The SOF option
Much has been written about the future operational environment as NATO begins to drawdown from Afghanistan. The past decade of operations has seen an impressive equipment overhaul in equipment and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to challenge a morphing enemy force.
One major achievement of this NATO collaboration has been the severe uplift in interoperability between coalition members and it was perfectly demonstrated at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa this May.
The demonstration, which displayed a healthy variety of insertion and extraction techniques, saw a large cross-section of NATO and non-NATO partners operating with their US hosts. It was exciting to witness Special Warfare Craft Combatant (SWCC) boats pulling up next to the convention centre and offloading operators from the US, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway and Thailand to name but a few.
Add to that, a healthy mix of nationalities on board all terrain vehicles, Little Bird and Black Hawk helicopters as well as military inflatable boats (MIBs), and you’ll begin to understand the tremendous amount of cooperation that has been involved around the globe over recent years.
And this is the emphasis. As we remove ourselves from the tunnel vision of operating in Afghanistan, the number of potential theatres continues to increase. We won’t be operating in just one of these but all of them and I’m talking South China Sea; Horn of Africa; Gulf of Guinea to name but a few. Additionally, what will happen in the Arctic and Eastern Europe?
This means that the concept of operations will change dramatically and this is happening already. No more will we see the long convoy logistics patrols shunting their cross country or masses of airborne units dropped to dominate a large area of Helmand Province.
I’m talking about a small number force, sent out to corners of the globe to partner with local forces, utilising the latest technology to access out of bound areas, helping to facilitate C4ISTAR technology to gather intelligence in the ‘human domain’- an area which was routinely ignored in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sadly, it is a fact that the US forces still dominate partners in terms of equipment, but as long as NATO and non-NATO special forces operators are capable of working alongside and communicating with each other (while hosted by said platforms), they will be able to enforce multi-national efforts worldwide.
It’s a brave new world but it is refreshing to see special forces elements taking this concept by the scruff of the neck.