SOF - Special Operations

SOFIC 2018: Virtual symposium launched to support industry

16th May 2018 - 13:22 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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The US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate has launched a virtual symposium to support industry efforts to identify and enable disruptive technologies providing an ‘asymmetric advantage’ for special operations forces.

Published on 23 April 2018 ahead of the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida, the virtual symposium features a series of videos describing USSOCOM’s interpretation of the future operating environment and its effects on science and technology.

Areas of interest are heavily weighted towards the support of small unit teams operating in Command and Control Denied or Degraded Environments (C2D2Es) over the next five to seven years. 

Subject areas include: strategic and tactical signature management; contested environment situation awareness; next-generation identification and characterization; tactical communication and navigation; tactical remote systems & human-machine interfaces; and countering autonomous systems.

According to the S&T Directorate, the future operating environment will focus on the ‘convergence’ of state and non-state capabilities where the ‘threat to force and mission success increases significantly’. 

Hence why the directorate is seeking technology to create and support an ‘agile, mobile and decisive’ force with information overmatch.

Notional missions in the future operating environment will likely include operations in denied and permis-sive megacities; special activities to counter near-peer adversaries while subject to state level scrutiny and threat; counter-terrorism and global manhunting in non-permissive areas against dispersed enemy forces; and clandestine location and neutralization of state and non-state sponsored weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, the report described how all mission sets will be conducted in the face of ongoing fiscal con-straint and institutional limitations for special operations forces.

‘Special forces missions will not significantly change but the environment in which they are conducted is, and will continue to change significantly,’ the report read.

Key to the success of operations in the C2D2E will be signature management with USSOCOM demanding the capability to ‘reduce, obscure, modify or eliminate all observable signature to avoid compromise on deployment, infiltration and actions on objective’.

However, the symposium warned how current signature management capabilities employed by the com-mand are most effective in environments where force components maintain a technology advantage. 

‘Radio frequency and digital signature has begun to make USSOCOM vulnerable to identification and pat-tern of life development,’ the report described while demanding new technologies to ‘mask visual, audible, radio frequency and thermal signature’ of personnel and manned or unmanned platforms.

Additionally, the command is seeking technology to secure tactical communications in light of emerging near-peer capability to identify, geolocate and disrupt signals of interest.

‘New methods of communication and navigation, less susceptible to technical interference and observation, is required to maintain security and enable effective operations in the future environment,’ the report explained.

The S&T Directorate is also interested in emerging technologies capable of not only anticipating how ad-versaries will employ autonomous systems but also defeating and exploiting such threats.

‘The threats of adversarial use of unmanned and autonomous technology, including new ways to employ that technology, is growing. USSOCOM lacks the ability to effectively identify and defeat unmanned and autonomous systems employed against the force [and this] limited capability to counter this threat is fo-cused on current technology that is losing effectiveness as technology continues to develop and become more readily available to our adversaries in the future fight.’

Objectives for the S&T Directorate call for the ability to detect enemy unmanned and autonomous systems regardless of command and control links; as well as defeat of all adversary autonomous systems at a ‘tactically relevant range’ capable of being used by a dismounted Special Forces operator or vehicle platform.

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