SOF Week 2023: USSOCOM plans to boost investment in cyber and space capabilities
The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will 'heavily invest’ in cyber effects and space-based capabilities to support counter-violent extremist organisation (C-VEO) operations, according to its commander, General Bryan P Fenton.
In his keynote address at SOF Week on 9th May, Fenton described how physical caliphates sought by the likes of ISIS and Al Qaeda ‘might be contained today’, but went on to warn how their “extremist ideology is still unconstrained’.
‘There is no counter-terrorism peace dividend and we understand we are required to preserve strategic focus for this and stay laser focused on this as a mission. So we're not complacent,’ he said before describing how CT operations had ‘evolved dramatically’ over the past 40 years.
Fenton highlighted a ‘recent CT effort’ to capture a senior ISIS leader which required US special operations forces (SOF) to ‘navigate near-peer air defence systems and integrate cyber effects and space-based capabilities’.
According to Fenton, such a fusion of C-VEO and capabilities typically associated with strategic competition was ‘unfamiliar to us in years past but is becoming the “norm” on today’s battlefield’.
Fenton was unable to provide further details regarding the mission due to operational security sensitivities but conceded: ‘We’ll see more of that in the future, we’re sure. And as we transform for the future, we’ll be heavily investing in all of those areas.’
Fentons comments follow disclosures last year, which saw the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) implementing a ‘triad’ concept to integrate more efficiently with the US Space and Missile Command and Cyber Command.
The triad concept was broached at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in August 2022, where service leaders confirmed how the three commands were looking to integrate better in support of C-VEO operations as well as missions associated with strategic competition.
This concept is supported by the US Army’s Project Convergence which considers how to integrate next-generation capabilities into contemporary and future operating environments.
Such a strategy is also supported by USSOCOM’s Program Executive Office-Special Reconnaissance (PEO-SR) which last year announced it would be launching a specialist payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO on board a Blue Canyon Technologies satellite.
Although specific information relating to the payload remains classified, the effort is part of PEO-SR’s Modular Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (MISR) programme which enables SOF operators to monitor radio frequency spectrums, for example.
USSOCOM also operates five Prometheus ‘cubesats’ in LEO as part of a R&D effort for MISR. The PEO is also considering how to provide operators on the ground, in the air and at sea can directly task LEO satellites at pace.
“If a user or networked ground station is line of sight, satellites could immediately downlink mission data. Data is stored on the satellite and downlinked to a networked ground station at a later point in orbit,” PEO-SR documents confirmed
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