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SOF goes cyber

12th June 2017 - 12:07 by Andrew White in London

SOF goes cyber

Details have emerged regarding a joint training exercise conducted by the US Army Cyber Command and Dutch Defence Cyber Command (DCC), aimed at developing a ‘Cyber Warrior’ concept for special operations forces (SOF) operating at the tactical edge.

Integrated into Exercise Bold Quest 17.1, conducted on 16 March at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Indiana, the event saw cooperation between the newly-established DCC and army’s 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber).

According to the DCC’s Brig Gen Hans Folmer, the event provided a chance to discuss ‘cyber and future training opportunities’ including how a Cyber Support Team could potentially ‘enhance tactical operations for a Dutch Special Operations Force unit in the planning, preparation, and execution of a hostage scenario’.

A US Army spokesperson explained: ‘The Dutch saw the end state of their Bold Quest 17.1 exercise as the identification and experience of how cyber support can assist [SOF] and the development of [SOF] unit cyber capabilities.’

The news follows calls dating back to 2011 when defence sources in the US called first for the introduction of the ‘Cyber Warrior’ for tactical operations in a ‘three-dimensional battlefield’.

Founder of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center, Vincent Viola, explained at the time how such operators could be used as part of psychological operations, network attacks, covert missions, and signals and human intelligence missions.

Speaking after the Bold Quest event, Folmer urged: ‘One of the directions for the armed forces of the future is we're starting now to develop new units; a new way of working with Dutch forces.’

Dutch SOF comprise the army’s KCT and navy’s MARSOF component commands. However, defence sources explained to Shephard that concepts of operation had yet to be confirmed with regards to the extent to which SF operators would be trained in cyber tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) – as opposed to specially-trained cyber operators attached to special operations teams.

An additional course of action could see Special Forces Communicators (SFCs) trained to conduct such mission sets, sources concluded.

Similar thoughts were expressed to Shephard earlier in the year by Commander of the Danish Special Operations Command, MG Jørgen Høll, who discussed ongoing consideration in the cyber area. 

The command has now established a working group to consider the integration of cyber capabilities into its order of battle with a view to both offensive and defensive actions.

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