Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. USSOCOM cdr interview, JSOF profession, strategic competition and SOF, and more.
Image: Sailors perform a high-altitude low-opening jump during Arctic Edge, a biennial homeland defense exercise, over Alaska, March 10, 2022. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Trey Hutcheson.
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Interview – USSOCOM Commander. General Richard Clarke, USA, is the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. He is interviewed by William T. Eliason of Joint Force Quarterly. He outlines the priorities of USSOCOM, global security challenges, how USSOCOM is leveraging the diverse talents of special operators, leveraging what SOF brings to the joint force, experiences with the U.S. Congress, the terminology in use to describe the contemporary security environment, impact of technology on SOF, and more. “An Interview with Richard D. Clarke”, National Defense University Press, April 14, 2022.
Emerald Warrior 22. An exercise hosted by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is currently ongoing at multiple locations across the Southeast United States. Staged out of Hurlburt Field, Florida and lasting one month, the combined exercise has participants from all components of the U.S. military. “Emerald Warrior 22 prepares Air Commandos for strategic competition”, AFSOC, April 25, 2022.
Primer for SOF Planners. Greg Metzgar, a retired Special Forces officer and a professor at the Joint Special Operations University, has put together a short article describing the role of the special operations forces planner and references that will be of value to the SOF planner. “Planning to Read – Reading to Plan: A Primer for SOF Joint Planning Development”, Small Wars Journal, April 25, 2022.
Golden Knights – Scaring Congressmen. The U.S. Capitol was evacuated this past Wednesday (Apr 20) after the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights demonstration team conducted a parachute jump into a baseball stadium before a game between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Some believe that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to alert Capitol Police to the pre-planned performance over the stadium. The incident took place about a mile away from the U.S. Capitol. “U.S. Capitol security scare sparked by plane, parachutists at game”, Reuters, April 21, 2022.
SOCOM’s Little Bird. The A/MH-6 Little Bird has been serving the special operations community for several decades. Known as the “Killer Egg”, it has seen service around the world. The helicopter’s small size, agility, and speed make it an ideal aircraft for getting in and out of tight spaces. The two missions sets of the aircraft employed by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are light attack and light assault. Read more in “The Future of SOCOM’s ‘Killer Egg'”, National Defense Magazine, April 22, 2022.
Pirate Flags, SOF, and Africa. On a small airfield in the Horn of Africa flies a flag sometimes associated with ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’. A recent mass casualty exercise conducted by Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) took place on Chabelley Airfield in Djibouti. The TF released pictures of the exercise events – some of which depicted the display of an unusual ‘unofficial’ flag. (The War Zone, Apr 25, 2022).
Joint SOF Profession. The move to rebalance special operations forces to be able to support operations in the new ‘strategic competition’ environment has called for many new innovative reforms of SOF. One of these is the proposal for a ‘Joint Special Operations Force’ or JSOF profession. “Making the Case for a Joint Special Operations Profession”, Joint Force Quarterly, April 2022.
Jordanian – U.S. SOF Parachute Jump. Soldiers from U.S. Special Forces joined up with the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces to conduct a combined parachute jump in Jordan in April 2022. (DVIDS, Apr 11, 2022).
British SAS in the News. The Russians say they are investigating reports that members of the British Special Air Service are in Ukraine conducting training for Ukrainian military personnel. There have been several news accounts that have speculated on this topic. Here is one of the latest – “Russian explosions point to Ukraine’s embrace of the British special forces model”, Washington Examiner, April 25, 2022.
Greece’s ETA. A Greek commando unit has achieved a “Combat Ready” rating from evaluators of the NATO Special Operations Forces Headquarters (NSHQ). This means the Greek commandos are now certified to deploy as part of a NATO Special Operations Land Task Group. “Greece’s Special Forces Among NATO’s Best”, Greek Reporter, April 21, 2022.
Black Swan Exercise. An annual exercise involving NATO special operations forces is scheduled to take place in Hungary between April 25 and May 13. This exercise is conducted to improve the coordination and interoperability of NATO SOF units. The 2021 Black Swan exercise included SOF units from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United States. “Black Swan Military Exercise Starts in Hungary“, Hungary Today, April 25, 2022.
SAS’s ‘Pink Panthers’. In the 1960s and 1970s the British Special Air Service conducted a lot of training and operations in the deserts of the Middle East. One of their principal vehicles was the Land Rover Series II. The vehicles were adapted to the SAS’s needs . . . to include a new paint job. (Coffee or Die Magazine, Apr 22, 2022).
2012 – SEALs Rescue Aid Workers. Two aid workers who were held captive by Somali pirates were rescued by personnel of SEAL Team Six. The aid workers were providing awareness training on how to avoid land mines. The captors demanded $45 million for their release. During the rescue mission in 2012, nine pirates were killed and three others captured. “When SEAL Team Six Rescued Two Aid Workers from Somali Pirates”, SOFREP, April 23, 2022.
Aussie Soldier and His Vietnam Exploits. Rayene Simpson was awarded the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Silver Star for his heroism in Vietnam. He served with the Australian Special Air Service in Vietnam and also as an attachment to U.S. Special Forces units. “How This Aussie Soldier Received Top Military Honors From 2 Countries”, History Net, April 25, 2022.
Sig Sauer Gets Big Contract. The replacements for the M4 and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon are to be built by a firm based in New Hampshire. The $20 million contract to build the XM5 Rifle and XM250 Automatic Rifle (as well as the ammunition) has been awarded to Sig Sauer. The weapons are expected to provide significant capability improvements in accuracy, range, and overall lethality. “Army selects Sig Sauer to produce Next Generation Squad Weapon and ammo”, Task & Purpose, April 19, 2022. See also “US Army Selects Sig Sauer for Next Generation Squad Weapons Program”, Soldier Systems, April 19, 2022.
New U.S. Hostage Policy Needed? Bruce Hoffman argues that the ‘no dealing with terrorist groups on hostages’ stance by the United States has proven to be not very effective. In addition, he states that U.S. actions have often not conformed to this policy. “US hostage policy doesn’t deter terrorists”, The Hill, April 19, 2022.
USMC’s CH-53K. The Marine Corps has achieved initial operational capability (IOC) for the CH-53K King Stallion. The heavy lift helicopter will significantly upgrade the Corps lift capability for the Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs). “Marine Corps declares IOC for CH-53K King Stallion”, DVIDS, April 25, 2022.
IC’s Controlled Access Programs. The intelligence community has compartmentalized intelligence on the basis of the sensitivity of the activity, sources, or methods involved. The Controlled Access Program (CAP) outlines the procedures for controlling intelligence – using ‘controls’ such as Special Intelligence (SI), Talent Keyhole (TK), and Human Intelligence Control System (HCS). These control systems have compartments and sub-compartments. There are also unacknowledged CAPs – known only to those who are authorized for access to the information. Learn more in a Congressional Research Service fact sheet entitled “Controlled Access Programs of the Intelligence Community”, CRS, April 20, 2022, PDF, 3 pages.
SOF’s Value in Today’s Competitive Environment. The character of global geopolitical competition is influencing the future roles, missions, and force structure of U.S. special operations forces. The future SOF of the United States has to strike a balance between its past two-decade focus on CT and COIN and coping with the competitive threats posed by China, Russia, and other regional powers. “Rediscovering the Value of Special Operations”, Joint Force Quarterly, April 14, 2022.
CSINT – Commercially Sourced Intelligence. Hostile foreign powers support the commercial activities of their national commercial firms who are engaged in intelligence gathering activities. U.S. CSINT firms are handicapped – with a lack of support from U.S. intelligence agencies and with the legalities of the foreign corrupt practices act (FCPA). “CSINT is actually a combination of many traditional intelligence disciplines, which have been privatized and are available on the open market.” Former intelligence officers now working in the private sector believe that the U.S. is not competing effectively in the ‘commercial’ gray zone. Read more in “Commercial Intelligence in the Gray Zone”, The Cipher Brief, April 25, 2022.
Mines and the Baltic Sea. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened the tension between Russia and the West. This includes the nations that border the Baltic Sea. Russia will likely increase its efforts to expand its influence over the former Soviet republics (Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia) in the Baltic region through the use of gray-zone power. Russia maintains a ‘robust and highly capable stockpile of mines’ and can use this mine threat asymmetrically to complement its other gray-zone activities in the Baltic region. NATO must take into account the severe implications of the use of Russian mines and pursue effective means of rapidly minimizing their impacts in the Baltic region. “Baltic Sea Mining as an Extension of the Russian Gray Zone”, by Victor Duenow, Foreign Policy Research Intiative, April 18, 2022.
Russians Test New Missile. A test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile took place amidst threats by Putin against the West. The event on Wednesday (Apr 20) was a seen as a message that should “give thought to those who are trying to threaten Russia.” The Sarmat ICBM is capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads (as many as ten) as far as the United States. Analysts believe the recent launch was an incremental step in Russia’s ICMB program. The Sarmat will replace the SS-18 Satan on a one-for-one basis. “Putin rattles his ‘Satan II’ nuclear saber to hide Russian failures in Ukraine war: analysts”, CNN.com, April 21, 2022.
A Nuclear Battlefield? The current conflict in Ukraine has highlighted once again the threat posed by the use of nukes – especially as an escalatory factor that could bring about a larger war between Russia and the West. Putin has threatened the West with nuclear weapons if it continues to provide Ukraine with even greater support or if it decides to intervene in the conflict. Is that an empty threat or would Putin really resort to launching a few tactical nukes to make the West back off? In any case, NATO commanders need to prepare their forces for a battlefield that could include tactical nuclear weapons. Jonathan D. Moreno, a former staff member of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, provides his thoughts and five recommendations on this important topic. “NATO Should Start Preparing Troops for a Nuclear Battlefield”, Defense One, April 20, 2022.
NATO Ships Visit Finland. Naval vessels from Estonia, Latvia, and The Netherlands are taking part in an exercise in the waters off Finland. The ships are from the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group. “NATO warships arrive at Finnish port for training exercises”, Reuters, April 25, 2022.
NATO Membership for Sweden and Finland? The Russian aggression in Ukraine has drastically changed the strategic landscape on the European continent. NATO is more united than ever and military spending will be increasing across Europe. The Russian invasion has created incentives for two neutral countries to join the security alliance. “NATO membership an existential imperative for Sweden and Finland”, The Strategist, April 26, 2022.
India Under Cyber Attack. The Chinese are continuing and expanding their attacks against certain sectors of India’s infrastructure. The latest attacks appear to be against India’s power grids. This is all part of the broader pattern of China’s systematic pursuit of offensive cyber operations against India for more than a decade. China has been using cyber attacks to steal trade and other sensitive data from several countries, to include the U.K., Australia, India, and the United States. Read more in “Expanding Chinese Cyber-espionage threat against India”, Observer Research Foundation, April 18, 2022.
Australia’s Tanks and Javelins. Many military observers are taking note of the massive failure of Russian tanks to achieve battlefield success during the first six weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some point to the extremely effective use of anti-armor weapons such as the Javelin by Ukrainian defenders as a sign that the tank has seen its best days. Australia has recently decided on a $3.5 billion program to procure 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and there is criticism mounting on this decision in light of events in Ukraine. Jim Molan, a retired major general of the Australian Army, explains why these critics are wrong in “Has the Javelin heralded a post-tank world?”, Defence Connect, April 20, 2022.
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Wagner Group in Africa
Russian Recruitment – Ethiopia. Hundreds of Ethiopians have lined up for several days at the Russian embassy in Addis Abba. Apparently they are looking to sign up to participate in the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine. Many of the would-be recruits are former members of the Ethiopian army who now are unemployed. Some Ethiopians view Russia as a ‘friendly country’ although many of the applicants are likely there for economic reasons. The Russians are denying recruitment of Ethiopians and say they are in front of the embassy to show their support for Russia in the war with Ukraine. “Ethiopians Line Up at Russian Embassy as Officials Deny Recruitment Effort”, Voice of America, April 20, 2022.
Russian Mercenaries in Africa. The Wagner Group has been busy in several African nations over the past few years. They have been key to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions. Wagner has acquired a significant foothold in Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mali. “Russian mercenaries are Putin’s ‘coercive tool’ in Africa”, AP News, April 23, 2022.
Russian Advisor Dies in Mali. A Malian army unit struck an improvised explosive device alongside a road in Sahel state (Mali) on this past Tuesday (Apr 19). One of the victims was a Russian ‘advisor’ who died after being airlifted to a hospital in the central Malian town of Sevare. The Russian paramilitary firm – the Wagner Group – is in Maili providing in training and ‘other assistance’. “First Russian ‘advisor’ confirmed killed in Mali blast, report”, Aljazeera, April 20, 2022.
SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Special Warfare. The January – March 2022 issue of Special Warfare has been posted. This issue’s theme is ethics and special operations. Article titles include “Developing SOF Moral Reasoning”, “Ethics is Leader Business”, “All Training is Ethics Training”, “Is There an Ethical Crisis in Army Special Operations?”, and more. There are also sections entitled “From the Commandant” and “Exercise Routines in the New Year”. Posted on DIVIDS, PDF, 24 pages.
Report on F-35. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a 64 page report (PDF) entitled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Cost Growth and Schedule Delays Continue, April 2022.
Podcasts, Movies, Videos, and Future Events
Podcast – Russian and China in the Arctic and High North. Listen to some international security pundits as they consider the implications of Russia’s increasingly aggressive foreign and defense policies for peace and security in the Arctic . . . and how China’s growing interest in the polar territories is further shaping regional relations. RUSI, April 6, 2022, 48 minutes.
Podcast – Digital Terrorists: Policy and Practice in the Online Counterterrorism Fight. Listen to a discussion on how extremists and terrorists operate in the online environment. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, April 22, 2022, 45 minutes.
Movie Info – Top Gun: Maverick. Those people into exciting flicks about the combat jets may enjoy this article about the latest version of Top Gun to be released in May 2022. (People, Apr 18, 2022).
Must See Russian Spy Films. Seventeen movies about spies are described in this article. If you want to brush up on your Russian language skills then here is one way to start! “17 Must-Stream Russian Spy Movies and Series”, SpyScape, April 2022. (Editor’s note: I watched The Optimists series on Amazon Prime – excellent!)
Video – 38 RQS Trains in Jungle Warfare and Tracking for CSAR. The 38th Rescue Squadron Blue Team attended a Tactical Tracking Operations School course to learn how to track personnel through the jungle environment at the Lightning Academy in Wahiawa, Hawaii, March 26 – April 10, 2022. DVIDS, April 10, 2022, 3 minutes.
Video – Former Green Beret Live From Ukraine. Ryan Hendrickson is a former U.S. Army Special Forces Engineer. Ryan transferred over to the Army in 2008 after completing enlistments in both the Navy and Air Force. Ryan has many military deployments including Iraq, Afghanistan, and several South and Central American countries. He is the author of Tip of the Spear, a book about his time in the Army and Afghanistan. He is now in Ukraine helping to provide humanitarian aid with a missionary organization. The Team House, YouTube, April 8, 2022.
Event – The Wagner Group’s Playbook in Africa. A panel discussion will take place examining the Russian paramilitary corporation’s role in Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique, CAR, and Sudan. Tuesday, April 26, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm, presented by the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Event – Seapower and US Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific Region. The increasing Chinese pressure on Taiwan and bullying of neighbors in the East and South China Seas is a concern of the United States. Does the United States have sufficient seapower and defense capabilities to deter China? Two senior members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) provide their insight on this topic. Hudson Institute, Friday, April 29, 2022, 10:00 am.
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