Special Operations News – February 12, 2024

Pararescueman Halo Jump

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

Photo / Image: A 31st Rescue Squadron pararescueman jumps out of an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing over Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 19, 2024. Pararescuemen are trained, equipped and postured to conduct full spectrum personnel recovery operations in both peacetime and combat environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tylir Meyer)

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SOF News

Report – U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Considerations for Congress, Congressional Research Service, CRS RS21048, updated February 9, 2024, PDF, 13 pages. Considerations for Congress include Army Special Forces recruiting and possible force structure reductions and Air Force Special Operations Power Projection Wings and future unit relocations. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/RS/RS21048

New Ruck for Airborne Commo Soldiers. The U.S. Army Airborne Test Force (ATF) located at Yuma Test Center, Yuma Proving Ground, recently tested the Army’s newest Radio Carrier Rucksack (RCR) solution. The RCR was developed and produced by the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts. It was tested in combat-realistic scenarios to see if the RCRs could be used in parachute operations without damage to radios or the ruck. “Airborne Test Force tests field radio ruck to survive airborne combat missions”, by Ana Henderson, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, DVIDS, February 8, 2024.

SOCOM Seeking Kamikaze Drones. The United States Special Operations Command is on the lookout for a loitering munitions capability that can be launched from AC-130J Ghostrider gunships, MQ-9 Reader drones, MH-60 helicopter and other platforms. “SOCOM gearing up to assess air-launched kamikaze drones”, Defensescoop, February 8, 2024.

SOF and Lessons Learned. The commander of USSOCOM, General Bryan Fenton, recently spoke with reporters during a Defense Writers Group event on February 9th. He provided some insight on how USSOCOM is learning from current conflicts. “U.S. Special Operators ‘Gobbling Up’ Lessons Learned in Ukraine, Gaza”, National Defense Magazine, February 9, 2024.

Floating Navy SEAL Base. The USS Lewis B. Puller is an expeditionary sea base (Business Insider, 5 Feb 2024) stationed in the Arabian Sea. it is used as a launching pad for Naval Special Warfare units and missions as well as a wide variety of military operations. The two SEALs lost in the VBSS mission on a dhow off the coast of Somalia were launched in a small boat from the Puller.

Army SOF to Transfer to Baumholder. U.S. special operations troops based in Stuttgart are expected to take up residence at a rural base in southwestern Germany in 2026, adding 1,000 people to a garrison once on the Pentagon’s chopping block. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) is expected to remain in Stuttgart. “Transfer of Army special operators to Baumholder on track for 2026”, Stars and Stripes, February 6, 2024.

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Cuts to PSYOP Units. Key psychological operations capabilities may soon be cut from the U.S. Army in an effort to trim USASOC force structure. “US may cut info-warfare assets as China, Russia expand influence ops”, Defense One, February 8, 2024.

U.S. Psychological Warfare Capability in Decline. Cole Livieratos and Ken Gleiman, two former Army officers, outline the long history of PYSOP and the proposed cut to United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) force structure that will gut the U.S. military’s ability to understand and influence the modern battlefield. “Special Operations Force Structure: Strategic Calculus or Organizational Power?”, War on the Rocks, February 6, 2024.

10th SFG(A) and VirTra Training. The VirTra simulator is a program featuring technology that can present different scenarios to its users which helps sharpen shooting skills. The different scenario options that VirTra features include active threat, hostage situation, threat recognition and high-risk entry. Through these scenarios, the VirTra simulator is actively analyzing the decisions that its users make and then adjusting what happens in the program based on those decisions. “VirTra Reality Simulator Training”, DVIDS, February 2, 2024.

10th SFG(A) Soldiers and Mountain Climbing. The NCOIC of the Special Operations Mountain Training Warfare Training Center is no stranger to high mountains and cold weather. “Summit or Survival: A Green Beret’s Odyssey From Everest to Denali”, Global Rescue, February 7, 2024.

Jacobs Loses Big SOCOM Contract. Jacobs lost out on a contract worth $2.8 billion for the Special Operations Forces IT Enterprise Contract (SITEC). (Washington Technology, 7 Feb 2024)

C-27 Spartan. One of the Army’s biggest aircraft is flown by the USASOC Flight Company located at Fort Liberty, North Carolina (FBNC). (The Aviationist, 7 Feb 2024)

SEALs in Exercise Dragon Trident. East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare Operators recently took part in an exercise that saw them infiltrating a fixed defensive position located in Nevada. (DVIDS, 9 Feb 2024)

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Ukrainian SOF. Ukraine says its special forces blew up a Black Sea mining platform in the night to throw off Russian drone operations. The SOF unit approached the platform in small boats, searched the facility, and then blew it up. (Business Insider, 6 Feb 2024)

Training UKRSOF. United States Special Operations Forces began training the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces in 2015. Much of that initial training instruction emphasized a comprehensive irregular warfare skillset over the formerly adopted Spetsnaz approach. Currently Task Group – Ukraine (TG-U), part of the much larger Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force 10 (CJSOTF-1), is responsible for training, equipping, and advising UKRSOF. The CJSOTF collaborates with the Security Assistance Group – Ukraine (SAG-U). “The Key to Ukrainian Victory is Partnering (not Ukrainifying)”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, February 6, 2024.

NATO SOF. On February 8, 2024, the NATO Military Committee visited Allied Special Operations Forces Command in Belgium. The committee members received briefings on SOFCOM and the role of Allied and Partner SOF contributions to collective defense. (NATO, 9 Feb 2024)

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Ten Year Anniversary of Ukraine War. In February 2014, Russia seized Crimea. Some nations conflate conventional warfare with war. However, irregular warfare – such as the taking of Crimea from Ukraine with “little green men” – is not recognized as warfare. Andrew Maher outlines four important lessons that can be drawn from the Ukraine conflict. “The anniversary of war in Ukraine – 10 years, not two years”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, February 7, 2024.

New Ukraine Military Leader. The popular general leading the armed forces of Ukraine has been relieved by President Zelensky. The president says he is looking for a different approach to mobilization, recruitment, and frontline management. The new Commander-in-Chief is General Oleksandr Syrskyi – the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces since 2019. “Ukraine’s new military chief focused on high-tech, command and control”, C4ISRNET, February 9, 2024.

Unmanned Systems Force. Drones have proven very effective for the Ukrainian military both on land and at sea. The security situation on the Black Sea has been improved for the Ukrainians because of airborne and seaborne drones equipped with explosives. As a result of the effectiveness of drones Ukraine has established a separate command for the use of UAVs.

Report – Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Igor Delanoe has provided a report on the performance and current status of the Black Sea Fleet. He describes how it has moved from the offense to an active defense. The Russian vessels have begun operating at a greater distance from the Ukrainian coasts. The Russians have learned some lessons from the current conflict and will likely be incorporating them into future naval operations – both in the Black Sea and around the globe. Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2024, PDF, 22 pages.

Report – The Kremlin’s Occupation Playbook. This publication describes the coerced Russification and ethnic cleansing taking place in occupied Ukraine. Institute for the Study of War, February 2024, PDF, 29 pages.

Report – Evolution Not Revolution: Drone Warfare in Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine. Stacie Pettyjohn has published a detailed report on how drones have transformed the battlefield in the war in Ukraine. Center of a New American Security (CNAS), February 8, 2024, PDF, 67 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

Yemen Strikes. The United States has continued its campaign against Houthi missile sites and naval attack drones in recent days. In the past week U.S. forces have destroyed 29 missiles in Yemen and 10 drone ships.

King of Jordan in Airdrop Over Gaza. A video showed King Abdullah in military gear on board a plane in the latest mission by the Jordanian Air Force to drop urgent medical supplies to field hospitals it runs in Gaza. Thus far, Jordan has conducted 11 air drops. “Jordan’s King Abdullah participates in Gaza aid drop”, The Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2024.

SECDEF Back in Hospital. On Sunday, February 11, 2024, the Pentagon Press Secretary announced that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for a developing health issue. Austin has transferred the functions and duties of the SECDEF office to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. The CJCS, White House, and Congress has been notified. The press release didn’t specify if it was a day visit or overnight stay. (DOD, 11 Feb 2024)

Border Security Bill, Dead on Arrival. The Senate worked for four months to come up with a compromise bill that would provide aid to Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and also improve border security and improve the immigration process. However, it died a quick death. Now Congress is looking to put together an aid bill for Ukraine and Israel that both political parties and both chambers of Congress can agree on. At the same time, there is a bipartisan push to include an amendment (formerly called the Afghan Adjustment Act) that would assist the many Afghans who arrived in the U.S. after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August 2021 as well as certain categories of Afghan military personnel. If included, the language would provide the possibility to apply for Special Immigrant Visa status for former members of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC), the Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the Special Mission Wing (SMW).

Growing Importance of PMCs. The influence of private military organizations like Blackwater and Wagner Grup is set to increase in the coming decades. Read about the long history and coming future of mercenary groups. “The Future of Private Military Companies”, by Federica Saini Fasanotti, GIS Reports, February 6, 2024.

Map South and East China Seas (CIA)

Report – U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas, Congressional Research Service, CRS R42784, updated February 5, 2024, PDF, 142 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42784

Report – Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, CRS R45811, updated February 9, 2024, PDF, 36 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45811

Report – Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Congressional Research Service, CRS IF10613, updated February 8, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. The CRS has published a paper that describes what the FTO list is, the designation criteria, and who is on the list. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10613

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Podcasts and Videos

Podcast – Stay Behind Operations. Brian Petit (retired SF officer) and Marta Kepe (RAND Corporation) are the guests for this podcast episode that contrasts conventional conflict with resistance warfare. They discuss how small states can impose outsized costs on occupying powers by operating behind enemy lines. Irregular Warfare Podcast, February 9, 2024, 46 minutes. https://irregularwarfare.org/podcasts/stay-behind-operations/

Video – What is Irregular Warfare? The Joint Special Operations University describes the nature of IW. February 8, 2024, YouTube, February 8, 2024, 4 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt7LtwQ-WRg

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