Special Operations News – December 11, 2023

CV-22 Osprey 21st SOS

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

Photo / Image: A CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, sits on the flightline during a snow fall March 29, 2020, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

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SOF News

Recovery of CV-22B Crew. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command reports that six bodies have been located by divers from the eight-man crew of the Osprey that crashed into waters off Japan. As of Tuesday, the remains of three of the Airmen have been recovered. The status of all the Airmen has been changed from DUSTWUN to deceased and the names have been released to the public. “AFSOC Aircraft Mishap Releases”, AFSOC, December 10, 2023. The Department of Defense has grounded all CV-22 Osprey variants of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps. (DoD, Dec 7, 2023) The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is leading the investigation into the Osprey mishap. The crash is likely due to a problem with the aircraft, not crew error.

Votel Joins AeroVironment. General Joseph L. Votel has joined the Board of Directors of AreoVironment. Votel is a former commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and Central Command (CENTCOM). AreoVironment provides technology solutions at the intersection of robotics, sensors, software analytics and connectivity that deliver more actionable intelligence so you can proceed with certainty. Headquartered in Virginia, AeroVironment is a global leader in intelligent, multi-domain robotic systems and serves defense, government and commercial customers.

SEALs and India’s MARCOS Training. A U.S. Navy SEAL Team conducted a joint training exchange with the Indian Marine Commando Force (MARCOS) from Oct. 20 to Nov. 11, 2023. The combined tactical training, which built upon the partner nation’s collective maritime capabilities and long-standing partnership, included a focus on maritime interdiction operations, close quarters combat training, tactical combat casualty care and casualty evacuation procedures. “Indian MARCOS, U.S. Navy SEALs Conduct Joint Training Exchange”, DVIDS, December 5, 2023.

SEALs and Delta in South America. George Hand, a retired Green Beret writes about the time his team of Delta ‘lads’ joined some Navy SEALs to do some riverine training ‘in the jungles ‘down south’. “Navy SEALs and Delta Force Commandos Living Together in the Jungles of South America”, SANDBOXX, December 6, 2023.

26th MEU (SOC) in the Med. The Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), embarked on the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), participated in an integrated Greek Bi-Lateral Exercise with the 32nd Hellenic Marine Brigade, Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 1-3, 2023. (Navy, Dec 7, 2023)

SOCAFRICA’s Silent Warrior 23. Military and government leaders from the across the globe came together for Silent Warrior 23, Dec. 4 – 7, 2023 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The multi-day conference, hosted by Special Operations Command Africa, aimed to facilitate forums for senior military leaders to discuss shared concerns and identify collaborative solutions to the strategic, operational, and tactical issues in Africa. “SOCAFRICA’s Silent Warrior 23”, SOF News, December 9, 2023.

SOF and Voice Analyzer. US Special Forces utilize many technologies to go after the enemies of this country. One such technology is the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), a system that is manufactured by NITV Federal Services, located in West Palm Beach, Florida. Read a scenario where the CVSA is useful in spotting security violations by partner forces. “US Special Forces Use the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) in Combat Zones”, PR Newswire, December 5, 2023.

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International SOF

UK’s SF. Javier Sutil Toledano provides a detailed description of the UK’s special forces: history, purpose, organization, units, and notable operations. “UKSF: the United Kingdom Special Forces”, Grey Dynamics, December 8, 2023.

Omega PMC. Ukraine is the home of the Omega Consulting Group – a private military corporation that is playing a growing role within the privatized military sector. Since 2011, Omega has assisted companies, organizations, and governments by supporting and developing their projects in sensitive areas. Their operations throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe have benefitted clients in wide-ranging industries and foreign and Ukrainian governments. “Omega Consulting Group: Omega PMC”, by George Englehart, Grey Dynamics, December 9, 2023.

Elite Afghan Troops at Risk. About 200 members of Afghan special forces, trained and funded by the UK, face imminent deportation to their Taliban-controlled homeland. Some were members of Commando Force 333, set up by the UK to counter Afghanistan’s growing problems with opium production. “Elite Afghan troops face return to Taliban after UK ‘betrayal'”, BBC News, December 10, 2023.

SOF History Banner

Just Cause. On December 20, 1989, the entire 75th Ranger Regiment participated in Operation Just Cause (Panama). Parachute assaults were conducted onto Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Airfield and other locations to neutralize Panamanian Defense Forces.

The Coast Watchers. Unsung heroes of Australia’s intelligence network reported on naval activity in the Pacific Islands and along Australia’s coastline during the Imperial Japanese advance and occupations. Learn more in “Australia’s Secret Army”, Cove Talk, December 5, 2023.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

U.S. Funding for Ukraine. The United States will soon run out of money and equipment to send to Ukraine by the end of the year if Congress does not approve additional aid. Many Republicans are against providing the money in a supplemental budget request – they don’t see the conflict as a fight we should be involved with. Some Republicans are tying financial support to Ukraine with fixing the serious security concerns associated with the U.S. southern border and meaningful immigration reform. Republicans argue that the laws need to be changed; saying that currently anyone who shows up in the United States legally or illegally to claim asylum are allowed to stay in the country while their cases are adjudicated by a system that is backlogged and overwhelmed. “Republican senators urge Biden to step in after Schumer vote fails over border dispute“, Washington Examiner, December 7, 2023. The latest security assistance package was provided to Ukraine on December 6, 2023. (DoD, Dec 6, 2023) The U.S. has provided more than $44.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022. (DoD Fact Sheet, Dec 6, 2023)

Russian Women Want Their Men Back. A growing movement of Russian women is demanding the return from the front of their husbands, sons and brothers who were mobilized after a decree by President Vladimir Putin in September last year. “In Russia, some women demand return of their men from Ukraine front”, Reuters, December 5, 2023.

Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
On storymaps.arcgis.com

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National Security

NDAA. A final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (House version, congress.gov) has been agreed upon by House and Senate conferees. Both chambers of Congress will vote on the bill this week and send to the President for signing. Read more here in a statement by the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services (Dec 7, 2023).

WH War Powers Report. The White House has sent a letter to Congress with information about the deployments around the world of U.S. Armed Forces conducting counterterrorism missions.

Border Security. Arrivals of migrants in Mexico range from foreign born entrepreneurs to those who never intended to make Mexico their final destination – looking to move further north. “A New Wave of Migration is Changing Mexico”, America’s Quarterly, December 7, 2023.

Special Collection Service. The United States Special Collection Service (SCS), codenamed F6, is a joint NSA-CIA program that is referred to as the “mission impossible force.” The SCS’s existence is denied by the U.S. government, but its activities and capabilities have been revealed over the years. “Special Collection Service: America’s Mission Impossible Force”, by George Englehart, Grey Dynamics, December 10, 2023.

Report – USAID and Gaza. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published a brief on the over $7.6 billion in assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since 1993. West Bank and Gaza Aid, GAO-24-106243, December 7, 2023, PDF, 49 pages. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-24-106243

Humanitarian Crisis. Much of the population of north Gaza has fled to the south, about 1.7 million people have been displaced from their homes. Now they are in peril due to the current fighting between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in southern Gaza. Living conditions for the internally displaced Palestinians is dire – communication outages, disease, shortages of food, water, fuel, and medical services are prevalent. Some aid is coming across the border from Egypt . . . but not enough. A recent article explores the options for the IDPs in Gaza – none of them good. “Displaced in Gaza: The Least-Bad Option”, The RAND Blog, December 4, 2023.

Space Force Now in Europe. U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Space Force officially activated the U.S. Space Forces Europe and Africa (SPACEFOREUR-AF) component command at a ceremony in Ramstein, Germany, on Dec. 8, 2023. SPACEFOREUR-AF is the newest service component under EUCOM and AFRICOM with their permanent headquarters at Ramstein Air Base. EUCOM and AFRICOM are the latest combatant commands to establish a space component, following in the footsteps of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command. (AFRICOM, Dec 10, 2023)

LRHW. The Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) (Figure 1), with a reported range of 1,725 miles, consists of a ground-launched missile equipped with a hypersonic glide body and associated transport, support, and fire control equipment. Read more about the LRHW in The U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), Congressional Research Service, CRS IF11991, updated December 8, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11991

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

Resisting China’s Gray Zone Activities Against Taiwan. China has sharply escalated its pressure campaign targeting Taiwan in recent years, particularly by leveraging military and security operations in the “gray zone” between peace and war. Policymakers in Washington and Taipei should respond to such gray zone pressure tactics by gauging their effectiveness, improving tracking and information-sharing, bolstering resilience, strengthening response capabilities, clarifying and consulting on response thresholds, and shaping the narrative. Jacob Stokes explains more in Resisting China’s Gray Zone Military Pressure on Taiwan, CNAS, November 2023, PDF, 14 pages.

PLA a Paper Tiger? Not Really. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is more capable than the United States cares to admit and only needs to be good enough at a certain time and place to send the US packing from the Indo-Pacific. “Think China’s PLA is a paper tiger? Think again, warns retired US Marine Officer”, Defense Connect, November 29, 2023.

Disrupting the PLA. RAND Corporation has published a new report on China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that explores the tasks the PLA will be expected to carry out in support of key missions in peacetime and in a low-intensity conflict. The report goes on to cite some vulnerabilities that could disrupt the PLA’s path towards carrying out the tasks and how the United States can leverage those vulnerabilities to disrupt the PLA’s tasks and Chinese strategic objectives. “Disrupting the Chinese Military in Competition and Low-Intensity Conflict”, RAND Corporation, November 2023, PDF, 116 pages. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1794-2.html

Chinese Overseas Ports. The Council of Foreign Relations has an interactive map that tracks China’s growing maritime influence through investments in strategic overseas ports. Users can plot the location of each port and view satellite images alongside detailed information. “Tracking China’s Control of Overseas Ports”, Council of Foreign Relations, November 6, 2023.

Paper – Russian Drones. Since 2009, Russia has invested significant effort into developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, for military purposes. They have used drones for reconnaissance, targeting, electronic warfare, and direct strikes. The Ukraine conflict has diminished the inventory of Russian drones, and the country is relying on Iranian drones. Russia is losing in the drone war with Ukraine. Read more in Russian Military Drones: Past, Present, and Future of the UAV Industry, by Pavel Luzin, Foreign Policy Research Institute, November 2023, PDF, 32 pages. https://www.fpri.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/russian-military-drones-.pdf

Russia and Finland Border Security. Since August 2023, around 900 asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa have been waved through by Russian border control to the Finnish border checkpoints without proper documentation. Finland accuses Russia of transporting the refugees to the border points where they then ask for asylum. The EU’s external border agency, Frontex, has dispatched staff to help Finnish colleagues stave off Russia’s weaponization of migrants on its border. Once across the border, the asylum seekers and refugees become a costly burden for the Finnish government and people. “Russian Border Bullying is Back – Finland This Time”, by Charlotta Collen, Center for European Policy Analysis, November 28, 2023. See also “Russia Taunts Finland with Migrant Maneuvers”, by Elisabeth Braw, CEPA, November 28, 2023. While the use of migrants as a weapon against Finland may be new, the tactic has been employed by Belarus against other European countries since 2021. See “A migrant crisis at the Latvia-Belarus border”, by Daniel Ofman, CEPA, November 22, 2023.

Guest Writers for SOF News

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.

News From Around the World

Myanmar Conflict. The world’s longest running conflict is seeing the increasingly overstretched military junta losing ground in northern Myanmar in an area near the Chinese border. Lucas Myers, a senior associate for Southeast Asia at the Wilson Center’s Asia Program, provides a lengthy commentary on this topic. “The Myanmar Military is Facing Death by a Thousand Cuts”, War on the Rocks, November 17, 2023.

Report – Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy. The Congressional Research Service has updated a publication that covers the following topics: Taliban government, regional dynamics, counterterrorism, Afghan women and girls, relocations of Afghans to the U.S., and the humanitarian crisis. CRS R45122, updated December 4, 2023, PDF, 21 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45122

Afghanistan’s UN Seat. While the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) maintains that it deserves full-scale recognition, it has not been given the country’s seat at the United Nations. “Whose Seat Is It Anyway: The UN’s (non) decision on who represents Afghanistan”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 7, 2023.

Compressed Adventures

Looking for a break from the snow and cold weather? Florida could be your next trip!

Attacks on U.S. Bases. The U.S. military in Iraq and Syria continue to receive rocket and drone attacks from various jihadist militia groups – many with an affiliation with Iran. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq has been subjected to attacks as well. In recent days, some servicemembers have received minor injuries. U.S. naval vessels in the waters in the Middle East region are intercepting drones and missiles fired by Houthis from Yemen. Some of these Houthi attacks are meant for Israel (Reuters, Dec 6, 2023) and others against military and commercial maritime traffic. (FDD, Dec 6, 2023) The Iranian-backed Houthis say they will prohibit the passage of any ships to Israel and consider them a target.

Venezuelan Referendum and Invading Guyana. Voters overwhelming cast their vote to establish a new Venezuelan state in a highly contested oil-rich territory of Guyana known as Essequibo. The region has been under dispute for years and Venezuela has been getting more active in its complaints and could consider taking military action to occupy the contested zone.

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Books about Special Forces Training

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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – ThinkJSOU with Dr. Michael G. Vickers. Dr. Jeff Rogg interviews Dr. Michael G. Vickers, former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. Dr. Vickers had a storied career in Army Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency, partially captured in the popular book and film, Charlie Wilson’s War. In his new book, By All Means Available: Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Special Operations, and Strategy, Dr. Vickers fills in the rest of the story and offers a deeper look into a life dedicated to public service. In this interview, Dr. Vickers discusses some of the key moments in his career, lessons learned along the way, and insights for U.S. national security today. Think JSOU, YouTube, December 6, 2023, 58 minutes.

Video – Mike Vickers on The Teamhouse. The former Assistant Secretary of Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict is interviewed by The Teamhouse. One topic covered is Vicker’s latest book. December 8, 2023, 1 hour 30 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRInktLnLXM

Podcast – Counter-Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities. War on the Rocks, December 8, 2023, 38 minutes. Christy Abizaid, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, spoke about the duties of the center, terrorist threats to the United States and the role of counter-terrorism during an era of strategic competition. https://warontherocks.com/2023/12/counter-terrorism-and-u-s-foreign-policy-priorities/

Armor. The mounted maneuver journal published by the U.S. Army Armor Branch has posted its Fall 2023 issue online. Ten different articles for tankers. DVIDS, PDF, 62 pages. https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/68480

Strategika. The Hoover Institution has posted its latest issue of Strategika. Articles on the Ukraine conflict, Putin’s legitimacy, and prevailing in great power competition. December 7, 2023. https://www.hoover.org/publications/strategika/issue-88

Military Review. The November – December 2023 issue is now online. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/November-December-2023/

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