Special Operations News – March 18, 2024

MC-130J Commando II

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.

Photo / Image: Two U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II aircrafts, operated by the 67th Special Operations Squadron, fly in formation prior to conducting static line jump training with Greek special forces during exercise Trojan Footprint 24, over Greece, March 8, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Westin Warburton)

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SOF News

Emerald Warrior 24. This annual event started earlier this month. It is a key exercise for AFSOC units to train up for potential future missions anywhere in the world.

SOF Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) Explained. A ship based on a civilian oil tanker hull serves as a launching pad for special operations forces. It has a flight deck for rotary wing aircraft and can launch and recover small boats as well. As of early 2024, there are six ESBs in service or in various stages of construction. The ESBs provide a flexible, global capability that augments the SOF Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). (Naval News, 11 Mar 2024).

Chinese vs. American SOF? China’s elite special operations forces come from all branches of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The SOF of China and the SOF of the United States are quite different in various aspects. The obvious differences are in training methods and mission types. “Who wins a fight between Chinese Special Ops and American SOF?”, We Are the Mighty, March 11, 2024.

SF on Taiwan Islands. The Defense Minister of Taiwan confirmed that U.S. Army Special Forces personnel are stationed on Taiwan’s outlying islands. (map, NSI) Numerous news reports had reported this over the past few months. (Focus Taiwan, 14 Mar 2024)

Hiking for Afghan Heroes - Team America Relief

A Special Forces medic who was involved in the evacuation of Afghans onto Kabul Airport during the August 2021 fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is continuing his support for our Afghan allies. He has begun his journey of hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise funds for Team America Relief’s efforts to provide assistance to the relocation and resettlement of our Afghans allies in the United States.

New US Partner in the Med. Cyprus was a recent host (SOF News) of a special operations exercise. Cyprus was formerly aligned with Russia, but things seem to have changed. Read more in an article by Business Insider, March 15, 2024. (View map of Cyprus, NSI)

SOCKOR. Special Operations Command Korea stands ready for any future conflict. “U.S. commandos train for the unexpected in North Korea’s shadow”, Reuters, March 15, 2024.

Rapid Dragon and JASSMs. C-17 and MC-130J aircraft have been conducting rehearsals in the airdropping of long-range palletized effects (bombs, missiles, etc.). “US Air Force special ops forces are turning big cargo planes into bombers with a new weapon”, Business Insider, March 11, 2024. Watch a video of SOCEUR dropping a JASSM. (SOF News, 15 Nov 2022)

McRaven Gets $50 Million for Charitable Use. Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven has been awarded a large sum of money for charitable use from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. McRaven says the money will go to charities that support the children of veterans and those that work on veteran mental health and brain issues. McRaven is the former commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). “Admiral McRaven, who oversaw bin Laden raid, gets $50 million from Jeff Bezos”, by Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose, March 15, 2024.

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International SOF

Israel’s NSA. Unit 8200 is an Israeli signals intelligence unit within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). It has a long history with its early beginnings in the 1930s. This long article traces its history, role in the wars, organization, training, operations, and more. It includes an analysis for the ‘intelligence failure’ of the October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorist attacks that killed over 1,200 Israelis. “Unit 8200: Israel’s Stealthy Sentinel”, by Jawhar Farhat, Grey Dynamics, March 16, 2024.

UAE’s ‘Foreign Legion’. A former member of the French special forces is working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to form up a unit of foreign volunteers. The unit would be part of the UAE’s regular army and would likely deploy to other countries such as Yemen and Somalia. The UAE is focused on increasing its influence in the Red Sea and East Africa region – seeing it in competition with Iran and other Gulf states. “UAE creating elite ‘Emirati Foreign Legion’ for combat operations abroad”, Middle East Monitor, March 17, 2024.

ROK-NSWF. Members of the Republic of Korea Naval Special Warfare Flotilla (ROK-NSWF) conducted joint combined exchange training (JCET) with a U.S. Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Unit from Feb. 1 to Feb. 27, 2024. (DVIDS, 27 Feb 2024)

UKSF to Get Chinooks. The UK has finalized an order for 14 more extended-range Chinooks through a deal with the US government. The CH-47-ERs, which are primarily for use by UK special forces, will be delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF). “UK Orders 14 more Chinooks”, AirMed&Rescue, March 15, 2024.

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SOF History

On March 24, 1961, the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated.

On March 21, 1962, the 22nd Special Warfare Aviation Detachment was activated at Fort Bragg, NC to support the 5th and 7th SFG(A), the 1st and 13th Psychological Warfare Battalions, and the US Army Center for Special Warfare. In June 1962 it was reorganized and designated the 22nd Aviation Detachment (Special Forces). The detachment was inactivated on December 3, 1963.

On March 16, 1967, Operation Bright Light was initiated. During the Vietnam War when a down pilot, Hatchet Force, or Recon Team was in trouble a MACV-SOG Brightlight team was formed and inserted into the fight to find, locate, assist, and exfiltrate the entity in trouble.

On March 21, 1967, SFC Charles Hosking Jr., U.S. Army Special Forces, lost his life after he took the blast of a hand grenade to save the lives of his fellow Americans and members of the Vietnamese CIDG Reaction Force. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

On March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began. Special operations forces played a big role in the invasion of Iraq. JSOTF-W conducted CTBM in the West and UW in the South. Elements of the 10th SFG(A) linked up with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

On March 19, 2003, attack helicopters of the 160th SOAR struck Iraqi targets along the southern and western borders. The MH-60 “Black Hawk” Direct Action Penetrators (DAPs) and AH-6M “Killer Egg” attack helicopters eliminated over 70 Iraqi observations posts, crippling the enemy’s ability to effectively gauge the size and scope of the incoming ground assault.

    Ukraine Russia Conflict

    Ukraine Conflict

    Unconventional Military Options. A recent article presents three options that Ukraine could adopt to change the static situation of the front. “Ukraine Military Situation Report: Ukraine’s Unconventional Military Options”, Hudson Institute, March 13, 2024.

    $300 Million in Aid. The U.S. announced (DoS, 12 Mar 2024) on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, that it was sending another weapons package to Ukraine. This new delivery is the first since the previous funding ran out in December; some accounting methodology found “unexpected Army savings“. (DOD News, 12 Mar 2024) It includes artillery rounds, armor systems, and air defense equipment. (DOD News, 12 Mar 2024) A couple of ‘senior defense officials’ held a background briefing to explain the mathematical gymnastics that occurred to free up the money. (DOD Transcript, 12 Mar 2024)

    Drones and Ukraine. Issue No. 91 of Strategika features three essays that explore the legal framework surrounding the use of drones as weapons, how drones have changed the battlefield (drawing on experiences from the Russia–Ukraine war), and what the use of drones in armed conflict today means for future defense planning. Strategika, Hoover Institution, March 14, 2024.

    And There’s More:

    Artillery Shells. The Czech Republic is doing what the U.S. House of Representatives couldn’t . . get more artillery shells to Ukraine. Without the timely assistance, Kyiv would probably have lost an entire oblast in the past month. For many months in 2023, the Ukrainians had achieved firepower parity with the Russians. This happened despite the fact that Russia holds the upper hand in force generation, industrial capacity, and artillery tubes. This kept the Russians at bay. But once Ukraine ran out of shells the Russians went on the offensive and began making modest offensive gains. Read up on this story in “How the Czech Republic has just stopped Putin cold and saved Ukraine”, The Telegraph, March 13, 2024.

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    National Security and Commentary

    Drone Quiz. Unmanned aerial systems provide the capability for resupply, armed attack, reconnaissance, and surveillance. Drones have been around for a while. How much do you know about the U.S. military’s drones? Take a quiz to find out. Department of Defense, March 2024.

    Border Crisis:

    Sexpionage. The practice of using sex as a lure to pry secrets out of someone is an age-old practice by intelligence agencies. In the past two weeks, the U.S. has seen two of these cases hit the news. The practice used to involve physical relationships but there is now a trend toward ‘cyber-honey trapping’. Read more in “Honeypot: The Art of Seduction in Espionage”, Grey Dynamics, March 12, 2024.

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    Report – Defense Primer: The United States Space Force. The Congressional Research Service has published a short report about the new Space Force. CRS IF12610, March 11, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12610

    Urbanizing the ‘Q’ Course. Sal Artiaga, a frequent commentator on irregular warfare writes that it is time to take an ‘urban’ direction in the Special Forces Qualification Course. Read his article entitled “The Imperative for Urbanizing the Special Forces Culmination Exercise”, LinkedIn, March 12, 2024. Sandor Fabian wrote an article with a similar topic a few years back entitled “Taking “De Oppresso Liber” to the Streets: Why the US Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course Needs to Become More Urban”, Modern War Institute, October 7, 2020. (Editor’s Note: I think Robin Sage should stay as it is. SFAUC and other advanced courses can be handled by the groups and specialized schools.)

    “Duty, Honor, Country”. West Point has changed its mission statement, and it has aroused some backlash. The three words remain in the school’s motto but were stripped out of the school’s mission statement. West Point is defending their actions saying that mentioning ‘Army Values’ in the mission statement is good enough.

    Great Power Competition GPC

    Strategic Competition

    Armor Brigade to Poland? Once it was apparent that the breakup of the Soviet Union lessened the threat to western Europe the United States began the process of downsizing U.S. military personnel permanently stationed in Europe and withdrew much of its combat power – to include its armored formations. Now, in some circles, there is a call to once again station armor units in Europe on a permanent basis. This time in Poland. “Army should permanently station armor brigade in Poland, report argues”, Army Times, March 13, 2024.

    Report – Forward Defense: Strengthening U.S. Force Posture in Europe, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), March 2024, PDF, 131 pages. Link.

    Niger – U.S. is Out? On Saturday, March 16, 2024, a spokesman for the Niger government announced that the country is ending its military agreement with the United States. The U.S. has maintained a couple of bases in Niger that provide a platform for ISR drones providing intelligence and surveillance in the Sahel region. There are over 600 U.S. servicemembers in the country at this time – down for over 1,000 several months ago. The U.S. has spent millions of dollars on building a drone base in Niger. It is quite likely that a Russian presence in Niger will soon grow. “US military operations across the Sahel are at risk after Niger ends cooperation”, Associated Press, March 17, 2024.

    Libya and Russian Mercenaries. Since 2018 (NSI) the Russian paramilitary group Wagner has had a growing presence in Libya (NSI, map). It first started training troops under Khalifa Haftar -a renegade military commander who controls the eastern part of the country. The remnants of the Wagner Group now appear to be under the command of the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence service. Read more in “Russian Military Intelligence Takes Over Wagner Operations in Libya”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, March 12, 2024.

    Map of Hispaniola

    Map of Hispaniola from “Dominican Republic and Haiti Area Handbook”, U.S. Army, 2001.

    Crisis in Haiti

    Situation Update. The United States Department of State (DoS) has listed Haiti as a ‘level 4’ country in its travel advisories since 2020 – meaning don’t go there. The DoS does not have any reliable information on the number of AMCITS in Haiti – but acknowledges there is a considerable amount of travel between the two countries. On Monday, March 11, 2024, the Sec of State announced that the U.S. will provide $33 million in humanitarian assistance. In addition, the U.S. is providing $300 million to support the Multinational Security Support Mission that Kenya will launch very soon.

    Street Gangs and Politicians. The country is now controlled by street gangs – some news reports say the groups are holding the airport and key infrastructure. The crime gangs are a formidable force for Haitian police to deal with. Haiti has always had street gangs but over the past four years the country has devolved into a mini mafia-state. How did the gangs get so powerful? “Why is Haiti so chaotic? Leaders used street gangs to gain power. Then the gangs got stronger”, Associated Press, March 10, 2024. See also “Haiti is Facing an Insurgency, not a Gang Problem”, Foreign Policy, March 13, 2024.

    Kenya Police on Hold The plan to send 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti is on hold until a new Haitian transitional government is formed. As of Tuesday, March 12, 2024, Ariel Henry, Haiti’s prime minister, is still stranded in Puerto Rico since the crime gangs have made it impossible for him to return. It seems that Henry has either resigned or soon will resign.

    Role of Multinational Mission? The Congressional Research Service has published a report on Haiti and the possible activities of a foreign security force to establish stability. Haiti in Crisis: What Role for a Multinational Security Support Mission? CRS IN 12331, March 15, 2024. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12331

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    Journals, Podcasts, Videos, and TV

    Military Review. The March-April 2024 issue has now been posted by the Army University Press. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/March-April-2024/

    Parameters. The United States Army War College Press has published the Spring 2024 issue of Parameters. Lots of interesting reading on Ukraine, sanctions, China’s strategic landpower, Taiwan, Israel-Hamas conflict, and book reviews. https://press.armywarcollege.edu/parameters/

    Video – Special Operations Forces in an Era of Strategic Competition. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Christopher Maier discusses how US Special Operation Forces will operate in an era of strategic competition. Atlantic Council, March 7, 2024, 50 minutes. Atlantic Council or YouTube.

    Video – Raven Advisory Showreel. Here is an interesting video depicting some of the training that Raven Advisory conducts. The firm is owned, managed, and operated by former special operations, government agency, law enforcement, and other personnel. YouTube, 8 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/@ravenadvisory8871/videos

    TV – SEAL Team. Travis Pike was in a VA waiting room and SEAL Team was playing on the television. He got intrigued and watch the first season of the series – and enjoyed it! Read about his impression in “SEAL Team is Surprisingly Good TV”, SANDBOXX, March 15, 2024.

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    SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.