SOF - Special Operations

SOFIC 2018: SOF increasingly rely on soft power

16th May 2018 - 13:24 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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Global special operations forces are becoming increasingly reliant on ‘soft power’ to increase their relevance and mission success across the contemporary operating environment (COE), the commander of the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces (LITHSOF) has disclosed.

According to Col Modestas Petrauskas, modern special operations forces must be capable of correlating kinetic tools with ‘informational dimensions’ including electronic and cyber warfare capabilities.

Speaking exclusively to Shephard, he said: ‘Even though LITHSOF consider and prepare to operate in traditional land, air and maritime environments, correlation of kinetic SOF tools with informational dimension as well as soft power are becoming increasingly important for success and relevance of the special operations forces.’ 

Asymmetry, Petrauskas added, best defined the COE with ongoing globalization expanding the boundaries of the area of operations, thereby increasing demand for global mobility, connectivity and integration of special operations forces. 

‘Because of complexity of modern warfare that incorporates kinetic as well as non-kinetic means, there is no clear-cut line when crisis or conflict starts and when it ends. Modern threats are very dynamic in nature, mobile, constantly changing forms and transfusing through the borders of sovereign states, switching from being foreign affair-related to internal affairs with all their subsequent implications. 

‘Expectations of societies for results became very time-compressed, although there are no quick solutions anymore. Resources and risk-tolerance are always at stake,’ he stated. 

However, Petrauskas described LITHSOF as a relatively inexpensive and agile capability, capable of rapidly adapting to the changing environments globally.

‘LITHSOF is constantly on various battlefields and therefore its competency is always up-to date. However, make no mistake - special operations forces are not a “silver bullet” and solution to all fears. 

‘In order to effectively tackle complex modern problems, whether terrorism, or hybrid warfare, all national or alliance powers of political, informational, military and economy have to be synergized for this purpose. Interagency relation that lead to comprehensive “whole of government” approach is key to successful strategies.’

Referring to current threats across the COE, Petrauskas described how the world appears ‘more uncertain’ than ever before with threats ranging from a resurgent Russia to trans-regional terrorism and lone wolf attacks. 

'In parallel, when thinking that Lithuanian defense really begins well beyond her borders and being a strong believer of NATO collective defense capability, LITHSOF continues to actively share operational burden with allies and partners outside Lithuania,’ Petrauskas stated, referring to recent support of coalition operations in Afghanistan, Mali and counterpiracy missions in the Caribbean Sea. 

‘A substantial LITHSOF capability is dedicated to development of the Ukrainian SOF under bilateral and US-led JMTG-U lines of effort aiming to prepare Ukrainian Special Operations Task Group up to NATO Reaction Forces standards by 2020,’ Petrauskas confirmed.

Considering materiel support to LITHSOF in order to maximize the organization’s operational effectiveness across the COE and future operating environment, he continued: ‘We are constantly improving LITHSOF lethality, mobility in land, air and maritime dimensions, force protection and resilience in physical, psychological and cyber domains and survivability. 

‘Materiel and equipment that we own and plan to acquire as well as competencies that we develop is aimed at tackling non-conventional as well as conventional threats when operating independently and self-sufficiently down to the smallest SOF element. We aim to enhance resistance-related mentality not only in special operations forces, but also among those who operate with us,’ he added.

‘We are improving intelligence, imagery, electronic and other capabilities that continues to enhance fusion and synergy of LITHSOF with other Lithuanian services and agencies in order to identify and react to conventional and asymmetric threats in the right time and right place. We share our experience and lessons learned with them too,’ Petrauskas continued.

Finally, he confirmed how LITHSOF would soon be expected to be supported by a dedicated Special Operations Air Task Unit (SOATU) following a restructuring by the air force. 

‘Because of the size and logistical implications, the SOATU is foreseen to exist under the air force’s organization and dedicated in support of the LITHSOF. In a longer perspective, LITHSOF is also planning to increase capacity in generating higher number of Special Operations Task Groups,’ Petrauskas concluded.

Components of the force include the Special Mission Unit (Ypatingos paskirties tarnyba); Jaeger Battalion (Vytauto Didžiojo Jėgerių batalionas); Navy Special Warfare Unit (Kovinių narų tarnyba); and Training and Combat Support Center (Mokymo ir kovinės paramos centras). 

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