software capabilities for the operator. The Global Analytics Platform was the most recent program to successfully transition to PEO SDA, bringing with it a stellar team of acquisition professionals who are paving the way in agile software development. This year PEO-SDA also identified redundancies and made the decision

to merge the Tactical Assault Kit and Special Operations Forces Mission Planning and Execution (TAK/SOMPE) programs into one PM office that will be headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base. Lastly, PEO-SDA split out the PM for Mission Support Systems into two PM offices, one focused on Mission Command and one focused on Intelligence Software, allowing greater focus on the operator for each capability. • This year Mission Command Systems/Common Operational Picture (MCS/COP) became the first USSOCOM program to implement the new DOD SwAP. Through tightly coupled coordination with the user, MCS/COP is on track to deliver global situational awareness and JADC2 compliant software capabilities in FY22. The program office is using an iterative, agile, human-centered design process to define and develop software with high-impact mission outcomes. • The Tactical Assault Kit (TAK) program fielded mobile situational awareness tools that had real impact to SOF and citizens across the country. TAK again aided joint security details at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. TAK was also instrumental in a rescue of two lost hikers in New Mexico. As FY21 came to an end, PEO SDA made a strategic decision to make TAK the Common Operating Picture across the portfolio. • In FY21, PEO SDA directed the Special Operations Mission Planning and Execution (SOMPE) program be transitioned from

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U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. 1ST CLASS IMAN BROADY-CHIN

USSOCOM / AT&L

an ACAT III program to the planning phase of the SwAP under DODI 5000.87 Operation of the Software Acquisition Pathway. The program plans to transition to the execution phase in the third quarter of FY22, and will solicit from industry innovation and solutions that can be demonstrated during a three to fivemonth period and operationally fielded via the SwAP. Proposed solutions will target capability gaps or improve upon current capability. This effort will leverage modern software development methodologies such as agile software development, modern tools and techniques to include development security operations (DevSecOps) to support continuous engagement with the user and frequent fielding of operational capability to iteratively meet requirements. • The USSOCOM VCDR approved the Special Operations Forces Digital Ecosystem (SOF DE) Information System Capability Development Documents (IS CDD), transferring capability sponsorship to the Command Data Office, laying the foundation for the enterprise solution for data. The SOF DE program transitioned to the software acquisition pathway and executed numerous actions in support of data dominance. • The Global Analytics Platform (GAP) transitioned to the software acquisition pathway and deployed 83 capability upgrades, updates, implementations, or bug fixes. The GAP program has planned and prepared for the follow-on contract to continue providing talented data scientists, engineers, programmers, and analysts to support GAP missions. • Distributed Common Ground/Surface System (DCGS) SOF Enterprise and All Source Information Fusion started the transition to implementing the new DOD SwAP. By mid-May 2022, the program will enter the execution phase, having delivered a signed user agreement and capability needs statement. Through tightly

p Green Berets with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), catch air in their Mobility Vehicle 1.1 in their first lap of the Mint 400 on March 11, 2022, in Primm, Nevada. The annual American desert off-road race offers a unique venue for Green Berets to test their long-distance desert mobility across 200 miles of the Nevada desert.

coupled coordination with the user, the program is on track to deliver new features, interoperability among disparate tools, and a user-friendly graphical user interface in FY22. The program office is using an iterative, agile, human-centered design process to define and develop software with high-impact intelligence packages that will feed the operational picture. • DCGS-SGIP received authority to operate the Forcepoint High Speed Guard Special Purpose, which will allow the secure transfer of multiple data types from Unclassified to Secret networks, enabling real-time video streaming while providing unparalleled control and auditing in support of deployable/tactical full-motion video PED for NSWC. AFSOC is fully deployed with Pedestal on PlatformONE, giving analysts the ability to extract patterns, trends, and associations of objects/entities, and visualize the results very quickly in a number of different ways. Analysts can quantify many data points into digestible pattern of life visualizations, and produce textual summaries written by the machine based on larger sets of data, providing more “sense-made” curations of many data points. • Special Operations Forces Preparation, Rehearsal, Execution and Planning (SOFPREP) delivered 704 Geocells of databases covering

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USSOCOM / AT&L 245 individual target areas, including 27 short notice builds for SOF mission rehearsals. • The Integrated Survey Program (ISP) initiated a commercial solutions opening to build a prototype solution that implements an agile software development methodology to provide an end-to-end collection, processing, and dissemination workflow in a geospatialenabled software environment.

SOF WARRIOR Program Executive Officer-SOF Warrior provides combat overmatch today and in the future for both counterterrorism and strategic competition. PEO SOF Warrior synchronizes acquisition planning and execution of a $1.8 million budget that involves a very diverse combat capability portfolio. The PEO achieves success by leading 10 direct-reporting Program Management Offices. During the past fiscal year, the PEO covered 476 programs, projects, and combat evaluations. Warfighting capabilities delivered include 51.5 million rounds of ammunition, munitions, demolitions; 29,125 weapons, accessories, lasers, and visual augmentation systems; 609 Multi-Mission Electronic Counter Measure Systems and kits; 228,618 operator survival/equipment items/CBRN/EOD items; 1,484 radios, SATCOM terminals, and ancillary equipment; 3,379 information technology automation devices and systems; 9,970 operator and medic kits; 486 ISR kits; 425 tactical vehicle platforms; 20 installation processing nodes; 18 CASEVAC kits; 12 maritime surface craft; 163 ground and air unmanned systems; and 75 Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS) devices supporting active combat evaluations, including eight multi-modal Expeditionary Fixed Site (EFS) integrated systems. • Program Manager (PM) Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Special Programs (SP) managed 13 diverse commodity areas, executing ~$408 million in procurement and ~$99 million in RDT&E for FY21. Throughout FY21, PM NSW-SP managed: two ACAT III programs of record (PoR); two middle tier acquisition efforts; nine projects; 27 combat evaluations; and two studies. PM NSW-SP fielded 417 small arms weapons; 1,000 force-on-force kits; 4.3 million rounds of small arms ammunition; 144,900 explosive devices; 300 scalable effects kinetic payloads; six submersible propulsion systems; 766 special mission equipment; 316 weapons mounted visual augmentation devices; 21 handheld visual augmentation devices; 12 maritime surface craft accepted; 634 pieces of C4I equipment; 26 ground mobility vehicles; and 85 unmanned systems. Of significance was the continued development of the precision strike and advanced maritime craft efforts. • Program Manager (PM) for Family of Special Operations Vehicles (PM-FOSOV) managed and executed $349 million in FY21 across a portfolio of five programs featuring a fleet of 3,487 light, medium, heavy, and non-standard commercial vehicles (NSCVs), all supported with mechanics and field service representatives worldwide. The demand for ground mobility increased with the fielding of 167 Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1s and 204 NSCVs. PM-FOSOV conducted its first annual Ground Mobility Rodeo to gather operator feedback on potential technology insertion initiatives through industry. PM-FOSOV conducted an early user test on four purpose-built NSCV prototype vehicles to inform user requirements and a potential production contract. An initial operational test and evaluation was completed to assess the operational effectiveness and suitability of the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, MRZR-Alpha. PM-FOSOV awarded a contract for the design of two autonomous MRZR-Alpha prototype vehicles to be delivered in FY22. PM-FOSOV also awarded a contract to design and produce two diesel hybrid electric GMV 1.1 prototype vehicles with a

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scheduled delivery in FY22. A FOSOV capability based assessment through Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory was completed to identify gaps for modernization within the FOSOV portfolio that align with the National Defense Strategy, National Security Strategy and SOCOM Commander’s Planning Guidance. • Program Manager (PM) for Sensitive Activities (PM-SA) executed $178 million ISO 121 acquisition activities enabling sensitive activities conducted by SOF units. The team acquired and delivered 2,400-plus intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, special communication devices, physical and virtual special communications nodes, software capabilities, and information technology hardware items. PM-SA and SOF AT&L-KP received milestone decision authority (MDA) approval for a $475 million acquisition strategy to accelerate execution of SOF requirements. In addition, PM-SA competitively awarded an experimental transaction agreement (ETA) to facilitate rapid procurement of 1400plus end-items – closing a critical intelligence gap. • Program Manager (PM) for Counter Proliferation (PM-CP) managed and executed ~ $113 million across a portfolio of three major lines of effort featuring Multi Mission Electronic Countermeasures (MM-ECM), counter unmanned systems (CUxS), and counter weapons of mass destruction. The team acquired and delivered 605 MM-ECM systems/kit, 25 CUxS devices, and 10,617 various operator kits that provide critical protection capabilities for globally deployed SOF. Specific accomplishments include: Support to three CUxS CMNS; successful completion of a multi-phased competitive other transaction authority (OTA) prototype for CUxS systems integration partner (SIP); award of production contract for Modi Special Application Module (SAM); Multi-Service and FMS Modi procurement of 333 systems, saving 45% per system across the enterprise; execution of 17 CUxS combat evaluations across SOF, leading to the development of a CDD; and trained more than 1500 personnel on ECM/CUxS. • Program Manager (PM) for SOF Lethality (PM-SL) began fielding the Advanced Sniper Rifle to USASOC, achieving more than 56% of full operational capability. The team awarded a five-year, $182 million IDIQ contract for the Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, a $2 million IDIQ for a handgun suppressor, and $85 million across multiple contracts to acquire over 30 million rounds of ammunition, rockets, and explosive materials. Awarded a new $2.3 million procurement ISO a low-rate initial production of the .338 Norma Magnum multi-purpose round. Accelerated the acquisition and delivery of the SPIKE NLOS to MARSOC to conduct a combat evaluation of a system to inform the Ground Organic Precision Strike Echelon II-mounted capability gap. The team also completed safety certifications for HERO-120 in preparation for combat evaluations in FY22. Finally, the PM obligated $29.2 million to procure and support VAS equipment and fielded 718 handheld visual augmentation systems and 16,727 weapons accessories to SOF operators. • Program Manager (PM) for Special Programs (PM-SP) managed 138 efforts (six programs, six projects, and 120 pre-program efforts) while executing 1,233 procurement actions and $694 million in investment and O&M funds. PM-SP provided rapid and focused capability-based acquisition, technology, and logistical services supporting the nation’s highest priority SOF. PM-SP initiated the Tactical Artificial Intelligence (AI) Program, focusing on AI for Small Unit Maneuver (AISUM). PM-SP continued testing of Counter-Integrated Air Defense System capabilities to provide layered capabilities in A2/AD environments. Work continues a wide field-of-view goggle with thermal imager and data display. It utilized an OTA to acquire a systems integration partner (SIP). Finally, PM-SP fielded an


USSOCOM / AT&L

p Pfc. Jaritt Louthan, a medical lab technician with 432nd Blood Support Detachment, 28th Combat Support Hospital, 44th Medical Brigade, re-hydrates freeze-dried plasma during an airdrop test Sept. 19, 2019 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Jaritt was among the first few soldiers to test the durability of the plasma packaging by parachuting to collect data for possible future use on the battlefield.

U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. BRIAN MICHELICHE, 22ND MOBILE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DETACHMENT

array of multi-functional SIGINT, EW, cyber sensors and delivered 75 Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS) devices supporting active combat evaluations.

PEO-SW teams received several SOFIC Acquisition Awards, including: • Innovator Team Award: Artificial Intelligence for Small Unit Maneuver (AISUM) Team, PM-SP • Maverick Team Award: Counter Proliferation (CP) Mobile Cellular Network (MCN) & Range Support Team • Enabler Team Award: Modi Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) Special Application Module (SAM) Team • Saver Team Award: Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) Team, PM-FOSOV

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (S&T) Strategic Engagement (SE) continued to strengthen relationships and build the SOF network with Department of Defense and Department of Energy laboratories; federally funded research and development centers; university-affiliated research centers; academia; and industry to leverage and influence their larger efforts against U.S. Special Operations Command SOF AT&L and more specifically S&T priorities. Strategic Engagement’s processes seek

to uncover new science and technologies, limit redundancies, gain efficiencies, and synchronize long-range future planning to enable SOF to maintain the operational advantage. SE continues to map, connect, and expand SOF human resources awareness and technical opportunity with academic consortium intern programs and partnerships, cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) projects, and SOF-specific capstone collaboration. S&T Futures executed three Innovation Foundry (IF) (design thinking) and three Rapid Capability Assessment (RCA) (technology road mapping) events. The outputs of the RCAs culminated in one Integrated Tech Sprint Demonstration. These events enabled the development of disruptive capabilities, potentially impacting USSOCOM mission sets for future SOF operators in a changing future operating environment. All events paired SOF warfighters with non-traditional engineers and scientists in government, industry, and academia across the U.S. to identify potential technology opportunities. Concept capability packages, white papers, experimental prototypes, and videos are available for key stakeholders.

CAPABILITY FOCUS AREAS (CFAs): Biotechnologies/Human Interface: • Completed a multi-year development effort for U.S.-sourced freeze-dried plasma system in a ruggedized container and successfully transferred the program to the Defense Health Agency and Navy for advanced development, and FDA approval. • Continued several brain health baselining and imaging studies, to include: the Assessing and Tracking Tactical Forces initiative; ReBlast-2, a high-fidelity imaging effort correlating blast exposure and measurable physiological changes in the brain; and a joint pilot

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USSOCOM / AT&L study with the Navy comparing SOF with blast exposure history to healthy controls. • Established the Human Performance Research Advisory Group, a joint working group with voting representatives from each of the SOCOM components, JSOC, and Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) who identify research gaps and prioritize research investment for the five POTFF Domains (Physical, Cognitive, Psychological, Social and Family, and Spiritual).

Next-Generation Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance/ Tactically Relevant Situational Awareness (ISR/SA): S&T continues to pursue advanced ISR/SA and intel systems development across all domains to give SOF the competitive advantage. Efforts ending in FY21 included a project demonstrating sensorbased X-ray-like visualization to augmented reality headsets from mobile sensors, a folded optics project that combined IR and EO image processing sensors in one small form-factor camera, two LPI/ LPD communications efforts, and a multi-sensor data fusion project. New technology areas Next-Gen ISR/SA has begun to explore include distributed learning, smart-sensor networks, multi-data fusion, collaborative autonomy, and greater systems and data integration for dynamic, rapid, accurate decision-making.

Network and Data Management: Supported the research and development priorities of the Commander, Acquisition Executive, and S&T Director for contested communications, cyber operations, and alternative navigation technologies, and incorporated artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and edge computing technologies in support of these objectives. Six new efforts were started, which address SOCOM research and development priorities and SOF technology opportunities. Five projects transitioned to the PEO/SOF units this past year.

Next-Generation Effects/Precision Strike: Most kinetic project efforts closed or are in a closeout phase, which presents an opportunity to refocus the portfolio on non-kinetic effects to meet command modernization priorities and the S&T Director’s intent. Currently implementing this change by conducting studies and analysis with national labs, and doing concept generation and project definition with the S&T Futures team.

Next-Generation Mobility: Continued multiple signature management efforts aimed at reduction of acoustic, visual, infrared/thermal, and electromagnetic signatures of various SOF systems.

Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF), Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO): The JATF develops, advances, and integrates technologies and capabilities to significantly improve the quality and speed of SOF Operator decision-making at the edge. The goal of the HEO effort is to achieve situational understanding and decision-making dominance across multiple domains to gain and maintain the initiative. The JATF core development areas are sensors and compute at the edge, architecture and software analytics, language translation, and SEEKER. The JATF completed transition of the Beyond-Line-of-Sight project to PEO-C4 in October 2021.

• Sensors and Compute at the Edge: JATF is developing sensor arrays for SOF teams to organically employ and collect data across their operational environments. This data, combined with artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) tools operating on scalable edge processors, will enable operators and small teams to better understand their operating environment across multiple domains, increasing force protection and enabling them to gain and maintain the initiative against strategic adversaries. • Architecture and Software Analytics: JATF is developing a supporting architecture that will connect data, processors, and analytical tools in a manner that supports the seamless integration of developing technologies (sensors, CPU/GPUs, or artificial intelligence algorithms) over time. Additionally, the JATF is developing and integrating AI/ML tools tailored to answer SOF-specific operational questions and to augment traditional intelligence functions in order to reduce cognitive load and provide understanding of the local environment. • Language Translation: JATF and mission partners are currently advancing the state of the art in voice-to-voice language translation of core, high-data languages disconnected from the cloud. The goal is to provide SOF teams with regional language capabilities on day one of any contingency operation with AI/ML tools capable of learning low-data languages needed within 30 days. • SEEKER: A portable sensor array that can be worn by U.S. SOF or partner forces to expand the Internet of Things data-collection in the local environment. This organic, local, data-collection capability is augmented by AI/ML from the cloud, which provides operators with additional situational awareness into areas not easily accessed by U.S. forces. SEEKER data collection enables AI/ML tools to connect people to people, people to places, and people to things. The SEEKER transitioned from the JATF to PEO-SR in January 22.

Technical Experimentation (TE): TE offers multiple venues and environments to rapidly assess, develop, counter, and exploit emerging capabilities to address immediate SOF needs. S&T conducted three formal TE events in 2021.The first was focused on small unmanned aerial systems and next generation ISR/ C4 technologies, with 46 experiments and 234 participants. The next was focused on sense through wall technology, and had 32 experiments and 116 participants. The third formal TE event focused on combat diving, with 40 experiments and 287 participants. The TE team also supported a military utility assessment of assault machine guns, with five weapon systems and 72 participants.

Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR): Awarded 25 Phase I and 29 Phase II contracts. USSOCOM collaborated with the Army, co-funding three projects, and the Air Force, co-funding four projects. Awarded more than $7.9 million to 15 small businesses utilizing the Pilot Program for Development of Technology-Enhanced Capabilities with Partnership Intermediaries authorized by FY20 Legislation. In FY 21, this pilot increased small business participation by 240%, reduced contracting time by approximately 68%, and decreased the time from initial award to prototype delivery by 42%. The pilot resulted in two Phase III awards completed 17 months from Phase I award and 11 months from Phase II award, decreasing the time to Phase III by 75% and 85%, respectively. This article was edited for style and consistency.

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AFSOC

27TH SPECIAL OPERA

AFSOC’S PATHFINDERS BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

q

“We acknowledge that times are changing,” explained Col. Terence Taylor, commander, 27 SOW. “For the last two decades, our wing focused on counter-violent extremist organizations; but now we are broadening that focus to include pacing global challenges. ‘Pathfinding’ requires a culture of innovative thought and significant adjustments to how we operate. Not only must we develop unique capabilities that provide value to the broader joint force, but we must continue to remain integral to the special operations force. We know our airmen possess the concepts and ideas that will allow us to better prepare for future conflicts. The leaders of the 27th Special Operations Wing are charged to remove the barriers traditionally seen in our historical structure so our airmen can drive innovation that accelerates the change we need to remain ready today and relevant tomorrow.”

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Asked how the wing’s efforts tie to AFSOC’s “Strategic Guidance,” Taylor said, “AFSOC’s ‘Strategic Guidance’ encourages us to pathfind new operational concepts and technologies for the Air Force at large, while aligning experimentation efforts with the broader SOF enterprise. Our small size affords us the agility needed to experiment and take prudent levels of risk to quickly learn and advance ideas that help AFSOC evolve. Pathfinding new concepts helps us discover ways we can equip our airmen to maximize their potential, helping us remain competitive and ready to win.” Taylor provided examples of new concepts being explored for AFSOC and the Air Force, beginning with a recent accomplishment by the 27th Special Operations Communication Squadron’s Mission Defense Team.

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. CANDIN MUNIZ

United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is “pathfinding” as a major command in line with U.S. Air Force initiatives to better prepare for our nation’s defense. Within that overall effort, the 27th Special Operations Wing (27 SOW) has been tapped to be the “Pathfinding Wing” of the command, exploring a range of initiatives that balance preparation for conflict today with new capabilities that will support relevancy tomorrow.


AFSOC

TIONS WING

“They successfully conducted near real-time cyber-integrated threat analysis and deterrence onboard an active MC-130J,” he said. “This was the first time the capability was integrated with an operational weapon system outside of laboratory. It was a major milestone, resulting in the approval of in-flight capability integration with the MC-130J, an Air Force first. “Communicators had to learn the aircraft systems like a flight engineer would have to so they could integrate their technical expertise into the MC-130J to create the software and tools that would detect a threat against the platform. It was truly a remarkable feat.” In another example, he pointed to establishment of the Mission Sustainment Team (MST), describing it as “a new concept to AFSOC that supports mission readiness and efficiency. “The MST partners a group of highly trained multi-functional airmen that can provide every asset required to sustain living conditions in austere locations for an extended period of time. This capability also allows us to generate airpower from an austere

An MC-130J Commando II aircraft takes off during Exercise Coyote Dicer on Melrose AIr Force Range, New Mexico, Oct. 7, 2021. The biannual event provides ground-air integration training for specialized airpower components at Cannon Air Force Base.

location. The concept provides us a way to rapidly move small, independently operating teams away from a main base or installation,” he said. “Aside from these two initiatives, we are experimenting and implementing a number of concepts that reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and promote force effectiveness at home and abroad,” Taylor added. He acknowledged that some of the efforts are not necessarily new to the Air Force, but are somewhat new to AFSOC, explaining, “One example of this is our new FORGEN [force generation] model, where we deliberately organize our units and force structure to best support the AFSOC we will need going forward. This force structure provides [sustainable] support to the joint force while offering airmen deliberate training and deployment predictability. It has been widely used throughout the Air Force, but limited to AFSOC, due to our size and constant deployment cycles. Implementing the FORGEN force structure allows us to provide Air Commandos the advanced training needed to prepare for full-spectrum operations addressing global adversarial threats.” He pointed to another example on integrating pathfinding efforts, where 27 SOW is working with

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AFSOC t Family members of a 16th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) member wait for the arrival of an AC-130W Stinger II gunship during the 16 SOS homecoming ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Oct. 14, 2021. The homecoming celebrated the gunship’s final deployment as the 16 SOS transitions to the new AC-130J Ghostrider. AFSOC’s movement to a FORGEN structure provides much-needed predictability for airmen and their families.

preparedness. We became exceptional at tactical pick-up games against determined amateurs, but failed to increase our capabilities relative to professional peer adversaries. The 27th Special Operations Wing is now pivoting our focus toward pacing global military challenges. We are deliberately reorganizing into a force structure that best enables us to prepare for the AFSOC we will need to win in future operating environments. The four-cycle force generation model is a deliberate, unit-based structure that provides commanders an opportunity to deeply invest in airmen training and development. It also provides much-needed predictability for airmen and their families.” Shreves said that Air Force Special Operations Force Generation (AFSOFORGEN) relies on four operational units or elements within the continental United States in support of almost every AFSOC capability, with each operational squadron and associated enabling functions rotating through a 20-month, four-stage cycle of development and readiness.

AFSOFORGEN Col. Michael Shreves, commander, 27th Special Operations Group, addressed AFSOC’s movement to a FORGEN structure, observing, “The past two decades’ operations in the global war on terrorism [GWOT] and counterterrorism overseas contingency operations caused AFSOC to deploy at inconsistent and uneven rates, sometimes with very little notice and often with unpredictable durations for deployment and reconstitution. The unpredictable nature of these missions made it challenging for airmen to acquire the training and education needed to enhance their

24 Special Operations Outlook

“These cycles allow the 27 SOW to accomplish two primary goals: ensure units are prepared for taskings and missions in support of national objectives as the special operations aviation component of the joint force; and provide our future AFSOC leaders the opportunities to develop the skills, education, and experience they will need to grow beyond their existing positions and meet the need of our future force,” Shreves said. He noted that the flying squadrons were already realizing some of the most important benefits in terms of higher levels of readiness and advancing beyond existing capabilities. “The new force generation model is great for articulating availability and readiness with a level of detail and specificity we haven’t been able to in the past,” he said. “It also provides the necessary time for airmen to invest in their personal and professional development, and equally, their individual and families’ resiliency. These cycles also facilitate camaraderie within units and foster better relationships among units, allowing us to better integrate with other SOF units, the Air Force, and [the] greater joint force, resulting in a stronger, faster, more lethal fighting force.” He said that 27 SOW has already begun to restructure and optimize units under AFSOFORGEN, noting, “A year ago the 27 SOW stood up the 310th Special Operations Squadron, the fourth operational

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN MARCEL WILLIAMS

Bell-Boeing on the CV-22 Osprey Nacelle Improvement Modification efforts at Cannon Air Force Base (CAFB). “CAFB has the privilege of working with Bell-Boeing to provide feedback that directly affects the nacelle improvement efforts,” he said. “We’ve found that while the Osprey is an incredibly unique and effective aircraft, it has been historically difficult to maintain. Our 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is now engaging with Bell-Boeing engineers to improve the nacelle, leading to reduced maintenance hours and increased aircraft flying hours.” “Our airmen are our most valuable asset, they are our competitive advantage,” he summarized. “Now, more than ever, we are committed to providing today’s airmen and future AFSOC leaders the opportunities to develop their skills, education, and experience to grow beyond their existing positions. We want them to exhibit the independent initiatives needed to become experts in their field while meeting the needs of our Air Force.” Leaders assigned across several 27 SOW organizations elaborated on Taylor’s points, as well as other activities and in initiatives under exploration.

That four-stage cycle includes: • Individual training, during which units focus on reconstituting from deployment, on individual preparedness and resiliency, upgrade training, professional military education, and other developmental opportunities; • Unit training, when units focus on learning collective tasks to be successful at the fundamentals in their primary assigned mission; • Joint collective training, when units seek out opportunities to hone their skills, focusing on forecast deployment requirements, rehearsing with partner, joint, and coalition forces expected to work together in the next phase, and validating their combat capability against anticipated mission requirements; and • Commit, when unit training is complete and airmen are available to deploy or otherwise carry out missions focused on national missions and objectives.


U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN EDWARD CODDINGTON

AFSOC

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. CANDIN MUNIZ

p A U-28A Draco aircraft from the 310th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, takes off for the first time from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, during Exercise Trojan Footprint, May 5, 2022. Trojan Footprint is the premier special operations forces (SOF) exercise in Europe that focuses on improving the ability of SOF to counter myriad threats, increases integration with conventional forces, and enhances interoperability with our NATO allies and European partners. The stand-up of the 310th SOS is one example of resructuring and optimization taking place under the AFSOFORGEN structure.

U-28A squadron, which is already sharing the burden downrange in the Commit phase, while its three sister squadrons are each in one of the other FORGEN phases. Another example is the 17th Special Operations Squadron stand-up, the fourth AC-130 squadron. Until its stand-up last fall, the 16th Special Operations Squadron was the only gunship squadron at the 27 SOW. There is a long way to go before we are fully established on the AFSOFORGEN model across all squadrons and capabilities, but we are making significant and continual progress, with some exciting milestones planned for this year, too.” Shreves admitted that some personnel were initially skeptical of the changes, stating, “Any major departure from ‘the way we’ve done it here for two decades’ is bound to generate some healthy doubts. But from those airmen who have actually experienced it – for example the flights of the 9th Special Operations Squadron [that] adopted the model internal to the squadron two years ago, and as I mentioned, the 310th and 318th Special Operations Squadrons flying the U-28A are in full swing – we’ve received positive feedback. Specifically, the predictability of the new force generation model provides previously unachievable opportunities for their professional development and personal resiliency. Airmen quickly learn it provides the structure

necessary to fully recover from past deployments and missions while ensuring an opportunity to adequately prepare for the next. Change is difficult. As commanders we know it. And airmen live it. Leaders at all levels within the 27 SOW are working hard to manage the transition to AFSOFORGEN and continue to maintain an open dialogue with their airmen. We want to fully understand the impact the model has on their development and well-being so we can make the adjustments necessary to maximize the benefits the model has and realize the goals of increased readiness and resiliency for the AFSOC we will need.”

MISSION SUSTAINMENT TEAM Col. Taylor’s brief overview of the MST was expanded by Capt. Joseph Thomas III, director of operations, Detachment 1, 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group (SOMSG) [Mission Sustainment Team]. “The purpose of the MST is to forward deploy and maneuver adjacent forces aviation and special tactics force; establish and operate forward sites; sustain deployed forces; enable mission generation; protect the force; and establish and operate contingency location[s] that operate independent of primary centralized installations,” he began. “Det 1, 27 SOMSG was established on 2 March 2021 as an AFSOC pathfinding initiative, and currently our detachment is comprised of two MSTs with members representing 22 different USAF specialty codes.” Outlining accomplishments to date, Thomas explained, “Before committing to our SOF Force Generation alignment, we spent 10 months developing our airmen to deepen their SOF expertise. This allowed AFSOC to identify recurring lessons in adaptive operational exercises. The biggest MST win has been mission planning expertise. Our airmen originate from many different functional

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p Above: U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1, drive an MRZR convoy during Exercise Vigilant Palisade at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico, Sept. 22, 2021. The exercise tested the airmen of MST 1 and their capability to operate and defend a forward support site using force protection and small unit tactics. The MST concept pairs airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. u Right: U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron familiarize themselves with the new nacelle improvement modifications on a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jan. 7, 2022. The 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engaged with Bell-Boeing engineers to improve the nacelles, increasing aircraft availability and reducing required maintenance actions, leading to increased flying hours.

communities and backgrounds across the SOMSG. Adaptive operations are predicated on mission command, or the execution based on commander’s intent, and mission-type orders. Mission command success relies on our airmen’s ability to thoroughly understand and execute operations planning.” “This past year,” he continued, “we’ve learned the traditional equipment employed today through the functionally aligned force package doesn’t work well for distributed

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U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS DREW CYBUR

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER STORER

AFSOC

operations and maneuver warfare. We are working to develop easily employed crossfunctional equipment that doesn’t require major material handling. The MST has also discovered ways for airmen to create a heightened level of efficiency and effectiveness that surpasses the legacy force presentation models.” “Empowered airmen can accomplish anything, as their potential is unmatched. Watching them develop and grow as a team is incredible. We’ve learned that developing skills in organizational leaders and change management is as important as the tangible expeditionary skills employed daily,” Thomas summarized.

MISSION DEFENSE TEAM As noted by the 27 SOW commander, other recent unit achievements include the Mission Defense Team (MDT). Lt. Col. Emily Short, commander, 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron (SOCS) [Mission Defense Team] elaborated on this initiative, describing the MDT as “a pathfinder initiative comprised of a small number of airmen pulled outof-hide from other codified mission sets.” “Since 2016, the team stood up with zero cost to the wing by repurposing old


U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER STORER

AFSOC

equipment and coordinating with program management offices, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and a multitude of other external agencies,” she said. “The MDT members used their ingenuity and personal time to enhance their tradecraft and acquire advanced cyber certifications, such as coding and programming, so that they could create their own cyber range, develop their own software, and write their own scripts. The 27 SOCS MDT quickly emerged as the lead MDT for the command, and has established numerous command-wide best practices, tactics, techniques, and procedures [TTPs]. Moreover, they have virtualized an airborne cyber kit, to reduce its size from several large cabinet-sized cases, down to just one laptop. Furthermore, the team coordinated with several agencies to gain flight access and conducted the Air Force’s first-ever in-flight cyber analysis aboard an MC-130J aircraft. This was only possible through the exceptional collaboration and partnerships with the 9th SOS, 9th AMU, 56th SOIS, 27th SOMXG, the MC-130J Program Management Office [PMO], and the AFRL. This capability now provides real-time cyber analysis of the weapon system, predictive and preventative

pU.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Crafts, 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron Mission Defense Team member, explains the capabilities of the new computer-based cyber defense and maintenance diagnostics software to Col. Terence Taylor, 27 SOW commander, and other wing senior leaders on board an MC-130J Commando II aircraft of the 9th Special Operations Squadron, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 22, 2021. The new software enables aircrews to better monitor aircraft diagnostics in flight, as well as detect and deter cyber-based attacks. The developments by the MDT fall in line with their mission of overcoming future challenges of the strategic competition environment, specifically within communications contested environments.

maintenance information, and will inform the future development of cyber technology to assure mission success throughout communications-contested environments. The collective efforts and rapid advancement, despite no additional resources, have culminated with the 27 SOCS Mission Defense Team being recognized as one of only 18 ‘Prime MDTs’ Air Force-wide. “The 27th SOCS has been the forefront for innovation and pathfinding initiatives. When the unit initially stood up, it had two distinct mission sets: Base Operations Support of Information Technology [BOS-IT], and tactical communications. In 2016, the unit stood up the Mission Defense Team as part of the Air Force Cyber Squadron Initiative

[CS-I]. The intent of this initiative was to re-energize and advance our communications squadron’s lines of effort in advancing operations and to provide defensive cyber capabilities to assure the mission, and to defend our weapon systems,” Short said. She added, “The 27 SOCS is one of only two squadrons in the Air Force tasked with three distinct, yet critical, lines of effort: BOS-IT, tactical and airborne communications, and cyberspace mission defense. These distinct mission sets are typically tasked to separate communications squadrons. Additionally, the 27 SOCS has crafted and implemented a cross-domain training solution in an effort to develop airmen from any communications/ cyber Air Force Specialty [AFS], and make

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U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. TAYLOR CRUL

p Members of Lift Aircraft prepare Lift Aircraft’s Hexa aircraft for an AFWERX Agility Prime project demonstration during Emerald Warrior 22.1 at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 3, 2022. The 27th Special Operations Wing’s Continuous Improvement and Innovation (CI2) program looks to break barriers and seek out new ideas and technologies.

CI2 program empowers airmen to break through the traditional military hierarchical structure that can sometimes create barriers to being heard. In this grassroots effort, we reach down into the lowest levels of the organization and cultivate the ideas younger airmen have that will help our organization execute the mission more effectively and efficiently.” One way that the younger airmen help is with technology. “Today’s younger generation grew up embedded in technology. We want to leverage their experience and creativity to accelerate change throughout the organization. Their experiences help us address the internal barriers that impede the evolutionary process to becoming the effective, efficient force our nation demands,” Burns said. Asked for examples of early projects and ideas fostered by the CI2 team, he observed, “Since we stood up in February, we’ve received innovative ideas from many sources. AFWERXsponsored commercial companies looking for sponsors and giving demonstrations have reached out to offer their solutions to us. We’ve vetted products ranging from transportable, industrialstrength water purification systems, to electric VTOL ‘last-mile’

transportation platforms, to digital transformation solutions designed to identify process obstacles in software applications and eliminate them.” “We’ve also received ideas from our airmen: We have a staff sergeant who developed a Microsoft Access tool that eliminates the need to research and perform data entry for Air Force Achievement Medal packages. The amount of time and paperwork required to write and staff these medal packages has been an administrative burden, but his solution has given significant amounts of time back to those airmen who were responsible for processing awards. What once took someone a day to complete, can now be accomplished in less than an hour. If this solution could be replicated across the wing, the time savings would be substantial,” he continued. “These ideas stem from [Chief of Staff of the Air Force] Gen. [Charles Q.] Brown’s Action Order, which challenges all airmen to accelerate change or risk losing the high-end fight. This includes finding ways to cut costs and eliminate the bureaucracy that often plagues large organizations,” Burns said. “The CI2 team has identified unit representatives who will liaise between their assigned squadrons and our innovation team. Our goal in this effort is to build an innovation network across the base, encourage more intra-unit participation, and to champion airmen idea submissions. The 27 SOW leaders are creating and maintaining open dialogue with their airmen to create a culture of innovation, personal ownership, and empowerment. It is through these efforts that we will be better prepared today for the AFSOC we need tomorrow,” he concluded.

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1ST MARINE RAIDERS AT TULAGI AND EDSON’S RIDGE BY DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN

parachuters, engineers, artillerymen, I don’t give a damn “whoRaiders, you are. You’re all Marines. Come up on this hill and fight! ” – Lt. Col. Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, Sept. 13, 1942

q

Watchtower included Marine amphibious landings on the islands of Tulagi, Tanambogo-Gavutu, Florida, and Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon archipelago. Literally leading the way in the offensive was the 1st Marine Raider Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Merritt “Red Mike” Edson. The Marine raider concept was the result of a combination of factors prior to America’s entry into the war. They included lessons learned from amphibious operations in Fleet Landing Exercise 7 (FLEX 7), observations of British Commando

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organization and training by Captains Samuel B. Griffith II and Wallace Greene (the latter a future commandant of the Marine Corps), Lt. Col. Evans Carlson’s personal experience fighting with Chinese Communist troops against the Japanese, and, most importantly, pressure from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who were enamored of the British Commandos. Despite resistance within Marine Corps senior leadership against forming an “elite within an elite,” shortly after he became the first lieutenant

MARINE CORPS ART COLLECTION

On the morning of Aug. 7, 1942, in a remote section of the southwest Pacific Ocean and seven months to the day after the Imperial Japanese Navy sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was responding with its first offensive campaign in the war: Operation Watchtower. Hastily planned, executed on a shoestring, and hampered by inexperience, even fear, that reached the highest levels of command, the reason for Watchtower was simple: Capture the Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal and prevent it from becoming a staging area for bombers that could cut the vital sea lane between the United States and New Zealand and Australia.


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The full fury of the desperate battle of Edson’s Ridge is depicted in the oil painting titled “Night Attack” by Marine Corps combat artist Donald L. Dickson, then a captain and public information officer for the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal.

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p U.S. Marine Raiders wade ashore unopposed at Blue Beach on Tulagi Island. After a short, three-day campaign to secure Tulagi, the Raiders were sent to “rest” in positions on what would become known as “Edson’s Ridge” and “Bloody Ridge” near the airfield on Guadalcanal.

Japanese response to the offensive was swift. Operating from its regional base at Rabaul on the northern tip of the island of New Britain, in a series of night naval shuttle runs the allies named the Tokyo Express, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sent troops, matériel, and warships to Guadalcanal to attack the Marines and U.S. Navy ships. For the rest of August, even though their positions were regularly shelled and bombed by Japanese ships and planes, for all practical purposes the 1st Marine Raiders were spectators in the drama playing out at Guadalcanal and Sealark Channel (soon to be named Ironbottom Sound for the large number of warships sunk). These included the repulse of a Japanese attack by the Ichiki Butai, or Ichiki Detachment (the Battle of the Tenaru, Aug. 21) and the naval battles of Savo Island (Aug. 8-9) and Eastern Solomons (Aug. 24-25).

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general in Marine Corps history, Commandant of the Marine Corps Thomas Holcomb formed on Jan. 6 and Feb. 4, 1942, respectively, the first and second separate battalions for “expeditions of raid character for demolition and other destruction of shore installations.” On Feb. 16 and 19, these units were redesignated Raider battalions, with Edson appointed commander of the 1st Marine Raiders and Carlson the 2nd Marine Raiders. Watchtower, under the overall command of Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, was divided into two assaults. The main effort by the 1st Marine Division was against Guadalcanal (codenamed Cactus). It was preceded on Aug. 7 by a supporting assault to secure Tulagi (Ringbolt), Tanambogo, Gavutu (Acidity and Almond), and Florida (Lantana) islands and the deepwater harbor they surrounded, by the 1st Marine Raiders, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and the 1st Parachute Battalion, all under Brig. Gen. William H. Rupertus. Landing unopposed at the northwest side of Tulagi, the Raiders and Paramarines hacked their way through the jungles of the steeplysloped coral ridge that formed the spine of the lozenge-shaped twomile long and half-mile wide island. Despite tenacious defense by 350 Japanese troops that lasted three days, on Aug. 8 Edson was able to declare Tulagi secured. Meanwhile, on Guadalcanal, the bulk of the Marines landed unopposed at Lunga Point and secured a perimeter around the Japanese airfield they named Henderson Field, after Capt. Lofton Henderson, a Marine pilot killed in the Battle of Midway.


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p Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, photographed from a USS Saratoga (CV 3) plane in the latter part of August 1942, after U.S. aircraft had begun to use the airfield. The view looks about northwest, with the Lunga River running across the upper portion of the image. Several planes are parked to the left, and numerous bomb and shell craters are visible. Edson’s Ridge would be situated at the bottom of the photo, but is out of view.

Ichiki Butai’s defeat caused the Japanese high command to doubledown with the landing of the 35th Infantry Brigade, a veteran of campaigns in China and Borneo, and other troops under the overall command of Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi’s plan to

retake the airfield was to launch an attack from the south, supported by land artillery and IJN warships, the night of Sept. 12. To augment his thinly-held perimeter, on Aug. 31, Vandegrift ordered the transfer of the Raiders and Paramarines to Guadalcanal, a process that was completed on Sept. 4. Aware that Kawaguchi had established a supply base at Tasimboko near Taivu Point about 15 miles east of the Marines’ toehold, division staff began planning for a hit-and-run raid by the 1st Marine Raiders, exactly the type of mission they were created and trained to execute. The raid called for Edson’s force of about 500 Marines to land approximately 3,000 yards east of the base at daybreak on Sept. 8. The Raiders would conduct a coordinated two-pronged attack – one company from along the beach, two companies from inland. Supported by APDs (World War I-era destroyers and destroyer escorts

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p A Marine 75mm pack howitzer emplacement shown in October 1942. Marine artillery played a key role in breaking up and stopping Japanese attacks on Edson’s Ridge.

Edson to suspect he and his men were entering a trap. But instead of destruction, at Tasimboko the Raiders encountered treasure: huge stockpiles of food, supplies, ammunition (by one estimate as much as 500,000 rounds), even Kawaguchi’s dress white uniform. The Raiders immediately began gathering intelligence and, because rations within the perimeter were short, as much food as they could carry. Then they destroyed the rest. “At Tasimboko we found lots of supplies,” recalled Raider John Sweeney in Patrick K. O’Donnell’s Into the Rising Sun. “Medical supplies, and strange, almost fishbowls filled with fluid of some

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converted for amphibious operations) and aircraft from Henderson Field, the Raiders would overwhelm the reportedly 300 poorly armed and half-starved defenders, destroy supplies and installations, and then leave before Japanese reinforcements could respond. On the night of Sept. 7-8, while en route to the landing site, Edson received an update claiming that though their conditions were unchanged, Japanese troop strength had increased to 3,000 men. Edson decided to continue anyway. Luck then sided with the Raiders. A heavy rainstorm hid their ships from Japanese warships escorting a supply convoy that had delivered cargo to Tasimboko. Then, as dawn was breaking and the Raiders were launching their assault, a U.S. Navy convoy composed of two cargo ships and five destroyers heading to Lunga Point appeared. Mistaking the two separate fleets as one large amphibious operation, most Japanese defenders panicked and disappeared into the jungle. The Raiders advanced steadily against scattered and uncoordinated opposition. The relative ease of the Marines’ assault caused


PUBLISHED IN PACIFIC GROUND WAR NATIONAL ARCHIVES PHOTO

p Above: Marines wait beside their weapons on the ridge. The Leathernecks are armed with (left) a Browning M1919 .30-caliber machine gun, and (right) an M1928 Thompson submachine gun with a drum magazine. Pouches with box magazines lie close at hand, along with a supply of fragmentation grenades. uAttackers and defenders. Right: A grainy photo of Japanese troops marching along the shoreline of Guadalcanal shortly after landing in the first week of September 1942.

kind. As far as we could tell, it was a type of firebomb. You light it, throw it, it breaks, and there’s a blast. There was a lot of food, some saki, and brown bottles of beer. The food was particularly inviting: anchovies, sardines, crab, and lots of rice. We took whatever we could and destroyed the rest. Most importantly, we found a trove of valuable documents. “We destroyed everything we couldn’t take. One way of despoiling the food was to urinate on it. We peed on it.”

By 1730, the Raiders had embarked and were returning to Lunga Point. Griffith, now a major and the executive officer of the 1st Marine Raiders, later called it “one of the really very successful small operations of

World War II.” At a cost of two dead and six wounded, the Raiders had destroyed an important base that contained food and supplies for 6,000 troops, and gathered priceless intelligence.

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p From left to right: Lt. Gen. Thomas A. Holcomb, Col. Merritt A. Edson, and Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift confer during Holcomb’s inspection on Guadalcanal in December 1942.

defenders. Several listening posts and forward positions were quickly overrun. But these veterans of lopsided battles against Chinese troops discovered that the Marines were made of sterner stuff. Even when surrounded and isolated, individual Marines and companies continued to fight hard. Accurate artillery fire by Marine artillery also helped collapse the momentum of the attack and the first night’s battle dissolved into vicious skirmishing that ended with the dawn and Japanese withdrawal into the jungle to regroup. Despite harassing sniper fire, Edson pulled his Marines back about 100 yards, consolidated his line, and prepared new defensive positions and fields of fire. New artillery coordinates were plotted and registered. Despite suffering heavy casualties, Kawaguchi’s force still heavily outnumbered the Marine defenders on the ridge. After regrouping his command, at 1830 on Sept. 13 he launched his second attack. Kawaguchi’s soldiers breached the Marine right flank, creating a 200-yard gap that the Japanese troops surged through. Once again, Marine artillery rained death on the Japanese. One Marine forward artillery observer was Pfc. Tom Watson, an artillery battery clerk who had rushed forward to help. His directions were so accurate that shortly after the fight he received a battlefield commission. But unrelenting Japanese pressure had reduced Edson’s command to about 300 effectives. At one point, it looked as if Kawaguchi’s

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On Sept. 10, Edson told his mixed battalion of Raiders and Paramarines, approximately 840 strong, that they would be going to a “rest area” along a T-shaped ridge located about a mile south of Henderson Field. Because Vandegrift believed that any Japanese attack would come from along the coast, as had happened earlier with Ichiki Butai, the area was regarded as a quiet sector and was lightly defended. Certainly the complexities of the terrain downplayed the possibility of attack. The dominant landmark was the ridge itself, whose stem ran north-south and was bordered by thick jungle, steep gullies and a large lagoon between the ridge and Lunga River. But the next day, Edson began ordering them to prepare defensive positions and dig in. It was the Raiders’ and Paramarines’ first clue that their rest area might be anything but. Two subsequent Japanese air raids that dropped bombs on their position instead of Henderson Field, the usual target, reinforced speculation that something big was up. In a departure from standard infantry tactics then in use, Edson divided his rifle units into “fighting groups” of three or four Marines organized around an automatic weapon (such as a Browning Automatic Rifle or Thompson submachine gun). It was a technique he had found successful when fighting rebels in the Nicaraguan jungles during the interwar Banana Wars. Though the island’s jungle proved a bigger impediment than he anticipated, Kawaguchi managed to get his 3,000-man Kawaguchi Butai assembled south of the Raiders’ position in time for the scheduled attack. At 2100 hours on the night of Sept. 12, the first rounds of Japanese artillery fell on the Marines on the ridge, followed by additional gunfire from Japanese warships offshore. Minutes later Japanese soldiers rushed out of the jungle, screaming and hurling strings of firecrackers to help confuse the


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p After the battle. Above: U.S. Marines march down through the valley and over the new fighter strip to rest before leaving the Solomons to reorganize and train for future operations. qBelow: A Marine contemplates Edson’s Ridge, where Marine Raiders and Paramarines made their stand, defeating a series of Japanese attacks that aimed straight up the coral spine of the ridge.

Perhaps the most poignant observation, though, was made by Marine Jerry McDonnell, who at age 18 fought at Guadalcanal. In his poem, “The Grassy Knoll” he wrote:

attack would succeed. Isolated groups of Japanese troops advanced as far as the recently built fighter airstrip before being cut down. And a Japanese officer and two soldiers even reached the division command post, where they were shot as they attacked Vandegrift. Meanwhile, Edson seemed to be everywhere on the ridge, rounding up and rallying Marines, directing fire and counterattacks. Once again Marines and Japanese troops found themselves chaotically intermingled and the attack became a desperate hand-to-hand combat between individuals and small units. When dawn finally broke, Edson’s exhausted Marines still held the ridge. Kawaguchi’s second attack had failed as well. The Battle of Edson’s Ridge was over. Edson received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle, promotion to colonel, and command of the 5th Marine Regiment. Griffith would also be promoted and succeed Edson as commander of the 1st Marine Raiders. In early November Carlson and two companies of the 2nd Marine Raiders arrived on the island and conducted a 29-day guerrilla-style operation behind enemy lines known as the Long Patrol. On Feb. 9, 1943, America’s first step in the long journey to Tokyo was complete. Later, Kawaguchi wrote, “Guadalcanal is not the name of an island; it is the name of the graveyard of the Japanese Army.” In his monumental History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, historian Samuel Eliot Morison echoed the Japanese general’s words: “Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

It’s hell when you stop to consider The price that was dearly paid For this lousy chunk of God’s green earth That on a lonely island laid.

The dead and the wounded were littered Most everywhere you could see. There was sadness in spite of victory For dead friends – and enemy.

Many a man paid the maximum price He forfeited his life for the toll. And all he got forevermore Was a plot on the big “Grassy Knoll.”

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U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS TREY HUTCHESON

Naval Special Warfare members perform a high-altitude low-opening jump, during the 2022 Arctic Edge Exercise, March 9, 2022. Arctic Edge is a U.S. Northern Command biennial defense exercise designed to demonstrate and exercise the ability to rapidly deploy and operate in the Arctic.

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NAVSPECWARCOM

NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE:

TALKING TO “THE BULL FROG” BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

Special Operations Outlook’s Scott Gourley talks to “The Bull Frog,” Cmdr. Steven Elias. Enlisting on April 24, 1981, he received “The Bull Frog” title as the longest continuously serving active-duty U.S. Navy SEAL on June 8, 2017. Special Operations Outlook: What is the history of The Bull Frog? Cmdr. Steven Elias: During World War II when the Underwater Demolition Teams [UDT] were formed, the men were often referred to as Frogmen, and to this day that nickname is still ingrained into our heritage. In naval tradition, the word “Bull” refers to the senior ensign [O-1] at a command who is responsible for guiding junior ensigns at their command from embarrassing missteps – they are referred to as the “Bull Ensign.” In that vein, Rear Adm. Richard Lyon adopted the term “Bull Frog” as a parallel in our warfare specialty. The only requirement to become the Bull Frog is to be the longest continuously serving active-duty U.S. Navy SEAL on duty at the time of receiving the title from their predecessor. How long have you been the Bull Frog? I assumed the Bull Frog on June 8, 2017, when Capt. Rico Lenway turned it over during his retirement. I’m the 17th Bull Frog to receive the honor, and I will retire in January of 2023 when I will turn over with the next longest-serving SEAL. Are there any perks/drawbacks to being the Bull Frog? No perks, not even a parking space! I’m humbled just to have received a trophy with my name and the dates I served. The highlight really is just being called the Bull Frog by your teammates and former teammates who transitioned to the civilian sector. A lot of great people have served in the Navy, so they understand the tradition. Someone is always asking if you’re the Bull Frog. It really feels cool to say it now. I never thought I would be that man, but it happened. As for drawbacks, well

the Bull Frog is generally the oldest in the teams. I don’t want to be known as the oldest. Most SEALs take pride in themselves staying in great physical shape, it’s part of the culture. I’m no exception, I may not be as strong or as fast as I was in the past, but I really am a competitive guy. I work hard to stay in shape to keep up with the younger Frogs. I like the challenge that comes with being a SEAL still to this day, and being that role model. Someone somewhere is constantly taking on a challenge with a teammate. We compete daily, and that’s what makes it fun. You can never really go on a casual beach run with a teammate, it always turns into a race. In hindsight, I may have taken the “never quit” a bit too far. I never quit, but the Navy has statutory retirement dates for officers, and that’s why I’m retiring.

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U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS SEAN FUREY U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS ABE MCNATT

p Above: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Perlman, left, assigned to commander, Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), photographs U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. NSWC is the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command, and its mission is to provide maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operations, unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives. u Right: U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participate in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

Who were some of the other Bull Frogs? Rear Adm. Richard Lyon, SOCM Al Huey, Capt. Ed Bowen, SOCM Rudy Boesch, Capt. Pete Wikul, Adm. Eric T. Olson, Adm. William H. McRaven, Cmdr. Brian Sebenaler, [and] Capt. Rico Lenway are among those I remember in my era. Having gone through BUD/S as a student, what are your thoughts/ impressions about the changes over the years to the curricula and what is required to graduate? The greatest common attribute in this community is our integrity to uphold standards. The standards when I went through are still the standards of today. What has changed is the people entering the program. When I went through training, only about 5% of the personnel had college degrees. Today, around 80% have some college experience or a degree. Our candidates are high-functioning and technically savvy students with cognitive, character, and leadership attributes that are of a different caliber than what I saw during my training. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the BUD/S curricula since 1981? With Navy Education and Training Command’s support – we disestablished the separate recruit rifle division at boot camp in December 2020. SEAL and SWCC recruit candidates are now fully integrated with the rest of their Navy shipmates in recruit training. This means SEAL and SWCC [Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen] candidates solve their first problems in the Navy together with teammates from the greater Navy. We also moved the Naval Special Warfare [NSW]

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preparatory school from Great Lakes to Coronado to concentrate our assessment and selection cadre, so they can conduct the same level of pre-assessment scrutiny already applied to officer candidates to enlisted candidates before their final approval to begin basic underwater demolition/SEAL [BUD/S] and basic crewman training. Can you compare the BUD/S candidates who entered with you to those who are entering today? How are they different? How are they the same? We are using new approaches to recruitment, assessment, selection, and training that underpin NSW’s overall transformation. In 2021, we began forming a new Echelon IV command – Naval Special Warfare Assessment Command – that will employ active-duty SEALs and special warfare combatant crewmen [SWCCs] to identify, engage, and enroll future candidates. This command will provide a more precise initial assessment of candidates and continually evolve assessment approaches across the continuum of NSW careers. With the establishment of this command, Naval Special Warfare no longer will rely on traditional recruiting methods to find future SEALs and SWCCs. We are identifying and engaging potential candidates from demographics that historically have not thought about joining our team. These efforts will give us an edge in leader selection and candid feedback for self-improvement and individual development.

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p Members of SEAL Qualification Training Class 336 wear their newly earned special warfare (SEAL) pins, known as Tridents, during their graduation ceremony at Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Center in Coronado, California, April 15, 2020. The Trident is a symbol of honor, integrity, and discipline that embodies the ethos Navy SEALs follow in their service to the American people.

What is one – or a few – things people would be surprised to know about being a Navy SEAL? A lot of people think SEALs are invincible, but we bleed and get hurt like anyone else. There have been a lot of brave people that have gone out and put everything on the line and have lost. It’s our dedication and constant, consistent training that hone our combat skills to minimize loss and ensure success in conflict. During the selection and assessment pathway, we were always told that being a SEAL in the teams was tougher than BUD/S; that is absolutely true … sometimes. When stationed at the SEAL Teams, you have time to recover between training and missions. The selection and assessment pathway, on the other hand, is designed to be selective in their processes to find the right operator, which

U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS ANTHONY W. WALKER

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U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS ALEX PERLMAN U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS MATTHEW C. DUNCKER

p Above: A U.S. Navy diver assigned to Naval Special Warfare Logistics Support Unit 1 (LOGSU-1) swims on the surface during a high-altitude dive. The exercise, organized by LOGSU-1, was designed to qualify and maintain Naval Special Warfare personnel’s altitude diving proficiency and provide opportunities for instructor qualification. uRight: Naval Special Warfare operators rehearse visit, board, search, and seizure tactics aboard the Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary staging base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5). Naval Special Warfare is the nation’s premier maritime special operations force, uniquely positioned to extend the fleet’s reach and deliver all-domain options for naval and joint force commanders.

can be a test of not only an individual’s physical endurance but also their cognitive, character, and leadership attributes. We are not superhuman. I believe most SEALs are humble, but we will lead when required. We do not compromise, our integrity is our bond, and we will never quit. What are the most dramatic changes you have seen/experienced during your time in the community?

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While the past two decades of combat shifted Naval Special Warfare’s principal missions to counter-violent extremist organizations [C-VEO] and counterterrorism [CT], we never left our “frogman” roots. Today, we are applying hard-earned combat lessons – identifying irregular opportunities; fusing operations and intelligence; planning missions; and rehearsing and integrating with the joint force, other agencies, the intelligence community, and reliable international partners – to expand deterrence options and decision space. With new and energized partnerships with U.S. Space, Strategic, and Cyber Commands, we are creating innovative capabilities and concepts to increase diplomatic leverage; influence adversary leaders to undercut their confidence in success; deliver war-winning access in conflict; and mitigate the political, strategic, and military risks the nation must assume to deter its adversaries. Naval Special Warfare is implementing changes across its tactical formations for survivability, lethality, and relevance within joint warfighting concepts. At the core tactical maneuver-element level, we reduced the number of SEAL platoons from 72 to 48 over the past year – realigning end strength into the remaining platoons. These newer, bigger platoons now have a third subordinate maneuver element for organic cyber, electronic warfare, and multidomain unmanned system capabilities. Recently, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command decided to hold approximately a third of Naval Special Warfare’s combat-ready force in reserve for experimentation, concept development, and high-return deploy-for-purpose [DfP] missions. This is a significant change from the past two decades of deploying all our combat-ready forces. These DfP reserve elements increase our agility to respond to crises around the globe and – perhaps most critical – provide combat-ready forces to experiment and generate new concepts at lower training risk after they have mastered core mission-essential tasks. Allowing combat-ready forces to experiment

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with new tactics, techniques, and procedures for the most stressing hard targets and environmental conditions is helping answer the Navy’s and joint force’s key operational problems. How have changes in technology affected and shaped NSW with regard to equipment and platforms during that time? We merged Naval Special Warfare Group 3 and Group 10, two O-6 Echelon III major commands, into Naval Special Warfare Group 8, which fuses undersea capabilities [including SEAL delivery vehicle [SDV] teams] and advanced intelligence, cyber, electronic warfare, and multidomain unmanned systems within the special reconnaissance teams. This shift provides task force depth across joint warfighting functions, unity of command, and new irregular capabilities to counter peer adversary systems. Naval Special Warfare has long enjoyed a special relationship with the submarine force. Distinct stealthy NSW capabilities, combined with advanced stealthy submarines, create an unrivaled asymmetric advantage. Last summer, SEALs and SDVs conducted interoperability exercises in the eastern Mediterranean on board a Virginia-class submarine for a proof-of-concept with the U.S. Sixth Fleet, affirming the ability to adapt together for new strategic, multidomain options that expand national leverage. We also are partnering with the Marine Corps on complementary concepts, expeditionary sustainment, and staging for inside force operations in contested battlespace. As Naval Special Warfare continues to fulfill our enduring C-VEO and CT missions to protect the homeland from external attack, we are pushing to test, evaluate, experiment, and integrate scalable effects against critical adversary systems [including C5ISRT] of great power rivals. We are learning how to integrate our capabilities to complement the F-35 Lightning II, littoral combat ships, Zumwalt-class destroyers, Military Sealift Command assets, and Navy unmanned vehicles. Operating alongside these manned and unmanned platforms, we are testing new concepts, technologies, and tactics; contributing to the Navy’s unmanned task force mission; and amplifying the lethality, scalability, access, and precision of Navy combat power. In your opinion, what is the most exciting initiative or new program on the horizon? We have clearly honed our selection process over the four decades that I have been around. The new leadership assessment and selection program improves selection precision for all officer and senior enlisted milestone assignments at all echelons. We now conduct a four-day assessment – modeled after the Army’s new Battalion Commander Assessment Program [BCAP] and special operations forces’ special mission unit best practices – that includes robust cognitive and non-cognitive psychometric testing, written assessments, peer and subordinate evaluations, and double-blind candidate interviews that mitigate cognitive biases in leader selection. We know the sacrifices spouses and families make. How does your family feel about your impending retirement after so many years in the Teams? I’ve always been an active person. My wife has subtly mentioned to me several times, “You will need to find something to do to keep yourself busy when you retire.” I tend to get a little stir crazy when I sit idle. I still have two young men at home to keep up with, and they challenge me daily – mentally and physically. My 12-year-old son Liam is becoming a great swimmer who I absolutely love to watch compete. I see everything in him that I saw in myself at that age. My oldest son Neil, who is 17, will be going off to college this year studying marine science and playing baseball, so I want to spend as much time with him before he


U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS ALEX PERLMAN

NAVSPECWARCOM

departs. As for my wife Kirsten, I would like to give her some time back as well. Throughout our relationship over 22 years, she had to endure multiple deployments and constant training exercises, and we are more than ready to start a new chapter in our life as a family. A renewed passion of mine is to inspire kids to be the best they can be and prepare them for life’s many challenges. Recently I started giving presentations on mental fortitude to young kids from different organizations, like baseball and lacrosse teams, and several high schools. I really enjoy the energy these kids have and watching them absorb information. It reaffirms to me that there is a younger generation willing to lead. Do you know who will follow you as the next Bull Frog? I believe it will be Cmdr. Joe Burns or Vice Adm. Collin Green, depending on their personal plans. What is your parting message to the force? The OSS, Scouts and Raiders, and Underwater Demolition Units led the way for the Underwater Demolition Teams [UDT] created in May 1943. These men quicky adopted the name of Frogmen. When I was young, I always watched movies and shows about the U.S. Navy in world wars, frogmen, and diving. I grew up around the Great Lakes in Ohio. I was a competition swimmer, sailor, and constantly around water. My Dad always used to say, “Steve, you can‘t make a living at swimming.” Be careful of what you say to young minds; they are impressionable and determined to make a mark and leave their

p Navy divers assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command conduct operations with the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

legacy. I can’t say anything new or insightful that hasn’t been said before. I was inspired by great leaders who forged the way for our community. A great leader in my era was Adm. Bill McRaven; we were both “just UDT” at one point. We continue to have great leadership guiding us forward through unknown waters. When I retire, I will close an 80-year chapter of the history of the UDTs. I am the last of the UDT Frogman legacy still on active duty. The U.S. Navy SEAL Teams will carry on the Frogman tradition from here on out. There will be a far better trained force who will follow alongside our forefathers’ footsteps. They too will step up to the challenge, and if in the absence of leadership, lead the way in order to defend and extend this nation’s freedoms to the oppressed. Stay humble but lead with dedication, be thoughtful of the people who support you, and treat people with dignity and respect that is afforded to everyone. Never tell your kids something they can’t do; they will certainly do their best to prove you wrong. Ensure you are surrounded by like-minded people, mentors, teammates, and swim buddies like I had in Bob McMeans, who swam alongside me through dark waters my entire 42-year career. He is the reason we both ended up in the teams as Frogmen.

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USASO USSOCOM

USASOC Brings a “Team Approach” to Brain Health in Army Special Operations

BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

DOD PHOTO BY SENIOR AIRMAN JODI MARTINEZ, U.S. AIR FORCE

Humans are more important than hardware. It’s not only the “First SOF Truth,” but it is a reality that applies across myriad elements of physical, emotional, and brain health support available to the special operator and their family members. In few places is this support more evident than U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). Long known for its extreme tactical capabilities and lethality, USASOC has implemented an impressive and integrated spectrum of team efforts designed to support the broader special operations forces (SOF) family. One key element of this spectrum involves brain health.

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OC BRAIN HEALTH

According to Col. Mark Ray, director of human performance and wellness at USASOC, brain health consists of two main components: a clinical/research component and an integrated network of support that exists outside of the clinical setting. “Our clinical and research component includes premier credentialed, medical professionals, including our command surgeon, along with the different physicians, surgeons, and medical personnel throughout USASOC, as well as premier research institutes exploring the high-end challenges that we are working through,” he said. Complementing the clinical/research side of brain health, Ray pointed to a non-clinical integrated peer/leader/family network of support, characterizing it as “a bigger part” of USASOC’s contribution to brain health. “How do we better inform peers so that they can potentially recognize signs of brain health issues?” he asked. “And it’s not just traumatic brain injury, but possibly indicator precursors, or maybe overall stress management or behavioral health or psychological health concerns. How do we best equip peers so that they can possibly recognize a sign in a conversation and either help that person or, if it exceeds what that peer can do, connect the person to a trusted professional, taking it to the next level of counseling or treatment?” Ray noted that one of the challenges facing the non-clinical side is the fact that USASOC is relatively large, with approximately 35,057 service members and 58,000 family members.

USASOC “Those are small numbers compared to the larger DOD, but they are large for special operations,” he said. “Another complication is the fact that those operators and their surrounding family community … are spread around the globe, mostly within the United States, but at many different installations. So, for us, part of the challenge is making sure that we’ve got the right resources, the right programs, and the right capabilities in the right locations, so that the person who needs the resources gets them pretty quickly.” He added, “We can come up with some programs, concepts, or thoughts in our building at Army Special Operations Command at the three-star level. And we can put a great concept on a dry erase board. But our challenge is how we make sure that the concept turns into something that’s useful on the ground, where it matters, in a timely manner, so that you can get the right people, the right help.” From the clinical side of brain health, Col. Patrick Depenbrock, USASOC Surgeon deputy director, outlined a foundational need to make sure that the medical providers are trained and up to date on traumatic brain injury diagnosis and treatment tools. “And then the other role I see on the clinical side is ensuring that our brain health policy is informed by the best medical practices,” he said. “I think that is part of our challenge, because, I believe, when it comes to brain health, we as a scientific community are still learning a lot. So that has been a big point of

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USASOC

HUMAN PERFORMANCE AND WELLNESS In response to these challenges, USASOC has established the Human Performance and Wellness (HPW) program, which Ray described as “a comprehensive and integrated team” that includes experts and providers in the fields of sports medicine, strength and conditioning, performance nutrition, licensed clinical social workers, and peer network coordinators, all working tightly with behavioral health specialists, unit ministry teams, and the USASOC surgeon’s office. “The purpose is to make sure that our men and women are ready for the mission and that they’re able to overcome adversity,” Ray said, adding that such adversity “could be physical adversity on target on a battlefield. It could be injury recovery from either an

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pUSASOC’s Human Performance and Wellness Program (HPW) was established to make sure USASOC personnel are ready for the mission and able to overcome adversity.

acute or chronic injury that they’ve sustained in the course of their duties. Or it could be life stresses that they’re trying to balance. And this HPW team works together to make sure that that person is able to get back into the fight and conduct the mission, not just now but for decades, because that is what we need special operators to do.” Ray characterized the HPW effort as an outgrowth of several different programs within U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and subordinate service components that focused on optimizing human performance. “In the late 2000s and early 2010s, many of the organizations were either contracting strength and conditioning coaches, or strength conditioning and human performance organizations, to help them with their missions by making sure that they were able to go deployment after deployment because people were ready for the fight,” he said. USSOCOM efforts to consolidate many of these programs led to SOF’s Preservation of the Force and Families (POTFF) program. Introduced in the early 2013 time frame, it was designed to address the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual demands that had been placed on SOF servicemen and women through, at that point, a decade of the Global War on Terrorism. “About three years ago, at USASOC, we identified a gap and where we needed to evolve the program,” Ray said. “And part of that gap was that Preservation of the Force and Families didn’t necessarily connect to Army or DOD programs that were already out there. It didn’t always connect to Army family programs that were organic to a unit or installation, other Army community services, or garrison services that were available. There was a

COURTESY OF USASOC

emphasis for me over the last couple of years. We don’t conduct research at USASOC, but we do support it. So we are trying to reach out to reputable partners and stakeholders in the DOD and civilian academic research communities and bring them in where it makes sense for the USASOC community.” Pointing to his own early background as a sports medicine physician, Depenbrock noted parallels between human performance and brain health. “In both cases, at one end of the spectrum you’ve got health and wellness,” he explained. “Those include things like our daily activities of daily living, interfacing with our families, our relationships with our significant others, sleep, and diet and exercise. Those things are very important. And then, if you push far down to the other end of that spectrum, you get closer to optimizing performance to conduct high-risk mission sets within USASOC. And so, cognitive performance, or brain health, is really, in my mind, conceptually very similar to musculoskeletal health. In both cases, we are making sure that we’re able to surveil, enhance, treat, and rehab. But there is a lot left to be researched, so we are engaging with those people that can help us.”


USASOC tCol. Mark Ray, director of human performance and wellness at USASOC.

seam. There might have been two great programs working side by side, but they weren’t connected to each other.” He said that current efforts are working to eliminate that seam, optimizing resources to reflect USASOC’s portion of the larger Army mission and merging programs as appropriate.

COURTESY OF USASOC

USASOC TRAINING AND MATERIEL INTERFACES In addition to the traditional entities supporting HPW, Depenbrock highlighted additional support from places like the USASOC training and materiel development communities. “When I was group surgeon at 3rd Special Forces Group about four years ago, our commander came to me and asked me what we were doing as a medical community with regards to blast exposure,” he began. “And in that discussion, we realized that there was an opportunity to really improve our surveillance and monitoring for low-level blast exposure injury during training throughout the various [Special Forces] groups. At 3rd Group, for example, there was an Advanced Urban Combat training course that was about five or six weeks long. We started to do some surveillance with blast gauges, along with some other metrics that looked at cognitive performance, sleep, et cetera. Then, when I came up to USASOC Headquarters, we had an opportunity with one of our explosive breaching courses at one of our ranges here at ‘SWCS’ [U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School], called SFARTAETC [Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course]. It’s a longer course, closer to eight weeks, but with similar breaching exercises and low-level blast exposure. So we took the program that we started at 3rd Group, got input from some of our other tactical and special mission units, and really took it to the range. We brought in some subjectmatter experts from our Psychological Applications Directorate, some folks from Human Performance, some folks from the Surgeon’s office, and really put together a tiger team to build a relationship with

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COURTESY OF USASOC

USASOC

the instructors at [SFARTAETC], and really apply blast exposure monitoring. But we adapted it so that it interfered with the training as little as possible. We wanted as much passive data collection as possible, leading to information that we could deliver back to the operators rapidly, so that they can make informed decisions on their training and their health. We also brought in a team from a DOD lab at MIT and they kind of threw [in] some new technology, like new sensors that detect the impact of low-level blast exposure on the body. And I’m really proud of that effort that everyone put together. “Since then, we’ve been able to invite observation by other DOD brain health stakeholders, realizing that there are a lot of other people out there doing research, whether it’s at USSOCOM or at our sister service component commands like NSW or AFSOC or MARSOC,” he continued. “And there’s great stuff going on in the conventional Army, as well as DOD entities that are really the heavy

pCol. Patrick Depenbrock, USASOC Surgeon deputy director.

hitters for conducting research. We want to make sure that we aren’t ‘stovepiped’ in what we are doing here. So, for the last few years, we have started inviting a lot of these stakeholders to Fort Bragg to come out to see what we are doing at one of our training ranges, and also to share the other great things that were going on at the other CSUs [component subordinate units] with their own brain health monitoring; the 75th Rangers, 7th Group, and 10th Group, 1st Group, 5th Group, and our aviation units. And in doing that, I think we’ve really started to improve communication, help avoid duplication of research, and really provide a voice to those subject-matter experts from the operational force as to what their operational gaps and research needs are.”

In terms of participation from the materiel development community, Depenbrock cited a recent visit to the U.S. Army’s Medical Readiness and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, which included what he described as “a profound discussion” regarding the input that they need to optimize their support to the operational force. “They have got to have a capabilities document or formal needs assessment to move out,” he said. ”But they want that input from the operational force, so that we are working to thicken those relationships.” As an example of materiel accomplishments to date, he pointed to feedback from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and other units regarding a particular mortar system.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF USASOC

USASOC

“From our dialogue with those units, we received feedback that included complaints over some potential concussion symptoms by the operators of the 120mm mortar system and certain shoulder-fired weapon systems. We were able to provide a document, essentially, outlining those concerns to the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition [PEO Ammunition] as well as the U.S. Army Medical Research & Development Command [MRDC]. This helped with the continued process of developing technical and materiel solutions, such as blast flanges, to reduce the impact of blast overpressure. And we have started to get definitive feedback on the results of that just within the last couple of weeks,” he said. “One of the advantages I see that we have currently within USASOC is there are many different pieces, not just under the HPW umbrella, that are working

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U.S ARMY PHOTO BY PFC. NATHANIEL NEWKIRK

p Above: Service members assess handeye coordination through a monitoring program device. USASOC’s Surgeon and HPW program collaborate for programs such as the monitoring devices for the overall health and welfare of soldiers. t Left: U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise. USASOC is developing technical and materiel solutions to reduce the impact of blast overpressure on operators of weapon systems.


USASOC

pService members participate in wheelchair basketball during a Paralympic-style competition. USASOC’s Surgeon and HPW program partner with key stakeholders to provide quality care and activities for U.S. Army special operators who may have been injured as a result of serving the nation.

together,” Ray echoed. “We have a very integrated team. And that doesn’t happen naturally. We connect very well, not just at the USASOC Headquarters level, but, more importantly, down at the group/brigade/regiment levels, and with their staffs and the experts that they have at those levels. And they are very connected to the leaders and soldiers throughout.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF USASOC

A CHALLENGING BUT POSITIVE FUTURE To support his optimistic vision, Ray identified several indicators that reflected both increased participation and broader acceptance of the need to monitor and address behavioral health. “We have a good process in place,” he said. “And I think it will continue to improve, because when we talk to rising leaders – new platoon sergeants, new team sergeants, rising company commanders, and newly promoted sergeants major – we emphasize that they are at a new level of leadership and that there is this integrated team at their disposal.” Depenbrock shared the positive vision, while acknowledging some remaining challenges, such as enhancing people’s willingness to avail themselves of the available resources. “For various reasons, that can be difficult in some places and in different situations,” he said. “And because of that, I’ve been really excited about the way that we’ve seen the growth of these ‘holistic check-ins’ at the various CSUs over the last five or six years. And it’s not just the human performance team, saying, ‘Hey, everyone come by and see your physical therapist.’ It is

command-directed. And you’re seeing an integrated team – with human performance and the surgeon and behavioral health and the chaplain – descending on our soldiers or operators and giving them an opportunity to have a human touchpoint with each one of these subject-matter experts.” “I really don’t think there’s a substitute for that human touchpoint,” he said. “And folks have to feel that there is that psychological safe space to bring up what’s truly ailing them or bothering them. So I think brain health takes into account everything: behavioral health, relationships, how you perceive pain, the huge contribution of sleep, and other factors. It’s really creating that safe space where our men and women can feel comfortable to let us know how they’re truly doing. That is the challenge. We may not be there completely yet, but I think we’re making great progress towards that goal.” “The message that I would have for our soldiers is, we need you in Army special operations,” Ray added. “We need your family. We value what you do and what you have done and what you are ready to do in the future. A lot goes into recruiting, assessing, selecting, and training the right person to be an Army special operator. We know it’s a stressful job. There are high demands. There is a high tempo. What’s consistent across all parts of the Army special operations community is that we are bringing in very independent and critical thinkers. We need them to be that way, because they are going to be operating in small groups in sensitive areas around the world on different missions.” He concluded, “We are not just going to hand people a list of things to do. Instead, we want to inform them. We want to empower them. As part of that, we want them to know that these staffs and these experts that we have discussed here are for their use. Either as an independent soldier or as a leader, they are here for you. They are here to help you address whatever you might have to jump on to get some help with yourself or your family to get you back into the fight. That’s where we need you.”

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INTERNATIONAL SOF

USSOCOM PHOTO

Ukrainian special operations forces (UASOF) and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) move across an objective during Exercise Combined Resolve XI at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Dec. 10, 2018.

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U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND EUROPE PHOTO BY 1ST LT. BENJAMIN HAULENBEEK

INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES BY ANDREW WHITE

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the international special operations forces (SOF) community can reflect upon another busy year, both in terms of operational tempo and multilateral training opportunities.

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The rapidly changing security situation in Ukraine and eastern Europe has topped the agenda since the first quarter of 2022 as NATO and its partners provide military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces, including NATO-trained and -accredited SOF units. August 2021 also saw one of the largest deployments of international SOF as NATO and international partners played a critical role in the non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) of national citizens and Afghan partners from Kabul following the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Elsewhere, a rapidly changing security picture in Mali threatens any future deployments of international SOF to West Africa to counter violent extremist organizations (VEOs). And finally, bilateral and multilateral training opportunities are back in full swing following COVID-19 constraints as international SOF seek to expand levels in cooperation and interoperability with partner forces around the world.

NSHQ’S OUTLOOK According to the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) – the Belgium-based command responsible for directing the policy, doctrine, capabilities, standards, training, education, and coordination of 30

NATO and non-NATO partner SOF organizations – the contemporary operating environment for international SOF comprises a series of emerging threats, particularly in the Euro-Atlantic area. Speaking exclusively to Special Operations Outlook, an NSHQ military official explained: “Our mission in Afghanistan has ended. We face increasing competition from Russia and China and a continuing threat from terror groups and cyber actors. “We are responsible to our nations and the Alliance to anticipate dangers and sense opportunities against this shifting backdrop. As we assess our capabilities, we need to ensure nations recalibrate to have the right capabilities, posture, and readiness to address challenges and threats posed by state actors at home and abroad, such as Russia, as well as those threatening stability further away that have impacts on their security at home, such as terrorist groups. “For the past 20 years, the Alliance has focused on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. For NSHQ, this was predominately land-focused. However, in today’s complex security environment, we need to ensure allied SOF have a 360-degree approach to security. As a result, one effort NSHQ is focused on is the continued development of maritime and aviation SOF to provide standardized sets of skills that are transferable

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and harmonized across allied SOF,” the military official added.

UKRAINE Nowhere is this type of cooperation more apparent than in eastern Europe, where Ukrainian armed forces SOF (UASOF) remain heavily engaged against Russian armed forces as Special Operations Outlook goes to press. UASOF have benefited from years of support from NATO SOF units operating as part of the Multinational SOF Advisory Team (MSAT), which is tasked with the development of partner SOF capabilities in support of national defense and security reforms. Such cooperation already resulted in two UASOF NATO-accredited Special Operations Land Task Groups (SOLTGs) with additional units undertaking certification as Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022. Since then, UASOF has been deployed across the country to find, fix, and destroy Russian forces, often publishing mission successes on social media as part of an information war. Consequently, UASOF is now the first SOF organization to have participated in full combat operations against a “peer” adversary in the contemporary operating environment, and the wider, international

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p U.S. Navy SEALs acting as opposing forces ambush a joint raid exercise between Ukrainian special forces and U.S. Navy SEALs during Exercise Sea Breeze 21 on Pervomays’kyy Island, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. Exercise Sea Breeze 21 was a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region.

SOF community will be keen to learn lessons from their experiences as soon as possible.

AFGHAN DRAWDOWN The NEO of personnel from the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul, comprised a “who’s who” of the international SOF community, as units from around the world convened in Afghanistan’s capital city to recover national citizens and their Afghan partners. The mass evacuation followed the rapid fall of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIROA) to the Taliban – a move which appeared almost inevitable once NATO and the United States had confirmed their exit from the country earlier in the year.

The fall of GIROA also signaled the dissolution of the country’s NATO-backed SOF capability, which included the National Mission Brigade; Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps; Afghan Air Force’s Special Mission Wing; General Directorate Special Police Unit; and National Directorate of Security. Operating in the glare of the world’s media, international SOF played a critical role in the recovery of more than 120,000 non-combatants from the city. SOF units participating in the operation came from a wide spread of countries, including Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Heavily dependent upon national caveats, SOF were deployed across HKIA and the city of Kabul to identify embassy staff and local partners and recover them back to the airport for flights out of the country. SOF were tasked with identifying noncombatants with correct paperwork for extraction from a throbbing crowd of desperate Afghans at the gates to HKIA, and in some cases, special operations task groups deployed across the city using 4x4 utility trucks and helicopters to find, fix, and recover non-combatants farther afield.

U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. PATRIK ORCUTT

INTERNATIONAL SOF


COURTESY PHOTO BY SERGEANT KISS GÁBOR, HUNGARIAN MOD

USSOCOM

p Above and right: Special operations forces from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United States participate in Exercise Black Swan 21 in Szolnok, Hungary, May 12, 2021.

COURTESY PHOTO BY HUNGARIAN MOD

MALI International SOF involvement in Mali also appears to be drawing down in 2022, following calls from Mali’s new regime for SOF to leave the West African country. In June 2021, the French government confirmed its decision to end Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, although French President Emmanuel Macron did stipulate at the time that he would maintain a counterterrorism “pillar” capability comprising “several hundred” personnel from the Special Operations Command. It remains to be seen whether European SOF will continue to support United Nations operations in Mali. Despite Mali’s demands to expel international SOF from the country, multilateral training did resume in West Africa following the cancellation of U.S. Africa Command’s Exercise Flintlock in 2021 due to the pandemic. Conducted over the course of February across multiple training sites in Senegal and

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Côte d’Ivoire, Flintlock saw special mission units from the host nations plus Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia trained in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics, techniques, and procedures. Instruction was provided by SOF directing staff from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal,

Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Exercise Flintlock remains one of the most influential SOF training programs in West Africa, designed to “strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to counter violent extremist organizations, protect their borders, and provide security for their people,” according to U.S. Africa Command sources. In the Indo-Pacific, multilateral training programs, including the Rim of the Pacific

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INTERNATIONAL SOF

NATO SOF Within the NATO Alliance, member nations continue to ramp up their capabilities in line with emerging threats, particularly across eastern Europe. Following Exercise Black Swan, held in Croatia and Hungary in May 2021, the Regional Special Operations Component Command

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p Ghana special operations forces soldiers conduct closequarter battle training near base camp Loumbila, in Côte d’Ivoire on Feb. 16, 2022, during Exercise Flintlock 2022. Flintlock helps strengthen the ability of allies and partners to counter violent extremism and provide security for their people.

(R-SOCC) achieved initial operating capability (IOC) less than two years after being formalized. Following the establishment of the Composite-Special Operations Command (which features SOF components from Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands) in 2017, the R-SOCC is responsible for the unified command and control of Austrian, Croatian, Hungarian, Slovakian, and Slovenian SOF units during “small scale NATO operations.” The R-SOCC will continue to be developed under the guidance of the NSHQ as it prepares to support the NATO Response Force in 2024 and beyond. Exercise Black Swan successfully validated air, land, and maritime special operations capabilities of R-SOCC force elements, all under the command of rapidly deployable Hungarian command and control elements. With specific training serials including close-quarter battle sequences; vehicle interdiction missions; insertion and extraction

U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SGT. KACIE BENAK

(RIMPAC) Exercise are set to return in July/August 2022. The biannual exercise did go ahead in 2020, although training serials were restricted to “at-sea” scenarios. A special operations component featuring SOF from across the Indo-Pacific is expected to take part in RIMPAC 2022. Coordinated by the U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC), the exercise could feature participants from Brazil, India, Peru, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and others. In Latin America, the annual Fuerzas Comando competition also returns in 2022, having been cancelled the previous year. Due to be hosted by Honduras in the city of Tegucigalpa between June 10-24, the competition will see multiple SOF units from across Latin America rehearsing small unit tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and counternarcotics mission sets.


U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY TECH. SGT. WESTIN WARBURTON

INTERNATIONAL SOF by fast rope; and special reconnaissance, Exercise Black Swan was designed to illustrate “peer to peer deterrence and resiliency of alliances and partnerships in Europe,” exercise officials confirmed to Special Operations Outlook. R-SOCC force elements were certified during the exercise by U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs. NSHQ’s military official also described to Special Operations Outlook how such cooperation across the Alliance and beyond would remain critical to countering emerging threats today and in the future. “The NATO SOF Coordination Center [NSCC] was founded in 2006 at the NATO Riga Summit to provide strategic SOF advice to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe [SACEUR] and synchronize SOF capability development across NATO,” the NSHQ military official declared, before describing how this specific demand signal had emerged from operations in Afghanistan as part of the NATO response to “9/11.” “However, there wasn’t a shared understanding of SOF capabilities or what defines a unit able to deliver SOF-type effects across the NATO Alliance. The NSCC was intended to create a structure that would bring more coherence to the allied SOF pipeline, principally going into Afghanistan,” the official added. “Just as the Alliance has evolved, the role of NSHQ has also evolved. NSHQ is assessing SOF activities at the strategic, operational, and tactical level, and ensuring that the capabilities we are developing and improving are providing for the deterrence and defense of the Alliance. NSHQ is a well-connected network of allied SOF that is quickly evolving to address today and tomorrow’s geopolitical environment, be it in great power competition and/or counterterrorism.” Today, 26 NATO nations and four non-NATO nations contribute to NSHQ, which actively coordinates, advocates, and advises special operations across NATO, including areas such as intelligence, aviation, medical support, and communications, to name just a few, the official confirmed. “This is part of the broader efforts of building an enhanced joint force capable of defending across the Alliance,” the official said, before highlighting how, over the past 12 months, NSHQ had created a Maritime Development Program (MDP), similar to the Air Development Program. “NSOS [NATO Special Operations School] has partnered with the Maritime Development Program to develop two new courses to complement the MDP initiative. Both courses are anticipated to be delivered in the next academic year [2022-23]. For NSHQ, and ultimately the NATO Alliance, to be effective, we must be prepared to respond, deter, and defend across all domains. The role of maritime SOF is similar to every other domain – build credible, capable, ready, reliable forces to deter and defend the Alliance when called upon.” According to NSHQ, the Air Development Program (ADP), established in 2012, continues to be the primary point of direction and coordination to develop SOF air capability and enhance interoperability for NATO special operations air/aviation forces. “Computer-based simulation training activities allow attendees to engage in a ‘multinational and multi-domain’ environment through all phases of the special operations air mission planning process and mission execution. ADP also supports the four-nation ‘Multinational Special Aviation Program’ [MSAP], a SOF Aviation Training Center established in 2019 in Zadar, Croatia. This is an excellent example of international cooperation between Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia,” the official stated. NSHQ has also “re-tooled and expanded” its concepts, exercises, training, and education in the counter-hybrid arena to extend SOF network and capability development for application in peacetime competition as it is [in] conflict.

p U.S. Army special operations forces (SOF) jump from a U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a military free fall over Macedonia, May 2, 2022. The training was part of Trojan Footprint 22, the premier SOF exercise in Europe that focuses on improving the ability of SOF to counter myriad threats, increases integration with conventional forces, and enhances interoperability with NATO allies and European partners.

“In line with NATO’s Article 3 focus on resilience, this effort connects the appreciation of internal national challenges with broader regional or global challenges and adversaries. Using the umbrella of ‘comprehensive defense,’ NSHQ works with nations to develop and integrate SOF capabilities in support of national resilience and emergency response programs to quickly counter hybrid activities or address scenarios that require preparation of resistance capabilities.”

FUTURE Looking to the future, the NSHQ military official stressed to Special Operations Outlook that the organization was not seeking to expand its influence, but instead coordinate and synchronize special operations efforts to “ensure the development or improvement of national SOF capabilities to provide the necessary deterrence and defense effects for the security and sovereignty of the Alliance.” Describing how NSHQ will remain responsible for providing “sound advice” to senior political and military leaders across peacetime, crisis, and conflict, the NSHQ military official concluded: “NSHQ continues to look at ways to improve our awareness of the threat, develop capabilities to prepare and respond, and enhance engagement with partner countries and other international actors.”

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EQUIPMENT SPOTLIGHT

MINIGUN UPDATE BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

Whether crediting the nomenclature to inventor Richard Jordan Gatling, or using the “minigun” designation, special operations forces around the world continue to employ multi-barrel cannons to deliver firing rates many times those of standard machine guns.

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The last few years have witnessed a number of military developments in these weapon systems, ranging from critical component upgrades to entirely new caliber and system designs. Surprisingly, several of these new developments were highlighted during the recent Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, held in Nevada in mid-January 2022.

PHOTO BY ADAM GOURLEY

M134D Dillon Aero, for example, focused a spotlight on several recent developments surrounding their popular M134D, an electrically-powered, six-barreled Gatling gun design, firing the 7.62x51mm NATO round, with a fixed firing rate of approximately 3,000 rounds per minute. Primarily used in helicopters, the system also can be adapted to many ground and naval platforms. Asked about recent enhancements in the M134D design, Brian Fuller, vice president of business development at Dillon Aero, began by pointing to the new battery design on display at SHOT Show. “This is a lithium phosphate battery, which is one of the most stable types of lithium compounds that you can use,” he said. “Many customers still use the [lead acid] Concorde Aircraft Battery to power the gun.” In comparison to the traditional lead acid battery designs, Fuller said that the new power option features a much smaller form factor with the exact same connectors to facilitate easy mounting. “I’ve been at the range and we’ve shot 12,000 rounds before this new battery started to slow down,” he said. “So, even though this battery is a smaller form factor, it lasts longer and you get more cycles out of it, because it is more forgiving. By that I mean, when you burn down lead acid batteries, you have to put them on the charger right away. With this new design you can wait a couple of days. The battery won’t develop a ‘memory.’ It’s also got a smart battery management unit in there, which prevents thermal runaway and all of those horror stories that you hear about lithium ion batteries. It’s a very smart battery and just one example of the technology going forward for the M134D.” Acknowledging that the performance advantages are already prompting some customers to upgrade to the new battery, he said, “Additionally, with this battery system, you can certainly run the gun off of the battery. But if you are in a vehicle or a boat or an aircraft, you can also trickle charge the battery, pulling five amps or less load off of that vehicle system or aircraft system. So you don’t have a large electrical load on the platform itself.” t Opposite page: Brian Fuller, vice president of business development at Dillon Aero, demonstrates features of the Flex Force ASP gyro-stabilized mount during SHOT Show in January 2022.

Another recent M134D advancement involves the new singlemotion blade safing sector that instantly renders the weapon safe. “You used to have to open up the entire safing sector,” he said. “That would interrupt the cam path, and you could power the gun spin the gun – but it wouldn’t fire even though it had live rounds in it. But it was a little onerous.” Acknowledging that the gun on display was inert, he described a new lever design that served to provide something of a mechanical safety to quickly and easily “manually safe” the gun. The display gun was also mounted in the ASP gyro-stabilized mount from Flex Force. Noting that the company already makes stabilized mounts for a number of different weapon systems, Fuller said, “They asked us to integrate an M134 onto their mount. So our piece of it was to work with them to construct the mounting mechanism. And they’ve been to our range and tested.” After demonstrating several of the features on the mount, he continued, “We think this has a lot of naval application, whether it’s on small boats or medium-size boats, going up and down on the water. Once you have it on the target it will stay there, despite the motion of the platform.” In addition to the M134D enhancements, Dillon Aero used the venue to highlight its new developmental design for a three-barreled .50 caliber (12.7x99mm NATO) Gatling gun. Currently designated as the 503D, the new design could be a future competitor in applications that currently utilize the GAU-19 series. The company characterizes the 503D as “lighter, faster, and smarter than existing .50 cal machine guns,” firing up to 1,500 shots per minute with the ability to adjust precise firing rates based on platform integration. “One of the design considerations was to make it lighter, more reliable, and less maintenance-intensive,” Fuller said. “That was the

“If you go back to ’05, 5th Special Forces Group actually shipped a whole bunch of these over, mounted them on trucks, and took them over and started doing things with them. Before that, the purchasing system all said: ‘No, no, these are helicopter guns.’ And operators going forward said: ’No, no. It’s a “bullet hose.” And it’s a game changer …’”

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EQUIPMENT SPOTLIGHT

62 Special Operations Outlook

p Dillon has developed a three-barreled .50 caliber (12.7x99mm NATO) Gatling gun, currently designated as the 503D.

thing to do is that brass first. It’s heaviest. If you make it work with brass, and the polymer round is good, you can progress to that. We like to say we’re ammunition agnostic in whether it’s brass or polymer. The ammo choice is largely a customer choice. We don’t push them one way or the other.” Asked about any other calibers that might be incorporated into future minigun developments, Fuller emphasized that any efforts along those lines will be “customer driven.” That said, he acknowledged internal development activities on a five-barreled prototype firing the .338 Norma Magnum, acknowledging, “That’s a bad boy.” While the prototype has been developed, some

additional efforts are on hold awaiting future user decisions on the .338 Norma Magnum medium machine gun and the specific link that might be selected. Additionally, he said that the company was monitoring the Army’s upcoming decision on its new 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapons, observing that the company could make a 6.8mm version of the minigun “fairly quickly.”

PF556 Another company introducing a number of new minigun developments at SHOT Show

PHOTO BY ADAM GOURLEY

goal. And we achieve that by using two drive motors instead of one.” He added, “We’ve been developing our new 503D design for a little over four years. We’ve been undergoing test/fix/test development as we put it through its paces. Of course, Chris Dillon’s goal is that we don’t roll this out until it’s as good as the [M134D] Dillon minigun. And we’re pretty close. They’re testing again [second week in January] and we hope to be in production by the end of the year.” Although testing to date has largely focused on brass ammunition, Fuller said that the use of new polymer .50 caliber ammunition would be “very attractive,” because of the weight savings. “We’ve tested polymer ammo in the [M134D] minigun, and we will test polymer ammo in this 503D,” he said. “The hardest


EQUIPMENT SPOTLIGHT

PHOTO BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

t The Profense Remote Operations Weapon Station (PROWS) on display at the SHOT Show.

2022 was Profense, LLC. The company entered the 7.62x51mm NATO military minigun arena with its company design in the 2014 time frame and has subsequently expanded its portfolio to include a new 5.56x45mm NATO [with M27 links] minigun design, associated remote weapon stations, and the 2020 introduction of the North Star small arms line. Speaking at a company briefing a few days after live-fire range demonstrations of their products, Mark Spicer, business development manager at Profense, referenced his own background as a retired sergeant major with 25 years in the British Army, adding that he joined Profense because of a shared vision with company leadership

who wanted to “give back to the people that are still ‘holding the line,’ giving them what they want, rather than what we think we want to sell.” Spicer highlighted the company’s “third generation” gun designs, explaining, “They are a brushless design with brand-new GCU [gun control unit], which means we can do things that none of our competitors can do. And this comes about because we listen to our clients, we listen to what they ask us to do. And what the GCU allowed us to do was to come up with a variable rate for the gun itself that could be chosen by the operator and changed by operator during the mission. So if we are looking at the PF134A3, our 7.62mm minigun, we can

set that rate of fire as low as 800 rounds a minute, or as high as 3,000 rounds a minute. And the reason we did this was because a lot of the SF [Special Forces] operators would tell us they would love to have a minigun on their vehicles, but they can’t carry that much ammunition. So, we said, ‘Well, what if we made it a machine gun until you need it to be minigun?’ Our engineers designed it, proved it, people on the range saw it the other day. And that is now a capability. So now, as an operator, I can run this gun as a machine gun at 800 rounds a minute until I need to destroy the entire planet, in which case what I’m going to do is hit a ‘high rate’ gun button and she spins up to 3,000 rounds a minute. And the second that I let go of it, she comes back down to 800 rounds a minute. Now, if that’s the rate I want for the first part of the mission, that’s great. If I need to change that, because I’ve got different targets as I move forward, then I can change that in a vehicle or on the aircraft right there. And we’re talking about seconds, not minutes, to change the rate of fire on the gun. So I can set a high and low rate anywhere between that range of 800 to 3,000 shots per minute.” He shifted the spotlight to the company’s PF556, which he asserted to be “currently, the only available 5.56 minigun,” adding, “it is exactly the same design as its big brother, only ‘a little bit angrier.’ Who knew guns had Napoleon syndrome? But this one does. So we’re now talking about a low rate of 1,500 rounds a minute and a higher rate 4,000 rounds a minute, and again, anywhere in between. And the operator can change that any time he wants to during the operation.” In a separate briefing on the system design, Noel Lasure, a business development manager at Profense/North Star Arms, observed that the company started development of the mini 5.56 “to get with a lot of those Special Forces units because they want something that they can toss on a smaller vehicle.” Elaborating on the benefits of the third-generation brushless drive and booster motor designs, he explained, “The regular electric motors were drawing up to 100-120 amps. I mean, that was just a crazy amount that they drew. Well, they went to a brushless motor, and they’ve got it down to 50-60. And it’s a much more seamless transition between that high and

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EQUIPMENT SPOTLIGHT and it goes ‘click.’ That’s a bad day. Now you actually know, OK, that engagement just ended? Do we need to stop now and reload, top off? What do we need to do? And more information is always better. So just like everything else on the battlefield, how can I give more information to the warfighter? And that’s basically what we’re doing with our gun control unit.”

pAbove: The Profense PF556 can be mounted on a number of lightweight platforms. uRight: The Profense gun control unit allows rapid transition between low and high firing rates.

low firing rates with the brushless and the new GCU as well.” He continued, “What we’re doing is actually bringing lessons learned into the development process. We know what has been successful in the past. A bullet hose. It’s fantastic. If you go back to ’05, 5th Special Forces Group actually shipped a whole bunch of these over, mounted them on trucks, and started doing things with them. Before that, the purchasing system all said: ‘No, no, these are helicopter guns.’ And operators going forward said: ’No, no. It’s a “bullet hose.” And it’s a game-changer. This really is what we need.’ So we’ve built into our gun control unit little things like user programmable rates of fire. I can actually run it down as low as 800 rounds a minute. So now some place where you were going to allocate an M240 Bravo, I can give you 240 Bravo firing rate, but I can still give you 3,000 rounds a minute on the high side, if you need it – or anywhere in between.” Another feature of the new GCU is a heads-up display of ammunition status. “It gives the operator true feedback on what’s left, because the time to find out your gun is empty is not when you’ve decided to ‘go to guns’ on something, hit the trigger,

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Along with the third-generation gun designs, the company has also developed the Profense Remote Operations Weapon Station (PROWS). “It is currently the smallest, lightest remote weapon station available, with the footprint of 18 inches by 18 inches, and it will take either our 7.62 gun or it will take the 5.56 gun,” Spicer said. “This gives you the ability to have the actual firer under cover. The weapon system will operate on its own. And, as you saw in the range, they can be put on the PROWS lightweight strike vehicle, which makes it a very dangerous gun truck.” He identified a number of system features, ranging from the ability for remote WiFi operation on a tablet computer to prerecording targets. “The example I always give is, if I’m a recon, and have identified five or six targets that I need to suppress before my guys actually launch the attack, I can pre-record those into the machine itself,” Spicer said. “I can also tell the gun how long I want it to fire at each one of those targets and at what rate I want it to fire. So, if I’ve got a heavy weapon system I want to destroy, I may want to go to the high rate. But if I’ve got guys in a trench, that’s OK with a low rate. I can program that into the system, hit the screen, and the gun will do the rest ... The other thing built into it is, if somebody pops up an RPG that I wasn’t expecting, I just got to hit the screen about where he is and the gun will immediately swing around, and I can get rid of him at the same time. So, it’s a very versatile system. It’s a very deadly system. It’s got a lot of attention for us. And obviously, we want to put it out there to the world.” Asked about the future, Lasure said that the current portfolio has created a foundation that allows the exploration of additional calibers, including 6.5mm Creedmoor “and others.” He concluded, “I can tell you right now that we’re looking really, really hard at [the upcoming U.S. Army Next Generation Squad Weapon downselect] that 6.8x51.”

PHOTO BY ADAM GOURLEY

PROWS





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Articles inside

MINIGUN UPDATE

13min
pages 2, 4, 64-68, 70

INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES

12min
pages 12, 20, 58-63, 71

USASOC: BRINGS A "TEAM APPROACH" TO BRAIN HEALTH IN ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS

14min
pages 24, 44, 50-57, 69

USSOCOM: SOF AT&L OVERVIEW

28min
pages 4, 10-25

27TH SPECIAL OPERATIONS WING: AFSOC’S PATHFINDERS

18min
pages 6, 24, 26-33, 44, 70

1ST MARINE RAIDERS AT TULAGI AND EDSON’S RIDGE

12min
pages 6, 12, 20, 34-41, 71

A MONTH IN 2022: USSOCOM COMMANDER OUTLINES GLOBAL OPTEMPO

5min
pages 2-3, 8-9, 70

NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE: TALKING TO “THE BULL FROG”

14min
pages 4, 42-49, 69
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