Posts tagged ‘U.S. Special Operations Command’

WORLD WAR CV: Services’ Deadlines for Mandatory Vaccination Loom; Air Force Falls Short

Deadlines Near.

Three days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Defenses Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive on August 26 that mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for service members are necessary to protect the health and readiness of the force.

Because the three available anti-COVID vaccines were only approved for human application by the FDA under an emergency use authorization (EUA), no one — including members of the military — could be compelled to get vaccinated. More than 73 percent of active duty personnel had received at least one shot of the vaccines by mid-August. However, thousands more service men and women declined to roll up their sleeves for inoculation, according to SEAPOWER.

Hawaii National Guard medic Sergeant Cassandra N. Park, administers the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to Colonel Jon A. Ishikawa, commander of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, October 1, 2021, at Kalaeloa, Hawaii. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lieutenant Anyah Peatross)

In announcing FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older in August, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting administrator, said “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards of safety and effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

The Army, Navy and Air Force finalized their deadlines for all service members in the active duty forces, Reserves and National Guard to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in mid-September.

The deadline for the Air Force was November 2 for active duty airmen and December 2 for reserves and the Air National Guard. The Navy deadline is November 28 for active duty sailors and Marines, with reservists having until December 28. The Army deadline for all active duty service members is December 15. Army reservists and the National Guard  have until June 30, 2022 to be fully vaccinated. The services are each handling their own logistics for vaccinations, according to the official website of the Military Health System.

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Air Force Lags.

The Air Force missed having its entire force vaccinated by November 2. In all, 10,352 Airmen and Space Force Guardians — including 1,866 who have received medical or administrative exemptions — remain unvaccinated out of a total Active-duty force of approximately 326,000, Air Force Magazine reported November 3.

Senior Airman Sara Sanchez from the 6th Health Care Operations Squadron prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for distribution at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Sept. 30, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren Cobin)

Eight hundred uniformed personnel have refused the shot and nearly 5,000 Airmen and Guardians waiting to find out if their religious exemptions will be approved. Nearly 7 percent of the Active-duty force has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 95.9 percent of them are fully vaccinated.

That still puts the Air Force behind the Navy, which was 99 percent vaccinated as of November. 1. As of that date, 93 percent of Active-duty Marines and 90 percent of Active-duty Soldiers were vaccinated.

Among those who remain unvaccinated, 1,634 have received medical exemptions; 232 have received administrative exemptions, such as separation or retirement; and 4,933 are pending a decision related to a request for religious exemption.

Another 2,753 unvaccinated individuals are categorized as “not started.” The Air Force said some of those individuals are deployed to overseas locations where vaccines are not readily available, the magazine noted.

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USAF Boots Recruits Who Refuse the Shot.

Forty would-be airmen or Guardians have been separated from Air Force and Space Force recruit training after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, Military.com reported October 29.

Air Force officials confirmed that 40 basic military and technical trainees have been discharged under entry-level separation characterizations for refusing the vaccine.

Entry-level discharges can be awarded to personnel who have yet to serve 180 days; it usually carries no designation such as a good, bad or other-than-honorable discharge, simply equating to a separation from service with a potential for reenlistment if the individual chooses to get the vaccine, the website noted.

November 3, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Medal of Honor for Ranger (Updated); Al Qaeda Threat in Africa

Army Ranger Awarded Medal of Honor

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne conducting a security patrol while on a mission in northern Afghanistan in 2014. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne — a Ranger in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command — received the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Friday (September 11, 2020) for heroics in 2015 when he and others rescued some 70 hostages facing imminent execution by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

Payne, then a Sergeant 1st Class, was the assistant team leader of a group of operators with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. They joined Kurdish commandos on the October 22, 2015, nighttime raid to free Iraqi hostages from the ISIS prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.

Payne will become the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor, according to Military.com. Army officials have identified Payne as a Ranger, but they have not publicly confirmed his affiliation with the elite and highly secretive Delta Force, the website noted.

Intelligence reported the hostages were being housed in two buildings inside the heavily-fortified compound. Payne’s team would be responsible for clearing one of them. The raiders arrived by CH-47 Chinook helicopter, but a complete brownout ensued as the helicopter rotors stirred up dust. Using their night vision googles, Payne and others navigated to the wall of the compound as enemy gunfire erupted, according to an Army report of the incident.

Patrick’s team met light resistance as they cleared their assigned building. Once inside, they used bold cutters to break thick locks on two rooms with steel prison doors, releasing nearly 40 hostages. There was still an intense firefight going on at the other building. The other team radioed for assistance.

Under heavy machine-gun fire Patrick and others climbed a ladder to the roof of the one-story building, where they engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire. Insurgents below them detonated suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. At the same time, smoke billowed out from the roof and enemy gunfire targeted Patrick’s team.

They moved under heavy fire back to ground level and breached windows and walls to enter the building. Once inside, the fighting was intense and the Kurdish commandos began taking casualties.

In order to release the remaining hostages, Patrick reentered the flaming structure with bolt cutters despite heavy gunfire fire. Flames touched off ammunition from a nearby weapons cache. Amid the smoke and chaos, Patrick twice more entered the burning building and with the Kurds, helped release about 30 more hostages.

Patrick and the others did not learn that one of their team members Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler, had been killed in action, until they returned to base.

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Why Africa Matters.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa says the continent is important in the effort to counter violent extremist organizations.

“Al Qaeda and Islamic State have both stated that they intend to attack and undermine the United States,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, adding that both groups have found a safe haven in Africa. In Africa, Anderson told an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) virtual conference on countering violent extremism, “they can establish themselves, they can develop their means ,and then they can eventually establish — whether it’s a caliphate or their area of control that will give them resources” to undermine the international order and attack the United States and Western allies and partners.

The Sahel Region of Africa. (Wikipedia)

Having lost its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has been West, with the Islamic State Grand Sahara in the Mali region and the Islamic State West Africa, in Northeastern Nigeria. Even more disturbing, Anderson said, “we’re seeing them as they expand down the eastern coast, the Swahili coast of Africa. And so we see them established in Somalia. We see them going down into Mozambique, in Tanzania. And we see that these affiliates continue to expand and leverage each other.”

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has been more patient, avoiding attention while it created two big affiliates — al Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM, al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. 

“This is not a threat that one nation can take care of on its own. It’s not a United States problem. It’s an international problem,” Anderson said.

Special operations troops have long trained their counterparts in Somalia, Kenya, Niger and other countries, while civil affairs units have supported local goodwill projects, in countries like Cameroon, where Nigeria-based Boko Haram encroaches, notes Military Times.

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Silver Stars for Heroism.

Two Green Berets and an Air Force pararescueman were awarded Silver Star medals for their heroism during a nearly eight-hour firefight last year after the Special Forces team stumbled upon an elite Taliban force in a small Afghan village, according to Stars and Stripes.

All three Silver Stars were awarded at a small ceremony in the Rock Garden on the 7th Group compound at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida., in August, along with six Bronze Star Medals with Valor devices, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices and four Purple Hearts earned over the six-month deployment last year of the 7th Group’s 1st Battalion.

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SOCOM Modernizes Small Craft Fleet.

The small surface craft fleet that supports the clandestine operations of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders is undergoing a modernization program, according to Seapower magazine.

The SEALs use special operations craft, to approach shores and insert and extract teams of special warfare operators. These craft are fast, quiet, capable of shallow-water operations, and armed with machine guns for use if their cover is blown. The small craft also can be used for coastal patrol missions and to interdict hostile craft and conduct visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) missions.

Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate the Special Operations Craft Riverine (SOC-R), which is specifically designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces in shallow waterways and open water environments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric)

Navy Special Warfare Command, the parent unit of the SEAL teams, as a component of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), receives much of its equipment not through normal service acquisition channels but through SOCOM. SOCOM is a combatant command but is unusual in that it has its own acquisition budget and programs.

The special warfare community nearing completion of recapitalization of two classes of small boats and well along in a modernization program that will increase the capabilities of its special operations craft. See details here.

September 11, 2020 at 2:11 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Annual SOFIC Conference Goes Virtual

Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

tampa-rescue-demo

Multi-national commandos participate in a special operations demonstration at 2014 the NDIA Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The massive, annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida — like many large scale conferences and expos this year — turned virtual because of the restrictions placed on travel and large gatherings by the coronavirus pandemic.

Your 4GWAR editor has gone to several of them in recent years (see photo above) but, like every other visitor, speaker, exhibitor this year took to the internet to see live-streamed presentations by top leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

SOCOM commander, Army General Richard Clarke explained, in one session streamed from Tampa — home to SOCOM headquarters —  how special operators who have been battling violent extremist organizations (VEOs) groups for decades now have a role to play in the Great Power Competition with Russia and China, according to Seapower  magazine’s website.

“Going after the VEOs is not mutually exclusive to competing with great powers,” Clarke said, he added that the capabilities required of Special Ops forces fighting terrorists in places like Asia and the Pacific serve a dual purpose. “By being there, we are also countering great nation states,” he added.

This dual role has implications for the defense industry, Clarke said. “No longer can we just build counter-VEO capabilities that serve a single purpose. As we look at the precision, lethality and mobility requirements as examples, we absolutely have to develop them so they can compete and win with Russia and China, but they could also work in a counter VEO fight,” he added.

But Clarke also said countering violent extremist groups was a generational issue and would remain the number one priority for U.S. special operators. He explained that allies, partners and maintaining alliances will be an integral part of addressing near-peer rivals in the future.

“Great power competition is about influence” and American special operators have a “unique role” to play in this through presence, partnerships and training, Clarke explained, according to Military Times.

May 14, 2020 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA/SPECIAL OPS: Seven Countries Host Special Operations Exercise

Flintlock 2017.

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.

flintlock-2017-niger-troops

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)

Last year, Exercise Flintlock 2016 was hosted by Senegal and Mauritania. This year, seven countries are hosting Flintlock 2017: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

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.

west-africa-map

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.

flintlock-2017-green-berets-saluting

Colonel Major TN Pale, Burkina Faso’s Army Chief of Staff, salutes U.S. Army Green Berets during the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2017 at Camp Zagre, Burkina Faso on February 27, 2017.  (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Benjamin Northcutt)

March 2, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Closing in on “Iron Man” Prototype Suit

TALOS.

prowler1

Revision Military’s Prowler Human Augmentation System, which distributes a soldier’s combat load, is among the technologies SOCOM is studied for its ballistic protection suit project. (Photo courtesy Revision Military).

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.”

February 17, 2017 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

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.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

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.

160330-F-YT673-465

Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

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.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Wants to Kick Addiction to Airborne Recon

SOCOM’s ISR Roadmap.

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

TAMPA, Florida — U.S. commando forces have a virtual “chemical dependence” on air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, and U.S. Special Operations Command wants to kick the habit, says SOCOM’s intel capabilities and requirements chief.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Atkins says 80 percent of SOCOM’s ISR comes from air assets, both manned and unmanned. “This is where our spending and our resource investment has been,” Atkins told a briefing at a special operations conference Wednesday (May 20) on SOCOM’s ISR Road Map.

The ISR roadmap calls for sustaining existing large and expensive ISR air assets like the Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle — both of them unmanned aircraft — while investing in newer, simpler aircraft. The roadmap makes “one thing abundantly clear,” according to Atkins. “We need to reduce our reliance on airborne platforms,” he said, adding that airborne ISR “is not always available and is often the most costly” way to gather intelligence.

So SOCOM will be putting considerable energy into exploring and expanding ground-based and maritime-based ISR, “because that’s where we see the most cost benefit analysis,” Atkins said. Space and cyber-based capabilities will also be studied to enhance special ops missions and to deliver precision intelligence.

The command will need technological help from industry to solve the data transport problem. And because SOCOM will be relying increasingly on partner militaries, it will require ISR platforms to be affordable and employable by partners, with the intelligence sharing components “essentially baked in” to facilitate cooperation.

MQ-7 Raven small unmanned aircraft  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

RQ-11 Raven small unmanned aircraft
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

Atkins said SOCOM is seeing a tremendous demand from partner nations to teach — not only ISR acquisition — but how to use the information in what SOCOM calls foreign internal defense — training foreign militaries how to defend their territory and people themselves and rely less on U.S. assistance.

“A lot of these countries know how to fly the Scan Eagles (a small drone) and other things that they buy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them” to process information and turn that information into useable intelligence, Atkins told a standing room only audience during the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by TAMPA-headquartered SOCOM and the National Defense Industrial Association. The conference ended today (May 21).

May 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Nordic Defense Worries; Special Ops Up North; Alaska Oil Fight; Canadian Patrol Boats

Russia’s Nordic Neighbors Worried.

A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen during a flight exercise in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard)

A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen during a flight exercise in 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard)

Sweden’s military is trying to get the country’s new government to boost long-term defense spending by adding as much as $620 million.

Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and suspicions that an unidentified underwater craft that violated Sweden’s territorial waters in late 2014 was Russian have convinced military planners that more defense spending is needed to acquire needed upgrades to fighter aircraft and submarines, as well as financing military exercises, according to Defense News.  Unlike all its Baltic and North Sea neighbors (except Finland), Sweden is not a member of NATO.

The Armed Forces Command (AFC) is pushing the newly elected socialist-green government to add between $380 million and $620 million to the spending plan, which is set at about $5.5 billion in 2015. The AFC’s position is that $380 million is the absolute bare minimum amount required to cover the Swedish Armed Force’s basic needs in operations and procurement in 2015-2020.  Defense chief General Sverker Göransson has warned the government that if the annual budget remains at $5.5 billion, the armed forces could not finance key — or even small scale — programs, such as the next-generation Grippen fighter or submarine modernization projects. Meanwhile, funds would be stretched to pay for equipment for soldiers, multi-branch military exercises or vehicles.

Sweden’s Parliamentary Defense Committee roundly supports increasing the defense budget, Defense News said. Meanwhile, the other non-NATO nation in the High North may be drawing closer to the Western alliance.

According to Alaska News Dispatch, a recent poll in Finland shows  63 percent of Finns surveyed say that an advisory referendum would be the best way to decide whether or not Finland should join NATO.

In the poll, commissioned by Yle and carried out by Taloustutkimus Research, 63 percent of respondents supported a referendum — even if the president, government and a majority of parliamentarians hold the same view regarding NATO membership. Only 27 percent of respondents felt that Parliament should make the NATO membership decision.

Ten percent of respondents said they did not know how the matter should be decided.  Just over one thousand people were polled between December 29 and January 8.

The strongest referendum supporters were the Finns Party and Left Alliance voters. The conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) and Swedish Peoples Party were least enthusiastic about the idea. Public opinion polls have consistently shown that a solid majority of Finns are against joining NATO, so a referendum would be unlikely to rubber-stamp membership, the Dispatch noted.

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USSOCOM-Norway

Two members of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Command.  (Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)

Two members of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Command.
(Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, 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.

Norway, a NATO member that shares a  195.7-kilometer (121.6 mile) land border with Russia, announced in December it was suspending bilateral military activities with Russia — because of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine — until the end of 2015. “Military bilateral cooperation has been suspended since March 2014, since the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization in eastern Ukraine,” said a press release from Norway’s Ministry of Defense

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 can exert their influence,” he told a SOF-industry conference last week (January 27).

To that end, Votel said he and U.S. SOF 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. To see more, click here.

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 Obama-Arctic

President Barack Obama is asking Congress to increase environmental protections for millions of acres of pristine animal habitat in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, in a move that has already led to fierce opposition from the state’s Republican lawmakers.

The White House announced last week (January 25) that Obama would ask Congress to designate 12 million of the refuge’s 19 million acres as wilderness. The wilderness designation is the strongest level of federal protection afforded to public lands, and would forbid a range of activity that includes drilling for oil and gas and construction of roads. If the proposal is enacted, the area would be the largest wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress, according to the New York Times.

The policy won’t have much effect on the nation’s oil production—Alaska accounts for only 7 percent of it, and most of the protected areas have been off-limits to industry for decades. And it didn’t really change the status quo or offer anywhere near the environmental protection the president could have conveyed. But he sure ticked off some Alaskans, according to National Geographic.

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Slush Breakers?

The design of the Canadian patrol boats will be modeled on this Norwegian Coast Guard vessel class: NoCGV Svalbard. (Photo by Marcusroos via wikipedia)

The design of the Canadian patrol boats will be modeled on this Norwegian Coast Guard vessel class: NoCGV Svalbard.
(Photo by Marcusroos via wikipedia)

Already five years behind schedule, Canada is finally getting underway with the construction of a small fleet of Arctic patrol boats to project a Canadian military presence in the High North where melting sea ice is opening up new maritime shipping routes – and access to underground riches.

The $3.2 billion ($3.5 billion Canadian) project will produce five ships – down from a planned eight vessels. But critics complain that none of the vessels will be ice breakers, as originally planned, and none will have landing craft equipped with an over-the-snow ground vehicle, according to Defense News. The ships weaponry is also said to be scaled back. Some critics in the military have called the planned ships “slush-breakers” since they won’t be able to break through heavy Arctic ice.

The ship-building plan was originally announced in 2007 by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The patrol vessels were supposed to be in the water by 2013. Under the new deal, construction will begin in September, with the first ship ready by 2018. The last ship is expected to be delivered by 2022, according to the builder, Canada’s Irving Shipbuilding. Lockheed Martin is set to supply the onboard combat systems.

“The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis,” Vice Admiral Mark Norman, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy told a naval conference in October, Defense News said.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region.” Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo.
(Click on the image to enlarge)

February 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: International Special Ops Exercise in Tampa

Land, Sea and Air

TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.

The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.

The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.

The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

 Click on the photos to enlarge.

 

May 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment


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