Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: An East-coast-based U.S. Naval Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) prepares to descend below the surface during dive training with Polish special forces, June 27, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katie Cox)
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New Cdr of 10th SFG(A). Col. Lucas VanAntwerp passed his command of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) on to Col. Justin Hufnagel on July 19, 2023 at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Navy Retires SOF Helicopter Squadron. The U.S. Navy’s only helicopter squadron dedicated to support of special operations forces has made its final flight. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85 (HC-85) of Naval Air Station North Island, California was deactivated during a ceremony on June 30, 2023. The HSC-85 was equipped with MH-60S Seahawk helicopters to support Naval Special Warfare forces. “Navy Retires Its Last Special Operations Helicopter Squadron”, Seapower Magazine, July 19, 2023.
Col (Ret.) Lujan Now at Howard University. A retired Green Beret will be teaching politics at Howard University. Colonel (Ret.) Fernando Lujan will be in the teaching assignment for one year as a Chamberlain fellow and visiting professor. (The Dig, Jul 26, 2023).
Navy’s New Mini-Sub. The US Navy has unveiled the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) mini submarine. This new underwater vehicle will allow its occupants to travel submerged without being immersed in freezing water – a capability the Navy has pursued for years. “US Navy’s Newest Special Operations Mini-Submarine Officially Enters Service”, Marine Insight, July 27, 2023.
USSOCOM and Biomedical Tools. The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is seeking new technology for CBRNE mass casualty respons, natural disaster emergency medicine, and other triage and diagnostic tools. “SOCOM Seeks Development of Lightwieght, Ruggedized Biomedical Tools”, Global Biodefense, July 29, 2023.
26th MEU (SOC) in UK. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unite (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC) is in the United Kingdom aboard Navy ships conducting a port visit. The MEU is in the beginning of a long deployment in the EUCOM area of operations. (U.S. Navy, July 29, 2023).
Moving AFSOC Off Hurlburt? Over the past several days Florida politicians were demanding to know if the U.S. Air Force had plans to move Air Force Special Operations Command from Floriday to another state. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott expressed their concerns that the Air Force had not been more responsive to their questions on this topic. Apparently the Air Force finally came clean; AFSOC will remain at Hurlburt but some personnel will be transferred to Arizona to stand up an AFSOC unit at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (Penascola News Journal, Jul 28, 2023).
Indian SOF and Women. As of yet no woman in the Indian Armed Forces has been able to qualify for induction into its elite special forces. (Indian Express, July 2023).
Ukrainian SOF in UK for Training. It has been reported by the Sunday Express (a British tabloid) that over 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in England to take part in special training. Some of the Ukrainians are said to be special operators. The training is being carried out at Battle Camp in Devon. “Ukrainian special forces training in UK prepare to liberate Crimea this year”, Yahoo! News, July 30, 2023.
Spain’s Police Tactical Unit. Learn about the history, organization, training, equipment, and notable operations of the Spanish GEO. “Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEO): Spain’s Police Tactical Unit”, Grey Dynamics, July 24, 2023.
French Sub for SOF. A new submarine officially commissioned in June 2022 is currently undergoing testing. The sub features a mobile deck hanger (dry dock shelter) that enables the deployment of combat swimmers. “France will use its Suffren nuclear sub for special operations”, by Boyko Nikolov, Bulgarian Military, July 30, 2023.
New Croatian Commandos Graduate. Following the completion of their basic special forces training a new generation of Croatian commandos are entering the service of the HV Special Forces Command. They will now move on to parachute training, survival training, as well as advanced skills training. “New Generation of Croatian Commandos Complete Training”, Total Croatia News, July 29, 2023.
SOF and ‘Kit Flags’. Among some special operations units – at least during the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) ere – it was sometimes a practice to carry a ‘kit flag’ into combat. “What is a ‘Kit Flag’ and Why Do Service Members Carry Them?”, by Luke Ryan, Coffee or Die Magazine, July 26, 2023.
SEALs and the P226. In the 1980s the U.S. military forces adopted the M9 Bereta as the standard side arm. The favorite pistol of the U.S. Navy SEALs was first the Sig Sauer P226 and later the Glock 19. “Why teh Navy SEALs chose the Sig Sauer P226 over the M9”, We Are the Mighty, July 25, 2023. See also “Navy SEALs & Marines Acquire Weapons, Pistols & Guns That Operate Underwater”, Warrior Maven, July 30, 2023.
The Legendary SEALs. Matt Fratus provides a brief description of the mission, training, organization, and history of the Navy SEALs. “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday – The Legendary Navy SEALs”, Coffee or Die Magazine, July 27, 2023.
Offensive and Counteroffensive. The Ukrainians have a major push ongoing in the southeast of Ukraine while Russia has mounted attacks in the northeast region of the country. While this is going on President Putin is looking to raise the top age for military conscription from 27 to 30 years of age (The Guardian), have measures to reduce draft dodging; and prevent conscripts from leaving the country.
Lessons From Russia’s Invasion Playbook. There has been a long established ‘playbook’ utilized by the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation for past foreign interventions and the current conflict in Ukraine. The use of Russian special operations forces is a key component of the playbook. This article traces the history of Russian foreign interventions beginning with Czechoslavkia in 1968 up to the present day. There are nations that could be future Russian targets . . . and they should devise countermeasures to ensure Russia has difficulty in executing its invasion playbook. “Disrupting Moscow’s Invasion Playbook: Lessons From Prague to Kyiv”, by Kevin Stringer and Heather Gregg, Modern War Institute at West Point, July 21, 2023.
Wagner in Belarus. Following the aborted mutiny, the Wagner Group has moved several thousand troops into Belarus. In time, there could be as many as ten thousand there. There are reports that the Russian paramilitary group is training up Belarusian special forces as well as mechanized units (RFE/RL) of Belarus. Some of the training is taking place close to the Polish border. The countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have taken not of this and are expressing their concern. “IntelBrief: The Wagner Group Finds a New Home in Belarus”, The Soufan Center, July 31, 2023.
Black Sea Update. The Russians may soon be stepping up the pressure in the Black Sea. Some observers of the Ukraine conflict believe that the West – with or without the US Navy – needs to return to the Black Sea to break Russian blockades, ensure grain export from Ukraine, and uphold Freedom of Navigation. (Euromaiden, Jul 29, 2023). NATO has strongly objected to Russia’s cancellation of the Black Sea grain deal and its stepped up actions in the Black Sea. (NATO, Jul 26, 2023).
CRS Report – Russia’s War Against Ukraine: Related CRS Products. The Congressional Research Service has updated a report that a large number of CRS publications about Russia’s war in Ukraine. CRS R47054, updated July 28, 2023, PDF, 6 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47054
DoS OIG Report on Aid to Ukraine. The U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General has issued a report entitled Review of Ukraine Foreign Assistance Coordination and Oversight. PDF, 29 pages. https://www.stateoig.gov/report/isp-i-23-18-0
NDAA. On Thursday, (28 July) the U.S. Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (2024) by a wide margin (86-11). It did not contain many of the culture issues (diversity, transgender, etc.) included in the House version. When Congress returns from its summer vacation the two versions of the bill will be worked out in a joint Congress conference committee before the October 1 deadline.
U.S. Embassy in Haiti Evacuated. On Thursday the U.S. State Department ordered non-emergency government personnel and family members to leave Haiti. The country has struggled to contain violence and chaos due to heavily armed gangs conducting various crimes, murders, kidnappings, and more. News reports indicate that Kenya has volunteered to head up an international force that will train Haitian police.
Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.
AAA and NDAA. Veteran organizations supporting inclusion of the Afghan Adjustment Act in the National Defense Authorization Act were disappointed that the U.S. Senate did not include the AAA admendment.
Afghan Relocation Flights. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants in Afghanistan are waiting for flights to U.S. immigration processing centers in Qatar and other countries to resume. The relocation flights have been suspended for more than a month and it is unclear when they will resume. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts (CARE) hs been relocating SIV-eligible Afghans by air and overland routes. “Afghan Relocation Flights Paused, Activists Call For Resumption”, by Akmal Dawi, Voice of America, July 26, 2023.
Nurturing an Opposition. David Loyn, a Senior Visiting Research Fellow of the War Studies Department of King’s College London, argues that the international community must stop allowing the Taliban to dictate terms and nurture an opposition if Afghanistan is ever to progress. “The Scattered Forces Opposing the Taliban Need Support”, Chatham House, July 28, 2023.
Niger Coup Attempt. On Wednesday, July 26, 2023, an attempted military coup took place. Some government troops remained loyal to the President. On Friday, the head of the presidential guards unit General Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself Niger’s new leader. Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the chief of Niger’s Special Operations Forces, was one of the leaders of the coup. (The Intercept). The United States has about 1,100 troops in the country and has conducted extensive training of the government forces to increase their counterterror and counterinsurgency capabilities. For the past several years Niger has been a strong U.S. security partner in the Sahel region of West Africa. There are concerns that the Wagner Group and variouis jihadist organizations will move to increase their power and influence in Niger. The US Embassy in Niger has issued a security alert advising US nationals to shelter in place. Borders and the airport are currently closed until August 5.
- “Niger’s Coup is a West African Disaster in the Making”, Hudson Institute, July 28, 2023.
- DoS Security Alert (Jul 28, 2023)
- “Niger Coup: EU suspends security coorperation and budgetary aid”, BBC News, July 29, 2023.
CRS Report Somalia. The Congressional Research Service has updated its “In Focus” publication about Somalia. CRS IF10155, PDF, 3 pages, updated July 27, 2023. Covers the transition from ‘failed state’ to ‘fragile state’, nation building challenges, security concerns, U.S. policy, operations, and foreign aid. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10155
Old Salt Coffee is a corporate sponsor of SOF News. The company offers a wide range of coffee flavors to include Green Eyes Coffee, a tribute to those Navy special operations personnel who operate in the night.
August 5, 2023. Perdido Key, Florida
Deep Dive 2023 Combat Diver Reunion
August 12, 2023
11th Special Forces Group Reunion
Fort Meade, MD
September 18-23, 2023
5th Special Forces Group Reunion
October 3, 2023
2023 Virtual MOG Mile
Three Rangers Foundation
October 16-20, 2023
Special Operations Association
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Report – Erosion of U.S. Power. RAND Corporation has published a new report entitled Inflection Point: How to reverse the erosion of U.S. and Allied military power and influence”, July 2022, PDF, 240 pages.
Report – The National Cybersecurity Strategy – Going Where No Strategy Has Gone Before. The Congressional Research Service has updated this report on the national cybersecurity strategy. Updated July 17, 2023, PDF, 4 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12123
Tip of the Spear. The June 2023 issue of Tip of the Spear has been published by the U.S. Special Operations Command. This issue has news of the various special operations components and the TSOCs. June 2023, PDF, 40 pages. https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/67076
SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command
The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing
The Indigenous Approach. 1st Special Forces Command
Irregular Warfare Initiative
Irregular Warfare Podcast. Modern War Institute at West Point