Special Operations News Update – August 14, 2023

Ukrainian Marines receive training in UK from Royal Marine Commandos. (2023)

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

Photo / Image: Royal Marine Commandos and units from partner nations have been training Ukrainian Marines in amphibious operations in the UK since January 2023. Photo courtesy of UK MoD.

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SOF News

End of an Era: Last Navy SOF Squadron. The Navy’s last special warfare-dedicated helicopter squadron, the Navy Reserve’s “Firehawks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85, held a deactivation ceremony in the squadron’s hangar, June 30. (Navy.mil, 8 Aug 2023).

Exercise Talon Spear. The 27th Special Operations Wing’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise conducted the first iteration of Exercise Talon Spear, Air Force Special Operations Command’s first Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) collaboration exercise from June 20-23, 2023. “Exercise Talon Spear: Tested for A2E Concept”, DVIDS, June 21, 2023.

193rd SOW Accepts New MC-130J. The Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 193rd Special Operations Wing accepted a new MC-130J Commando II military aircraft during a July 27 ceremony. The MC-130J Commando II flies clandestine single or multi-ship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft. The MC-130J primarily flies missions at night. Its secondary mission includes the airdrop of leaflets. Previously, the 193rd SOW flew the EC-130J Commando Solo with the mission of information operations vai broadcasts on FM, TV, and miltary communications bands. “Pennsylvania Air Guard Gets New Special Ops Aircraft”, National Guard News, August 11, 2023.

Space, Cyber, SOF, and IO: Key to Winning. Key leaders in the military say the success of information operations is the most important lesson learned from Ukraine. “Future wars will turn on space-cyber-special operations triad: Army SOF chief”, Defense One, August 8, 2023.

SOF WMD Seminar. U.S. Special Operations Command hosted a seminar in July focused on defining a Department of Defense integrated approach to deter state and non-state actors’ use of weapons of mass destruction. “USSOCOM hosts countering weapons of mass destruction senior leader seminar”, DVIDS, August 9, 2023.

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International SOF

RI Leapfest 2023. Paratroopers from the U.S. and around the globe joined together to test their skills and precision in the skies above Rhode Island during Leapfest 2023, the largest static line parachute training event and competition in the world. “Paratroopers Seek Jump Perfection at Leapfest”, DoD News, August 10, 2023.

Ukrainian Marines Trained by UK Royal Marine Commandos. Close to 1,000 marines from Ukraine will return to their home country to fight against the Russians after spending time in the United Kingdom. The Ukrainian marines underwent a rigorous five-week program that included fieldcraft, battlefield first aid, close-quarters combat, fitness, weapons, amphibious operations, beach landings, and small unit operations. “Ukrainian marines to return to fight on frontline after UK-led training complete”, Forces.net, August 11, 2023.

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SOF History

On August 10, 1944, Lt. John “Jack” Singlaub parachuted behind German lines with a Jedburgh team to work with the French Resistance fighters or Maquis groups that had swelled the resistance ranks after the D-Day invasion.

History of SOCOM. Randall Stevens provides some details of the history, organization, and mission of United States Special Operations Command (while somehow omitting MARSOC). Read his article in “SOCOM: The Best Result of America’s Worst Special Ops Fail”, Coffee or Die, August 10, 2023.

Operation Acid Gambit. Learn about a secret operation to rescue a Central Intelligence Agency operative, Kurt Muse, from imprisonment during the initial hours of the invasion of Panama in December 1989. “Operation Acid Gambit: Panama, Noriega and a CIA man”, We Are the Mighty, August 10, 2023.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine, Afghanistan, and NATO: Success and Failure. William Byrd, Ph.D. writes on how Ukraine and its international supporters succeeded in preventing an outright Russian victory; yet, how the U.S., NATO, and the Afghan government failed in Afghanistan. “Why Have the Wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine Played Out So Differently?”, United States Institute of Peace, June 23, 2023.

Ukraine Fighting the Ukrainian Way. Lots of national security commentators have been bemoaning the lack of a quick deep strike to the Sea of Azov by Ukrainian forces. Much was made of the ‘western way’ of warfare employing tanks, infantry, engineers, air power, artillery, and other types of combat capabilities into a combined arms approach to attacking the Russians. However, the Ukrainians have settled for small strikes across the entire front for several months and degrading logistic nodes behind the lines; apparently fighting the war ‘their way’. Recent Ukrainian gains have been made along two lines of attack (NYT, 12 Aug 2023, subscription) towards the southern coast. In time, once the opportunity presents itself, the Ukrainians may conduct another large-scale combined arms advance.

Fighting on the Seas. Many are surpised that the Ukrainians are able to ‘contest’ the Russian presence in the Black Sea. Air and sea-based drones have been successful in striking Russian ports and vessels in recent months.

Fight for Hostomel Airport. “The battle for Hostomel Airport was the first major battle of the Russo-Ukrainian War (2022-present) and a decisive event in the war. This battle started on the morning of February 24 and lasted less than 36 hours. In the opening hours of the Russo-Ukrainian war Russian forces sought to seize a key airfield just 12 miles from the capital’s center. Additional airborne battalions would follow on transport planes. They would rapidly deploy, seek to take control of the city, and overthrow the government or make the leadership flee. Russia ultimately gained control of the airport but failed to achieve the objective of the assault.” “The Battle of Hostomel Airport: A Key Moment in Russia’s Defeat in Kyiv”, War on the Rocks, August 10, 2023.

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National Security

Report – The Compound Era of U.S. Counterterrorism. A collaborative effort between the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point and the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) has resulted in a 43-page document that explores the evolution of counterterrorism landscape over the past several years. August 2023, PDF.

Report – National Intelligence Strategy 2023. The office of the Director of National Intelligence has posted the new strategy for the U.S. intelligence community. Naturally, China and Russia are recognized as the biggest threats. PDF, 20 pages, August 2023.

The strategy outlines six goals:

  • Position the IC for intensifying strategic competition
  • Recruit a talented and diverse workforce
  • Deliver interoperable and innovative solutions at scale
  • Diversify, expand, and strengthen partnerships
  • Expand IC capabilties and expertise on transnational challenges
  • Enhance resilience

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Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book – The Kabul Airlift. An Air Force officer has penned a book about the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) of August 2021. Over 124,000 Americans, foreign nationals, and Afghans were airlifted out of Afghanistan by the military of the United States and other nations. https://thekabulairlift.com/

Paper – Will to Fight of Private Military Actors: Applying Cognitive Maneuver to Russian Private Forces. A new publication explores several research questions about factors relevant to paramilitary members will to fight and the opportunities the U.S. has to counter adversary employed private military actors. RAND Corporation, August 2023, PDF, 98 pages. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA355-1.html

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – Gen. Lindsay Tribute. General (Ret.) James Lindsay, of Vass, North Carolina, the former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, 18th Airborne Corps, and the 82nd Airborne Division passed away of natural causes at the age of 90 years old on August 5, 2023. General (Ret.) James Lindsay had a storied career which earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, two Distinguished Service Medals and four Silver Stars in Vietnam. (U.S. Army video by Spc. Alexandra Behne, DVIDS, 2 minutes)


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