Special Operations News – January 29, 2024

SM-2 Block III Missile

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

Photo / Image: The guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy fires an SM-2 Block III missile during a live-fire exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Jan. 23, 2024. Photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Alan Doerter. Read more about this surface to air missile in “A $2M missile vs. a $2,000 drone: Pentagon worried over cost of Houthi attacks”, Politico, December 19, 2023.

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Three U.S. Service Members Killed by Drone

CENTCOM announced that three U.S. service members were killed in a one-way drone attack in northeastern Jordan on Saturday night, January 27, 2024. CENTCOM also said that 34 were wounded in the attack – some with TBI and eight that had to be evacuated to a higher-level medical facility. A White House statement blamed the attack on radical Iran-backed militant groups. The drone is reported to have detonated near sleeping quarters.

Map Tower 22 Jordan

The location of the attack is a small military post known as “Tower 22” (The Intel Crab, Twitter) very close to the tri-border area of Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. The Al Tanf garrison, which in the past has served as a launch pad for an American SOF contingent, is just across the border in Syria. The Al Tanf garrison is also a site of conventional troops as well. Tower 22 is part of a cluster of smaller bases supporting Al Tanf. According to CENTCOM, it is a logistics base with approximately 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel that support the effort to defeat ISIS.

SOF News

Missing SEALs Identified. The search and rescue efforts to locate Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram concluded January 21, 2024. The two SEALs were reported missing at sea while they were conducting a night-time seizure (SOF News) of a vessel (VBSS) illegally transporting advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen. Their status, after a long search, had been changed to deceased by CENTCOM on January 21, 2024.

WMD, SOF, and the Maritime Environment. A highly mobile and flexible capability for detecting CBRNE indicators is a national defense capability that needs to be expanded and refined. The CANARY SoS is a program that is designed to solve provide this capability. The concept includes a Navy EOD team as part of a forward SOF element employing a UAS capability linked with comms to transmit data. Read more in “Engineering Special Operations”, Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, January 2024.

Robin Sage – 50 Years Later. Special Forces candidates are in the woods and mountains of North Carolina participating in an unconventional warfare exercise. 2024 marks 50 years since the Green Beret exercise called Robin Sage has been held. The field exercise actually dates back to the 1950s – but under a different name. “50 Years of Robin Sage”, CBS17.com, January 27, 2024.

Enhancing AFSOC’s C-130s. Some off the shelf radar solutions could increase the capabilities of the Air Force Special Operations Command’s Ghostrider and Commando II platforms. “AESA Radars For AC-130J, MC-130J Sought By SOCOM”, The Drive WarZone, January 26, 2024.

PSYOP Selection. Before entering the ranks of PSYOP, soldiers must pass through the Psychological Operations Assessment and Selection course. Read about it in “What is PSYOP Assessment and Selection like?”, Task & Purpose, January 26, 2024.

ELR-SR Program. The Extreme Long Range – Sniper Rifle program is looking for a replacement for the M107 Barret and MK15 sniper rifles. Read the details in this article published by Business Insider on January 28, 2024.

Marine Raiders. The Critical Skills Operators of the Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command (MARSOC) that pass the Individual Training Course (ITC) and then serve in Marine Raider position. Read up on the history, organization, TTPs, training pipeline, equipment, weapons, and vehicles of the Marine Raiders. “MARSOC Marine Raiders: Always Faithful, Always Forward”, by Michael Ellmer, Grey Dynamics, January 25, 2024.

SOCPAC Maritime Training. Philippine government agencies and U.S. Special Operations Task Force 511.2 participated in a Joint Maritime Security Training Exercise (DVIDS, Nov 2023) Nov. 20-24, 2023, in the Philippines. Some of the training events were maintaining maritime domain awareness and VBSS (NSI) scenarios.

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International SOF

CANSOF Departs Niger. As of January 2024, Canada no longer has special operations forces in Niger. As many as fifty CANSOF personnel have been deployed to Niger for the past ten years on Operation Naberius. “Canada withdraws its last special-forces troops from Niger”, The Globe and Mail, January 22, 2024.

UK SF. The Commander of Strategic Command, General Sir Jim Hockenhull, states that Britain’s Special Forces act as a “vanguard for defence”. The UK SF helps the wider military to evolve leading to new and different ways of working. The UK Special Forces consist of the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment and 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment. “UK Special Forces a Vanguard for Defence”, Forces.net, January 22, 2024.

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SOF History

AC-119 Gunship. Read up on the early history of cargo planes converted into airborne gunships. “How Cargo Haulers Turned into Gunships Rained Fire on the Enemy in Vietnam”, by Barry Levine, History.net, January 22, 2024.

WWII PoW Rescue. On January 30, 1945, over 500 prisoners of war were rescued at the Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp during WWII in the Philippines by a combined force of 6th Ranger Battalion, Alamo Scouts, and Philippine guerrillas. https://arsof-history.org/articles/v14n2_cabanatuan_page_1.html

Battle of Najaf. On January 28-29, 2007, a fierce fight took place in Najaf, Iraq. Three special operations combat controllers were key to the unleashing of air power on the enemy. They directed F-16s, A-10s, AC-130s, AH-64s, F/A-18s, and RAF Tornados onto targets – dropping more than 10,500 lbs. of bombs. “The Battle of Najaf”, Combat Control Foundation, January 28, 2007.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Situation Update. Constanze Stelzenmuller provides an update on the current situation in Ukraine. The Kremlin is redoubling its attacks on the ground and in the air. Russia has made modest gains in northeast Ukraine, but at a very high cost in personnel and equipment. The Russian air campaign has stepped up in recent months with numerous drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles hitting a variety of targets in Ukraine. “A midwinter update on Ukraine”, Brookings Institute, January 26, 2024.

Russian Transport Plane Crashes. A Russian IL-76 cargo plane crashed Belgorod Oblast, Russia near the Ukrainian border. On board, according to Russian press releases, were over 60 captured Ukrainian prisoners of war to be exchanged in a POW swap. The circumstances of the crash remain unclear. “Russian military plane crashes near Ukraine border”, Washington Examiner, January 24, 2024.

Drone Warfare. Both sides have found offensive campaigns are costly and only modest territory is the net result. Drones have a lot to do with this outcome. “Cheap but lethally accurate: how drones froze Ukraine’s frontlines”, The Guardian, January 25, 2024.

FPV Drones Changing the Battlefield. “First-Person-View” (FPV) drones, some only costing $500, have reshaped modern warfare. These cheap and small UAVs can accurately deliver a warfare against personnel, vehicles, and equipment. Both the Ukrainians and Russians are using them to great effect. Ukraine initially led in FPV technology, but the Russians have caught and can scale up drone production much quicker. This very comprehensive article explains in in detail: “Inside Ukraine’s secret FPV drone labs racing to stay ahead of Russia”, Euromaiden Press, January 25, 2024.

U.S. Money to Ukraine – Not So Much. The U.S. Congress seems to be unable to come to an agreement that would allow additional funding for Ukraine. Republicans are tying the funds for Ukraine to increasing the U.S. southern border security and reforming immigration policy. Democrats are reluctant to adopt the border security measures desired by the Republicans. Some political commentators are speculating that former President Trump doesn’t want the border situation fixed until he is elected President. Trump’s intention, according to some, is that immigration remain an issue until the November elections.

Crimea’s Isthmus of Perekop. The retaking of Crimea (if it happens) from the Russian occupiers will most certainly see Ukrainian forces crossing the Isthmus of Perekop – a narrow land mass connecting Crimea to Ukraine (map CRS) proper. This “Gateway to Crimea” has been fought for throughout history – one notable time was during the time of the Russian Civil War in 1920. Read more in “Battle of Perekop”, by Glenn Corn, Military Review, November 2023. (also in PDF, six pages)

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

Writing and the CIA. Zachary Griffiths provides a description of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Studies in Intelligence journal. See “Professional (and creative) writing at the CIA”, Harding Project, January 23, 2024.

Training Troops in Coup States. The Pentagon has abandoned plans to train the militaries of several countries that have been accused of human rights violations or involved in the overthrow of democratic governments. Six African countries are barred from participating in U.S. exercises. One major exercise, known as Flintlock, is conducted annually by AFRICOM and SOCAFRICA. “The Pentagon planned to train troops from coup states. It backed off after scrutiny”, The Washington Post, January 26, 2024. (subscription)

Defunding of UNRWA. Israeli authorities have provided the United Nations Relief and Works Agency with information about the alleged involvement of twelve UNRWA employees in the terror attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023. The UNRWA is the UN agency that provides humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other locations throughout the region. The United States (DoS, 26 Jan 2024), seven European nations, Canada, and Australia have decided to temporarily suspend funding the UNRWA. The UNRWA has terminated (UNRWA, 26 Jan 2024) the contracts of the staff members and is launching an investigation into the incident. “More countries pause funds for UN Palestinian agency”, Reuters, January 27, 2024.

Drone Production. Russia has used loitering munitions, as well as different command and control and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, to meet its need for precision targeting. “How the West Can Match Russia in Drone Production”, War on the Rocks.

WinTAK. An application that is commercially available enables soldiers to mark enemies and send texts. U.S. Special Forces have been using ATAK for a number of years in both training, exercises, and on deployments. Looks like the conventional Army is catching on. “In a first, Army uses Slack-style battlefield software in field exercises”, by Sam Skove, Defense One, January 24, 2024.

Border Crisis.

NATO and Sweden. Months ago, Finland was approved for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. However, another Scandinavian country has had difficulty in that same path. Turkey’s parliament has finally approved Sweden’s NATO membership after more than a year of waiting; but Hungary remains a holdout.

Haiti Update. The government of Kenya has volunteered to be the lead for a Multinational Security Support mission for Haiti – one authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 2699. This mission would assist the Haitian government in tamping down the levels of gang violence and restore democratic order in Haiti. However, there has been a bump in the road. The Republic of Kenya’s High Court has ruled the deployment of Kenyan police to be unconstitutional. (DoS Press Statement, 27 Jan 2024) See also “UN warns of growing power of gangs in Haiti igniting tensions across the Caribbean”, Jurist, January 26, 2024.

Russian Information Warfare. This article provides insights into how Russian scholars and practitioners view information warfare. “Russian Information Warfare Strategy: New IWC Translation Gives Insights into Vulnerabilities”, Irregular Warfare Center, January 23, 2024.

Report – More than a Century of Antisemitism. A report by the Global Engagement Center of the U.S. Department of State describes how successive occupants of the Kremlin have used antisemitism to spread disinformation and propaganda. This two-part report provides a historical overview of how Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union used this technique to further their ends. It also details the contemporary Kremlin’s use of antisemitic disinformation in the context of its war against Ukraine. January 2024, PDF, 51 pages.

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Middle East

Yemen Houthis. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen (map NSI) learned and adopted the tactics of irregular warfare while in conflict with a Saudi-led coalition. “How a Ragtag Militia in Yemen Became a Nimble U.S. Foe”, The New York Times, January 24, 2024. (subscription)

Oil Tanker Attacked. An oil tanker, the M/V Marlin Luanda, was targeted by Houthis on Friday evening, January 26, 2024. Iranian-backed Houthis fired one anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Initial reports say that the tanker was on fire and the crew had abandoned the vessel. The incident happened 60 nautical miles southeast of Aden. US and French warships were in the area to rescue the crew. Since November, the Houthis have launched numerous attacks against commercial ships traveling in the region.

U.S. Stepping Back from Iraq? Representatives from the United States and Iraq are currently engaged in talks aimed at winding down the mission of a U.S.-led military coalition. Since the October 7th terrorist attack against Israel and subsequent Israeli Defense Forces military offensive in Gaza U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have been hit by rockets, missiles, and drones from Iranian-backed militant groups. The U.S. has responded with strikes against these groups in Syria and Iraq. “Iraq, US in Talks to End Coalition Mission Targeting Islamic State”, Voice of America, January 27, 2024. See also “U.S., Iraqi Officials to Hold Talks”, DoD, January 25, 2024.

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Video – CIA Recruitment. The latest Central Intelligence Agency recruitment video has been posted. It is targeting Russian intelligence workers and highlights the corruption within Russian government. Securely Contacting CIA, January 22, 2024, YouTube, 3 minutes. (Editor’s note: my Russian has deteriorated but I got the jist of it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJvVYW3eQvY

Video – Carrier Seal. watch a 2-minute-long video about an advanced tactical diving vehicle designed for covert operations that will give SOF operators extra stealth. Forces News, YouTube, January 27, 2024.

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