Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: USSOCOM Chief to Meet With Norwegians on Arctic Tensions

Special Ops in the Arctic.

The Norwegian Brigade North advances during a live-fire exercise in the Setermoen Shooting Range during exercise Cold Response. The heavy Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the background. (Photo by Simen Rudi, Norwegian Armed Forces)

The Norwegian Brigade North advances during a live-fire exercise in the Setermoen Shooting Range during exercise Cold Response in 2014. The heavy Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the background.
(Photo by Simen Rudi, Norwegian Armed Forces)

WASHINGTON – The head of U.S. Special Operations Command and top theater commanders will be going to Norway soon to discuss how to deal with aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic region.

Army General Joseph Votel said the main concern is “Russia and its coercive activities” in the Arctic. “It’s important to engage and understand what’s happening out there and understand the spaces in which they [special operations forces (SOF)] can exert their influence,” he told a SOF-industry conference last week (January 27).

To that end, Votel said he and U.S. SOF regional commanders (probably from Northern Command, European Command and Pacific Command – which all border the Arctic) will meet in a few weeks with their Norwegian counterparts who are “paying significant attention to this.” Norway, a member of NATO, is one of five nations that border the Arctic. The others are Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), the United States and Russia.

Russia has been taking increasingly aggressive steps to assert control in the Arctic where the rapid melting of sea ice is expected to open access to the polar region — which is projected to contain 25 percent of the world’s untapped oil, as well as other valuable minerals.

In 2007, a Russian mini sub deposited a metal Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole. Russia’s new military doctrine, signed by President Vladimir Putin in December, calls for a more aggressive stance toward NATO and boosting its military presence in the Arctic. Those plans include setting up an Arctic Strategic Command and opening 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of 2015.

Sweden has tracked unidentified undersea vehicles – believed to be Russian submarines — violating their territory. In December, a Russian military aircraft flying with radar-evading stealth technology nearly crashed into a commercial passenger plane taking off from Copenhagen, Denmark. In April, Russian fighter jets carried out a simulated bombing raid on Stockholm, Sweden’s capital.

Add to these incidents Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and ongoing fighting between Ukraine’s military and Russian-supported separatists and  U.S. military leaders and their NATO allies have reasons to be concerned.

“I consider this a current and future challenge for us,” Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander, told the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium & Exhibition. He conceded that the harsh Arctic environment poses a different challenge after more than a dozen years fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This is something we can deal with. While we have engaged in the Middle East, we have not forgotten about the other areas,” Votel said, adding that with industry’s help “I feel confident we would be able to address that relatively quickly.”

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM  commander Joseph Votel. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM commander Joseph Votel.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

On other issues, Votel said the flow of foreign fighters joining the violent extremist organization styling itself an Islamic State “is staggering.” IS (also called ISIS and ISIL) has attracted more than 19,000 foreigners from 90 different countries to fight with them in Syria and Iraq, he noted. Counter terrorism experts at the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security worry about the threat these fighters pose when they return home to countries in the West.

Votel said SOCOM and law enforcement were also seeing “a growing nexus” between terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations because the crime groups’ ability to move money, people and weapons across borders is very attractive to terrorists. While officials don’t fully understand how these networks interact yet, what is known is “the more they cooperate, the greater the threat,” Votel said.

The SOCOM commander and Army Ranger added that airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-gathering “remains one of our chief concerns.”

SOCOM is “a global synchronizer of SOF forces, focusing on activities ranging from counter terrorism to foreign internal defense and from unconventional warfare to combatting weapons of mass destruction,” Votel added

February 1, 2015 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Still Gung-ho on “Iron Man”-like Protective Suit

TALOS Project.

Testing preliminary TALOS prototype technologies. (Courtesy of Revision Military).

Testing preliminary TALOS prototype technologies. Note the lower body support.
(Courtesy of Revision Military).

WASHINGTON — Despite uncertain defense funding and a Pentagon strategy shift to get partner nation militaries to take a more direct role in commando operations, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), is still bullish on developing a lightweight ballistic protective suit for American forces.

Army General Joseph Votel has dispelled any speculation that support for the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS), may have waned since he took over as commander of SOCOM from Navy Admiral William McRaven, the super suit’s biggest booster. 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.

Votel, an Army Ranger, told a defense industry-special operations conference Tuesday (January 27) that SOCOM’s goal remains to have a deployable suit ready for field testing a little over three years from now.

“Although many significant challenges remain, our goal of a Mark V prototype suit by August 2018 is on track right now,” Votel told the first day of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition. The two-day gathering, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), discusses the strategic and tactical needs of special operations forces (SOF) to fight small wars and prevent them from becoming big ones.

The TALOS suit, as envisioned by McRaven, will provide ballistic protection with advanced, lightweight armor and sensors to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs. Using an integrated system of systems combiningg sensors, communications equipment and an electrically-powered exoskeleton, TALOS advocates say it will not only protect SOF troops but will make them run faster, hear and see better and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue. “If we do TALOS right,” McRaven told the SO/LIC conference last year, “it will provide a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need.” McRaven, a Navy SEAL, retired from the military in August.

“TALOS was charted to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technologies to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Votel said in his keynote address at the annual NDIA gathering.

Two early prototype suits, MK I with an early exoskeleton design, and MK II an assault suit, were delivered to SOCOM headquarters at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida in June. SOCOM is working on TALOS with input from the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency, the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center – as well as numerous corporations, universities and national laboratories.

January 28, 2015 at 1:06 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Leaders to Speak at Industry Conference and Expo


Air Force special tactics forces navigate their Zodiac

Air Force special tactics forces navigate in a Zodiac boat.  (U.S. Air Force photo.)

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the civilian executive in charge of the command’s equipment acquisition will be among the speakers at this year’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition this week in Washington.

Sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), the gathering brings together Special Operations leaders from all the U.S. armed services and several foreign countries, as well as industry, foreign embassies and academics to discuss the role of Special Operations Forces in a rapidly changing world.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s new commander is slated to be the keynote speaker Tuesday (January 27), the gathering’s first full day. Later Tuesday, Michael Dumont, a civilian and principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) will be the luncheon speaker.

On Wednesday, attendees will hear from James “Hondo” Geurts, SOCOM’s acquisition executive, who is expected to outline what products are required to meet the needs of troops involved in SO/LIC activities.

Members of the U.S.  Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines work side-by-side with Philippine troops in a non-combat, training and advisory role to battle terrorists.  (Defense Dept. photo)

Members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines work side-by-side with Philippine troops in a non-combat, training and advisory role to battle terrorists.
(Defense Dept. photo)

As in past gatherings, money constraints are expected to be a hot topic as SOCOM deals with terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, countering ISIS and training local defense forces in places like Latin America. Special Operations Forces number about 67,000 — one of the fastest growing segments of the military. American SOF are working as trainers and observers at any given time in 90 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, Colombia and the Philippines. Their portfolio also includes rescuing hostages or capturing leaders of violent extremist organizations .

Special Operations Forces include Army Green Berets, Rangers and Special Ops aviators, Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant-craft crews, Air Force Pararescue jumpers and combat air controllers, Marine Corps Corps critical skills operators and special operations combat services specialists.

January 26, 2015 at 10:11 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 23, 2015)

No Easy Task.

Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry

Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry

A U.S. Marine Corps raiding force clambers from a rigid-hulled, inflatable boat up into a gas and oil platform during maritime interoperability training (MIT) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Another group of raiders descended by rope (fast-roping) from a hovering MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.

MIT prepares the Marines for their upcoming deployment by enhancing combat skills, and teaching them techniques for boarding vessels. These Leathernecks are with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force.

To see a slide show of this exercise, click here.

And here’s another photo from a different angle to show how far up the oil rig deck was. Please click on both photos to enlarge the image.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Allison Burgos

U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Allison Burgos

January 23, 2015 at 1:51 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 16, 2015)

HALO Jumpers.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

There’s a cautionary saying from the early days of aviation that “only angels have wings.” But here we have a photo of U.S. Air Force special tactics airmen demonstrating their skill with a HALO — high altitude, low opening parachute jump. The object of such a jump is to free fall from a high altitude then open the chute at a low altitude and descend without being detected from the ground.

These airmen are from the 24th Special Operations Wing, part of U.S. Special Operations Command and one of three Air Force wings dedicated to demanding and dangerous jobs like combat controllers, pararescuemen and special operations weather officers.

Combat controllers are special air traffic controllers operating from the ground in combat zones.They provide expert air support coordination and communications capabilities and often accompany Army Special Forces, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS when they deploy into hostile areas.They call in air strikes and control air traffic on and above landing strips and jump zones in hostile or austere environments. They were among the first U.S. troops on the ground during emergency relief efforts after the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Pararescuemen, known as PJs, parachute over land or water to render medical assistance and rescue downed pilots and other personnel in combat or natural disaster situations. They are also lowered to ground or water level on a cable to rescue people. Among their many tasks, special operations weather officers and airmen deploy into combat and non-permissive environments (the ‘bad guys’ or ‘bad conditions’ on the ground don’t want you there) to collect and interpret meteorological data and provide ground force commanders with accurate intelligence during a special operations mission.

The HALO jump, from MC-130H Talon II special operations aircraft over Hurlburt Field, Florida, is designed to help participants maintain their qualification for special tactics airmen, trained to jump into hostile or austere environments not accessible to aircraft.

To see a photo slideshow of the pre-jump preparations and the jump itself, click here. As ever, to enlarge the image just click on the photo.

January 16, 2015 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 4-January 10, 1815) Part I

New Orleans: The Last Battle.

PART I of Three Parts. Prelude to Battle

Major General Andrew Jackson

Major General Andrew Jackson

December 28-January 1

Enraged and embarrassed by their failed December 28 attack on Andrew Jackson’s defensive line along the Rodriguez Canal, the British are making plans for one final grand battle to take New Orleans (only 9 miles away) and crush the Americans’ will to continue fighting. Apparently, they don’t know much about the lean, hawk-faced major general from Tennessee.

When worried New Orleans politicians ask Jackson what he would do if the British broke through his lines, he snarled that if the hair on his head knew his plans he  would cut it off.  To an aide he confides he would retreat, set fire to the city and fight the enemy “amidst the surrounding flames.”

While the British take days to bring up more men and heavy guns for the final assault, Jackson is using the time to strengthen the mud and log rampart facing Chalmette plantation where the British are camped. The “canal,” really a dry ditch runs nearly a mile from the Mississippi River on his army’s right to woods and cypress swamps on its left.

Jackson also sets up eight gun batteries along his line with a total of 14 guns, ranging from a 6-inch howitzer to a Navy 32-pounder. The batteries are manned by U.S. Army artillery men, Navy gunners, U.S. Marines, Creole volunteers – many of them veterans of Napoleon’s Grande Armée – and seasoned gunners from Jean Lafitte’s pirate/privateer crews.

Jackson’s defense line curls around like a fish hook once it hits the swamps – to avoid being flanked by the British. While this work goes on, Choctaw Indians and Tennessee sharpshooters sneak out at dusk to raid British outposts, killing or capturing luckless sentries and stripping them of their weapons and ammunition.

Jackson has also sent 400 men, mostly from the Louisiana militia, to defend a small battery of cannons on the West side of the Mississippi aimed at the area in front of the rampart to catch any advancing British troops in a cross-fire with the guns on the rampart. Later, Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson, the American naval commander at New Orleans, sends two more guns from the U.S.S. Louisiana to the marine battery to pepper the British camp with harassing fire.

Meanwhile, the British have brought up 30 heavy naval guns from their fleet anchored off Lake Borgne in the Gulf of Mexico, rowing them across the lake and then dragging them though the bayous to the British camp.

Under cover of night on December 31, the British begin setting up the heavy guns in three fortified positions. American sentries hear the British soldiers and sailors digging out on the dark but can’t see what they’re doing. A fog at dawn January 1, 1815, obscures the British strong points just 300 yards from the American defenses.

At the urging of local gentry, Jackson calls off work on the defenses for New Year’s Day and a grand review of all units in full uniform starts up. The British hiding in their fortified artillery batteries can hear fiddle music, drums and bugles coming from the American lines. Visitors from New Orleans have come to see friends and relatives among the American defenders and to witness the review.

Then at about 10 a.m. the fog lifts and the British guns open up, sowing confusion among the troops and panic among the civilian spectators. Jackson and his staff are finishing breakfast at headquarters in the Macarty plantation house when British shells nearly demolish the building. Jackson and company manage to escape unharmed, then restore order and get the American guns firing.

For nearly two hours the American and British blast away at each other. The Americans have fewer, less powerful guns but the gunners and the riflemen protecting them surprise the British with their accuracy. In their haste to take the Americans by the surprise when the fog lifted, the British gunners got the range wrong. Most shells sail over the American lines, striking civilians who have taken refuge farther back. The British cannon balls that do hit the American line sink harmlessly into the mud rampart. The American fire is more telling and five British guns are disabled and most of the gun crews killed or wounded by “Yankee” riflemen. By 3 p.m. the British cease firing and abandon their positions. They abandon the remaining cannon under heavy sniper fire. Surprisingly, the Americans make no effort to seize or spike (make useless) the British cannon. The king’ forces lose 44 dead and 55 wounded to the American gunners. The American losses are far less, 11 dead, 23 wounded – most of them civilians. Major General Edward Pakenham, the British commander, calls off a planned attack since the American rampart is relatively unscathed although three U.S. guns have been damaged and two ammunition wagon was struck and blown up.

Battle of New Orleans by Dennis M. Carter 1856.

Battle of New Orleans by Dennis M. Carter 1856.

January 2

American spirits rise with the arrival of more than 1,500 volunteers from Kentucky. But the reinforcements are in tatters after marching through rain, mud and cold from Natchez in Mississippi Territory. Also, about two thirds of them have no guns.

The citizens of New Orleans and surrounding Louisiana parishes raise $16,100 to clothe the frozen Kentuckians, making pants, shirts, coats and waist coats for their protectors. The 550 Kentuckians that do have weapons are sent to bolster Jackson’s right flank, where the ditch and rampart reach the cypress swamps. This is also where the Tennesseans and Choctaws have been raising cain with the British at night. The Indians alone have killed or wounded 50 men.

January 6

British spirits lift when reinforcements arrive in camp. Two regiments totaling 1,700 men boost the British invasion force – soldiers, sailors and Marines – to between 7,000 and 8,000. Most accounts put Jackson’s forces at somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

With these added troops, Pakenham decides to launch a two-pronged attack on Jackson from both sides of the river on January 8, 1815.

Tomorrow — New Orleans: Day of Battle





January 5, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 28, 2014)

Underwater Exercise.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Devon Tindle

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Devon Tindle

U.S. Marines retrieve their fins and weight belts from the bottom of a 13-foot pool during a diver course on Camp Schwab in Japan, Nov. 18, 2014. This training prepares Marines for the Marine Corps Combatant Diver Course. an incredibly demanding program based at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida.

These Marines are assigned to the 3rd Marine Division’s 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

November 28, 2014 at 1:56 am Leave a comment

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