Posts filed under ‘Unconventional Warfare’
A U.S.-led multinational military exercise — Flintlock 2017 — is underway in seven northern and western African countries. Flintlock is an annual training exercise for Special Operations Forces (SOF) designed to reinforce cooperation and the capabilities of participating nations.
Nigerien armed forces participate in the opening ceremonies of Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, February 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Zayid Ballesteros)
In addition to U.S. Green Berets from the 3rd Army Special Forces Group, which is regionally aligned to North and West Africa, SOF units from Australia, Belgium and Canada will be participating in the three-week exercise. The 20 personnel from Canada will include staff from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and medical specialists from Canadian Forces health services group, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
Other countries sending troops, 20 in all, include: Algeria, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Senegal, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The region where Flintlock is taking place is threatened by violent radical groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda. Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, head of Special Operations Command Africa, said the training is focused on helping partners coordinate a regional response to extremist threats from al Qaeda-aligned groups and the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Stars and Stripes.
“These threats are a shared challenge we can only meet together,” Bolduc said during the Flintlock opening ceremony in Chad,” according to U.S. Africa Command. The exercise will pay special attention to protecting borders and guarding against cross-border attacks. Boko Haram, the Nigerian-based terrorist group, has launched attacks on neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
BETHESDA, Maryland — The quest for a lightweight, ballistic protective suit for U.S. commandos is about 18-months away from a major milestone, the top acquisition official at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) says.
“We’re about a year and a half-ish out,” from unveiling the next prototype, James “Hondo” Geurts, SOCOM’s civilian acquisition executive told an industry conference on Wednesday (February 15).
In development since 2013, the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit, or TALOS, was the brainchild of then-SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, who was concerned that SOCOM operators were at particular risk during raids when they didn’t know what was on the other side of the door.
The futuristic commando body armor has been likened to the suit worn by the superhero, “Iron Man,” a characterization SOCOM has not discouraged – although TALOS won’t be able to fly.
Geurts’ estimate of when the prototype — the fifth TALOS test suit — would be ready is in keeping with the timeline envisioned by McRaven and his successors. In addition to lightweight body armor, the original concept of TALOS called for sensors to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs. Using an integrated “system of systems” that would combine sensors, communications equipment and an electrically-powered exoskeleton, TALOS advocates believed it would not only protect special ops troops but also make them run faster, hear and see better and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue.
“Will it do everything we want? Probably not,” Geurts conceded at the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. But that was never the intent, he added. Research for the various TALOS components has explored improving night vision goggles, shrinking communications technology and developing more powerful, more portable and longer lasting power sources. One technology improvement, a powered exoskeleton, enabled a Marine Corps captain paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet to walk to his valor award ceremony.
Geurts is looking to leverage TALOS technology developments to get new capabilities into the field. The number of spinoffs arising from TALOS has been “phenomenal,” Geurts said. He noted SOCOM is always interested in bringing innovation and improvements into the field as soon as possible. “Velocity is our competitive advantage,” he said. Survivability doesn’t rely on body armor alone, said Geurts, adding “it’s also part ‘what information do you have and what’s your situational awareness.”
Special Ops Conference.
The annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium opens Monday in Bethesda, Maryland, tackling issues ranging from the acquisition and training needs of special operations forces (SOF) to budget challenges and the demand for cooperation and information sharing with partner nations.
The four-day conference — sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) — will also address the widening challenge of creating a networked, connected and unified force of SOF, as well as U.S. and international law enforcement and intelligence organizations.
Speakers will include Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and James Geurts, the civilian head of acquisition at SOCOM. [More on the conference at the bottom of this post.]
A Navy SEAL was killed in a raid on an al Qaeda base in Yemen late last month. The Defense Department identified the slain sailor as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. He died January 29 from wounds sustained in the raid. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit, which most news organizations have identified as SEAL Team 6.
The raid sparked controversy in both the United States and the Middle East.
A “chain of mishaps and misjudgments,” according to the New York Times, plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three other servicemen wounded and forced the raiders to destroy a U.S. V-22 Osprey, when the $75 million tilt-rotor aircraft was unable to take off after making a hard landing during the fire fight. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on February 1 as most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children, the Times reported.
Yemeni officials were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions. But they made clear their “reservations” about the latest operation, according to the Voice of America website. A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, VoA added, said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programs with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government.”
The White House called the raid, the first authorized by the Trump administration, a success. But Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged that conclusion, telling NBC: “When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost, I don’t believe you can call it a success.”
But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation, calling it “absolutely a success,” VoA reported. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.
Earlier, Spicer said it was “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have the loss of life, or people injured. But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions, and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.”
The casualty rate for highly skilled and experienced special operators, like Chief Owens, has been on the rise as the United States relies more and more on elite forces.
In the past year — for the first time — according to a New York Times report (via the Seattle Times), special-operations troops have died in greater numbers than conventional troops. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan SOF made up only a fraction of the dead. That they now fill nearly the whole casualty list, the report continues, shows how the Pentagon, hesitant to put conventional troops on the ground, has come to depend almost entirely on small groups of elite warriors.
Meanwhile, Navy SEALS and other elite units are quietly battling a frightening rise in parachute deaths, according to a Military Times investigation.
Between 2011 and 2016, 11 special operators have died in high altitude, free fall training jumps. That is a 60 percent increase over the previous five-year period, according to 13 years’ worth or records analyzed by Military Times.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride.)
The four-day conference is being held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. All the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands will take part in a panel discussion on the strategic and operational implications caused by the necessity to conduct coalition and inter-agency operations.
Another panel discussion on law enforcement special mission units will include representatives from several Department of Homeland Security units, including Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Candace Mundt
A soldier with the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division pulls himself out of a hanging barrel during Jungle Warfare School near Yemen, Gabon.
These soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, of the 7th Regiment were attending the French Jungle Warfare School as part of U.S. Army Africa’s exercise Central Accord 2016. CA16 is an annual, joint military exercise to practice and demonstrate proficiency in conducting peacekeeping operations.
To see more photos from this exercise, click here.
U.S. Marine Sergeant Josh Greathouse scans the area during a perimeter patrol in Al Taqaddum, Iraq on March 21, 2016.
Greathouse is a member of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air (SPMAGTF) Ground Task Force.
I Robot, You Pitcher.
U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Mickey Treigle
No, there wasn’t a bomb threat at a spring training baseball game in Phoenix, Arizona late last month. Quite the contrary, the Talon bomb disposal robot shown here is bringing out the ball for the first pitch of the March 25 game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants as part of Navy Week festivities.
We assume the sailor in white was going to throw that first pitch, not the Explosive Ordnance Disposal operator in full bomb squad gear to his right. Normally, the EOD operator would be using the Talon to examine, and if necessary, defuse a bomb, from a safe distance.
Ranger In, Ranger Out.
Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.
Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.
At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.