The Editor of SOF News attended the week-long SOF Week 2023 in Tampa, Florida from May 8-11, 2023. There were hundreds of exhibits, seminars, panel discussions, and presentations. It was impossible to see all of them as many of them ran concurrently. In addition, there is no way for one single media outlet to write about all of the events and happenings. So found below is some coverage of SOF Week 2023 by several different media sources. Enjoy!
Can SOF Shift from CT/COIN to GPC? During a panel discussion the head of Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) suggested that some operators are struggling in the new mission of ‘competitive campaigning’. “The ‘morale challenge’ facing some special operations in the era of Great Power competition”, Breaking Defense, May 11, 2023.
USSOCOM and a New Approach. The Pentagon’s McNamara-era philosophy is woefully insufficient to a world that changes daily. USSOCOM is working to put together a ” . . . new management philosophy, enabled by data, analytics, and AI . . .” Dan Folliard, the Chief Digital and AI Officer at U.S. Special Operations Command, provides his perspective on this topic. “DOD Managers Need a New Approach. SOCOM Can Lead the Way”, Defense One, May 12, 2023.
Refining SOF’s Role in GPC. During a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Global SOF Foundations’s SOF Week the role of special operations forces in a time of strategic competition was a topic. “Special operations role in great power competition needs work”, Military Times, May 11, 2023.
Photo: A Vision 60 Q-UGV ground robot does a simulated route mission at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., April 17, 2023. The robot is capable of maneuvering through rough terrains. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Pedrazzini) Several firms had their ground robots on exhibit; many of them walking along the exhibition hall floor and on the grounds outside.
SOF and Space. Over the past four years there has been increasing coordination among SOCOM, Cyber Command, and Space Command. This was demonstrated in a recent mission in Syria where the three commands coordinated to take down an ISIS leader. “Special Operators Look to Space to Boost Capabilities”, National Defense Magazine, May 11, 2023.
Ukraine on a Shopping Trip. Howard Altman interviews a Ukrainian arms dealer who is trying to procure weapons, drones, and other military equipment from U.S. companies for his country’s fight against Russia. “Ukrainian Arms Dealer’s Experience Shopping at a U.S. Special Ops Trade Show”, The WarZone, May 15, 2023.
Ukraine to Get M-ACE C-UAS Systems. One of the counter-unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) displayed during SOF Week 2023 was the Northrop Grumman Mobile, Acquisition, Sueing and Effector System (M-ACE) and its gun truck. It will soon be deployed to Ukraine. The M-ACE platform identifies the UAS and shares its exact location with the gun truck – which will shoot the UAS down with its M230 Link Fed 30 mm weapon system and proximity ammunition. “Ukraine will operate Northrup Grumman M-ACE C-UAS”, Military Embedded, May 8, 2023.
Photo: A U.S. Army paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade uses a Dronebuster 3B to disrupt enemy drones as part of Exercise Shield 23, April 20, 2023 in Pula, Croatia. (Photo by Sgt. Mariah Y. Gonzalez)
Next Generation Drones. Defense and commercial companies showcased several cutting-edge uncrewed aerial systems (UASs) at the SOF Week 2023 exhibition. The companies aim to fill capability gaps and meet the often-uniqe needs of SOF teams. “What capabilties can next-generation drones provide to SOF teams?”, Military Embedded, May 11, 2023.
Sky Warden Begins Production. Jim Smith, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) acquisitions executive, says that the initial production run has begun for the AT-802U Sky Warden program. The aircraft will replace the Pilatus U-28A Draco turboprops used by SOCOM for aerial reconnaissance. The program of record includes up to 75 aircraft at a value of $3 billion. “Armed Overwatch special-ops turboprop enters low-rate production”, FlightGlobal, May 12, 2023.
SOF and Leveraging Private Equity. During a panel discussion last week at SOF Week 2023 a discussion was held on how to speed the integration of commercial technology by a panel of venture capitalists and other experts. The commerical market and small-medium enterprises continue to drive hi-tech development in defense – particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence, cyber, and autonomy. These are tech areas that can help SOF stay on the cutting edge. “In race with China, SOCOM must leverage private equity, say experts and VCs”, Breaking Defense, May 15, 2023.
Amphib MC-130J? Not So Fast. The aircraft that USSOCOM hoped would provide an amphibious capability is going to be delayed. Converting an MC-130J special operations tanker / transport aircraft into a floatplane is about two or three years away. It is anticipated that this capability would be very useful for special operations in the Pacific region. “Amphibious C-130 Won’t fly For Two to Three More Years”, The War Zone, May 9, 2023.
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SOF Small Arms – Improvements Needed. Special operators need a host of small arms, ammunition, weapons accessories, and explosive devices to be more competitive on the battlefield. “New guns means new bullets, suppressors and tech for special ops”, Marine Corps Times, May 10, 2023.
2nd Generation CCMs for NSW. According to US Special Operations Command there is ongoing planning for a second-generation Combatant Craft Medium (CCM). The USSOCOM Program Executive Office – Maritime confirmed that the command is looking to replace the 31 legacy CCMs which are currently in sustainment. The CCMs are a multi-role surface vessel with a primary mission to insert and extract special operations forces. “US special forces kick off search for new multi-role watercraft”, Shepard News, May 11, 2023.
Dry Minisub News. Naval Special Warfare Command are set to receive its long-awaited dry minisub – an underwater vehicle that will deliver Navy SEALs to coastal targets without them getting completely wet in the process. “Navy SEALs Receive Long-Awaited Dry Minisub”, Maritime Executive, May 11, 2023. See also “Navy SEALs’ New Mini-Submarine to be Operational Within Weeks”, The War Zone, May 11, 2023.
Video – MARSOC and Recruiting. The Commander of US Marine Forces Special Operations Command talks about recruiting and retaining talent during SOF Week 2023. Major General Matthew Trollinger outlines the challenges of finding the right talent for unique requirements. Shepard Media, YouTube, May 10, 2023, 3 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3VD6P7vxk
Video – NSW Challenges and Priorities. The Commander of US Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Keith Davids, is interviewed at SOF Week 2023 and speaks about how NSW seeks to be on the leading age using technology to communicate, extend operational reach, field systems of systems, and accelerate its warfighting advantage. Shepard Media, YouTube, May 10, 2023, 4 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6UkK-SXEwY
Video – AFSOC Training and Recruitment Priorities. Lieutenant General Tony Bauernfeind, Commander of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, talks about investing in Air Commandos and an outreach program to share information about AFSOC. Shepard Media, YouTube, May 11, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHZ3O8E7MqA