SOF Week

Archive for the ‘SOF’ Category

AFSOC’s Second Summit Tackles How to Instill Mission Command

Saturday, June 3rd, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command’s second Mission Command Summit concluded its three-day event on May 18 with the goal to generate how to instill a culture of mission command across the formation.

During the first summit, the team developed the philosophy of mission command which empowers our commanders and subordinates to execute assigned missions using some or all of the seven joint functions. Those missions are assigned by commanders via mission-type orders that ultimately enable subordinates to operate competently and confidently.

This summit provided an opportunity to connect key stakeholders from DAF, joint and ally counterparts to have candid conversations about the vision for mission command in AFSOC’s new force presentation construct. 

“Our future operating environment looks very different than how we’ve fought over the last three decades and our adversaries have been paying attention to that,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander who provided opening remarks for the summit. “We’ve become on reliant on our global reach, active FOBs (forward operating bases) and centralized command/decentralized execution. For us to be successful, we need to shift our focus to the control piece, which is mission command.”

He expanded on the “how” and laid out the aspects that surround mission command: mutual trust built through exercises, ensuring clear commander’s intent, having an aggressive but disciplined mindset, a higher tolerance for risk and building competence.

“Developing mission command across our command will take more than writing doctrine or policy,” said Bauernfeind. “This is why we’ve established the headquarters A7 and are establishing the Air Commando Development Center this summer. This will allow us to focus that energy to synchronize and coordinate the training, education, exercising and experimentation that are required to develop the competence around mission command. And competence leads to the first aspect of mission command, mutual trust.”

This is yet another change AFSOC is tackling to prepare Air Commandos for the future operating environment. The command has been a pathfinder for the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr.’s five drivers for change across the force: AF Force Generation, Agile Combat Employment, Multi-capable Airmen, wing A-staff implementation and now, mission command.

Moving forward, the 492 Special Operations Training Group and A7 are outlining actions and owners for the identified barriers to normalize mission command in AFSOC formations and updating the Mission Command Toolkit to rollout the next version at Commando Rally scheduled for June 2023.

“There’s no denying that this is a heavy developmental effort across the Air Force, but here in AFSOC, we’re up for the task,” said Bauernfeind.

By 2nd Lt Cassandra Saphore, AFSOC Public Affairs

AFSOC Uses Video Game–Like Simulation Training, Adds Realistic, World-Wide Value

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023


Imagine you’re at home, playing your favorite online warfighting video game with friends from different parts of the country –each with a different contribution to the overall effort. Your goal? Mission success!

After eight months of planning and mission rehearsal, all five U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) components did just that for the first time in conjunction with the 16th annual Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC) hosted Emerald Warrior exercise.

Connected virtually across six separate geographic locations, SOF participants “gamed” using a mix of local, distant, and virtual players. Specifically, the players included an AC-130J (constructive) and MQ-9 crew from Hurlburt Field, MQ-9 and CV-22 crews from Cannon AFB, a MH-60 crew from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and three groups of Joint Terminal Attack Controller’s from Naval Special Warfare, Marine Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command.

The objective was to capture and collect all information from a person of interest to eliminate a threat against the U.S. and our allies within a constructed virtual environment.

“This was a USSOCOM initiative we were able to turn into a reality and yet another pathfinding step towards SOF components being able to fully exercise in a distributed mission operation (DMO) network,” said Mr. Bill Spicer, Emerald Warrior virtual planner.

The AFSOC Air, Space and Information Operations directorate, or A3, and EW planners led the effort from the 492d Special Operations Wing Operations Center and aircraft simulator facilities.

“Future technology continues to challenge current training capabilities with the introduction of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed/extended reality, “said Lt. Col. Heather Demis, C-146 pilot and DMO chief of readiness training. “While there are rigorous cyber security requirements and minor occasional technical issues between software and hardware compatibility, once connected, the simulators allow for streamlined joint and combined interoperability.”

These devices can be connected across the world to ensure the warfighter can train, exercise and implement tactic, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in any environment to prepare for real-world events and missions.

“The future of DMO events will include extended reality for any AFSOC platform in a network exercise through the newest AFSOC Emulator System which is currently projected to be on network for Bold Quest, a joint staff test and evaluation event,” said Demis.

With this notable success, AFSOC hopes to continue to push the envelope for DMO with more participation worldwide across not only SOF units but also allies and partner nations in training our warfighters to succeed on any battlefield. 

“Now that we are in the era of strategic competition, we must adapt and look for opportunities to innovate and transform to remain the most capable, most lethal Air Force in the world,” said Demis. “And with wins like DMO…. that’s exactly what AFSOC is doing.”

By 2d Lt Cassandra Saphore, AFSOC Public Affairs

509th Weapons Squadron Supports SOF exercise, Prepares for WSINT

Sunday, May 28th, 2023

Airmen from the 509th Weapons Squadron integrated with the 14th Weapons Squadron providing air refueling for a special operations forces exercise at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 7-10.

The purpose of the training for the 509th WPS was to expose its students to the Special Operations mission set and to prepare its students for their large-scale Weapons School Integration capstone exercise where all weapons schools come together and perform peer-to-peer combat to perfect their skills.

“The tanker’s mission means that it’s always an asset that is integrated with other operations,” said Lt. Col. Ian Shelley, 509 WPS commander. “This exercise allows our students to integrate with the special operations mission set. They develop tanker tactics to best support air players who are providing air support to ground units. They integrate not only with air players, but with Army and Navy ground units.”

The exercise also provided the 509th WPS Airmen a chance to integrate with other weapons squadrons and their weapons systems to execute the mission. Some units that also participated in the training include the 14th WPS AC-130J Ghostriders, MC-130J Commando IIs, U-28 Dracos, and CV-22 Ospreys.

“SOF operates in a unique manner, one that most of our students haven’t experienced before,” Shelley said. “The integration opportunity provides tanker and SOF units with a broader set of tools preparing them for future combat operations.”

One of the key points of the training included the students having to work together to create an effective mission plan in order to meet the objective of the exercise.

“Not only did the students plan air refueling and fly the KC-135, we also had students who planned and witness tilt rotor air refueling on board an MC-130 and we had others who were heavily integrated in forward arming and refueling point operations whereby the lessons learned can be applied to future agile combat employment operations,” Shelly said.

The 509th WPS is one of 21 weapons squadrons and is the only weapons school for the KC-135 Stratotanker, with a mission of providing the world’s most advanced training and tactics to pilots, navigators and inflight refueling specialists.

“We develop aviators who are steeped not only in peer threats and tanker tactics, but also critical thought and problem solving,” Shelley said. “Their expertise in other platforms and mission sets makes them experts in employment operations.”

Training for the 509th WPS is designed to prepare Airmen to analyze and apply appropriate tactics to possible pacing threats, and ensure they are ready for tomorrow’s fight anytime, anywhere.

Story by SSgt Lawrence Sena, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

SOFWERX – Point of Origin Identification Collaboration Event

Friday, May 26th, 2023

SOFWERX, in collaboration with USSOCOM Program Executive Office – Special Reconnaissance (PEO-SR), will host a Collaboration Event (CE) on 26 July, 2023, regarding point of origin identification of organic and inorganic compounds in order to validate those compounds as authentic or counterfeit.

The accurate identification and detection of counterfeit products and their supply chain infiltration through the presence of organic and inorganic compounds present a pressing challenge that necessitates the implementation of advanced technologies. Despite the existence of visual inspection methods and basic authentication features, sophisticated counterfeiting techniques continue to undermine the integrity of various industries. Consequently, there is an urgent need for an innovative solution that harnesses the capabilities of a gas chromatography mass spectrometer (GC-MS) to enhance counterfeit identification, ensuring the safety and trust of consumers and suppliers as well as to identify and disrupt those supply chain networks.

GC-MS technology offers unparalleled potential in distinguishing genuine products from counterfeit ones by analyzing the chemical composition of samples. By separating complex mixtures of organic and inorganic compounds and subsequently detecting and quantifying them, the GC-MS can provide invaluable insights into the authenticity of a product and its point of origin. However, the current utilization of GC-MS for counterfeit identification remains limited, necessitating further research and development to optimize its effectiveness and integration into existing authentication frameworks.

By utilizing GC-MS technology in a comprehensive and systematic manner, USSOCOM seeks to enhance the reliability, speed, and cost-effectiveness of counterfeit identification, thereby safeguarding the interests of consumers, protecting brand reputation, and combating the detrimental impacts of counterfeit trade on the global economy. Specifically, the ability to detect unwanted fillers, additives, and foreign substances that are not normally present when compared against an analysis of similar authentic compounds is of high importance.

Request to Attend NLT 23 June 2023 11:59 PM ET. U.S. Persons Only.

28 IS Fusion Cell Support Grand Slam for Full Spectrum SOF at Emerald Warrior 2023

Friday, May 26th, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) wrapped up its 16th annual Emerald Warrior exercise May 6, 2023. The exercise provided realistic and relevant, high-end pre-deployment training, encompassing multiple joint operating areas to ensure preparedness of Special Operations Forces, Conventional Force enablers, Partner Forces and Interagency elements. This year’s exercise locations included Hurlburt Field, Homestead Air Reserve Base and Puerto Rico.

Five Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 28th Intelligence Squadron were key players in the event. The Airmen were critical to the success of the Intelligence (J2) Fusion Cell’s work. The Fusion Cell pushed out multiple “articles, tweets, and social media posts” regarding a massive earthquake destroying key infrastructure in Puerto Rico. This event became the first of many injects requiring the deployed Joint Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and units to make decisive decisions on behalf of the nation and partner nations.

“Synchronizing Information Related Capabilities across Intelligence, Information Operations, Cyber, Space, and Public Affairs SMEs (subject matter experts) allowed us to further educate our SOTG and SOTU (Special Operations Task Unit) commanders on the capabilities they can provide when down range, said Maj Jessica Vogle, the 28 IS’s assistant director of operations, who served as the Emerald Warrior J2 and Fusion Cell lead.

Vogle went on to say, “Whether it be the utilization of cyber effects to create complex dilemmas for our adversaries, space capabilities to get a site picture of the operation area or using Information Operations and/or Public Affairs to get strategic messaging out into the public, fusion cells create operational effects in the information environment and strategic advantage for AFSOF, our allies and partners through unique access and placement.”

In Emerald Warrior 23, the Fusion Cell led and processed 90 Requests for Information, 498 Red Cell injects, 11 Publicly Available Information roll ups, four spot reports, seven tear lines and eight additional J2 products.

The 21st Special Tactics Squadron completed pre-deployment qualifications for Air Force Force Generation model readiness posture. Four missions were executed during the course of the event: Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, Integrated Deterrence, Information Operations/Cyber.

445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

AFSOC Conducts First-Ever Command Chief Change of Responsibility Ceremony

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023


During a first-ever Air Force Major Command Change of Responsibility ceremony, Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Green assumed Command Chief responsibilities for Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 19.

Taking the colors from Chief Master Sgt. Cory Olson, Green became the 11th command chief of AFSOC which boasts approximately 22,000 total force and civilian Air Commandos worldwide.
AFSOC commander, Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind presided over the ceremony.

“Command Chief Olson’s warfighting mindset, his sound guidance and his wisdom advanced this command for the future,” said Bauernfeind. “Command Chief Green is absolutely the right leader to manage and accelerate the change necessary to evolve Air Force Special Operations Command for the future.”

Change of Responsibility ceremonies are a standard within the joint community, but this was the first for an Air Force Major Command. Bauernfeind directed the holding of the ceremony to highlight the critical role of the senior enlisted leader in mission success.

Green spoke on the meaning of the title worn by the Airmen of AFSOC, “Air Commandos.”

“[The meaning of Air Commando] is not the planes. It’s not the cool kits,” said Green. “It’s what we’re called to do. It’s the mission. It’s the people. It’s the team.”

Among the attendance of roughly 250 individuals were notable guests such as Deputy Chief for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Joanne Bass, and U.S. Special Operations Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Army Command Sergeant Major Shane Shorter.

Green entered the Air Force in September 1995. His background includes positions as an instructor and maintenance technician on the C-130 and various other non-standard aircraft. Throughout his career he has filled numerous roles including Flying Crew Chief, Combat Aviation Advisor, Maintenance Superintendent, and Senior Enlisted Advisor. 

By SSgt Caleb Pavao

New Rotary Wing Advanced Tactical Helmet for Nightstalkers

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

The Nightstalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) have adopted a new lightweight flight helmet called the Rotary Wing Advanced Tactical Helmet or RATH (pronounced Wrath).

Recently on display at the AAAA Summit in Nashville, the new helmet will replace HGU-56/P Rotary Wing Aircrew Ballistic Helmet (ABH) Systems which have been in service for decades. In fact, the 160th was one of the first adopters of the HGU-56/P in the 1990s.

The quest for a lightweight flight helmet which would reduce aircrew neck strain began five years ago and has taken the combined efforts of the US Army Aeromedical Research Lab, Air Force Research Lab, SOFWERX, USSOCOM and the 160th. The effort has culminated with this fielding.


• Meets / exceeds all US Army FNS / PD 96-18 Safety Requirements & Specifications

• 6 unique helmet shell sizes – does not put extra liner padding in larger sizes to create smaller sizes

• 24% average weight reduction across all sizes when compared to legacy HGU-56P helmet

• 9% increase in side-to-side field of view when compared to legacy HGU-56P helmet

• Optional ballistic applique to provide protection from small arms fire & fragments

• Ventilated carbon fiber shell with “penetration proof” Dyneema™ ballistic liner

• Koroyd™ damage control honeycomb liner with up to 18% more compression than EPS foam

• Lightweight adjustable dial suspension and retention liner assembly

• Hot swap ballistic visor can be changed in less than 30 seconds without tools

• Clear & tinted ballistic Class 1 visor

• Side mounting rails for lights & accessories

• Easy snap / release chinstrap buckle

• Quick-release ANVIS NVG shroud

• Headset can be worn independently from helmet

• Hearing pass-thru with dynamic sound suppression and volume control

• UmeCobra™ boom microphone offers an average of 10 dB improvement of legacy M-87 mic

• Gel earseals and adjustable nape pad for custom sizing and compression adjustment

SOF Week 23 – USSOCOM Weapons Update

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

The update to the USSOCOM weapons update is that there’s not much to update. Organized under PEO SOF Warrior, PM Lethality is led by LTC John M “Tosh” Lancaster who conducted a briefing on his portfolio during SOF Week. These are photographs of the slides he used.

Weapon program continuations from last year include the Lightweight Machinegun-Medium in .338 Norma Mag and Lightweight Machinegun-Assault in 6.5 CM. The LMG-M is underway with fielding anticipated in FY 26, while LMG-A is still in planning. The LMG-M will offer accurate fire at .50 ranges from a weapon lighter than an M240 firing 7.62 NATO. It is in my estimation the greatest single improvement to US small arms in a century.

As part of their service-like acquisition authorities, the command continues to look at Next Gen Suppressor Technologies, low-cost counter-defilade solutions, and precision energetics. For suppressors, they’d like to address the whole gamut: flash, heat, ground disturbance, and sound as well as particulate. On the energetics side, LTC Lancaster mentioned Slap Charges which are primarily used for breaching. This is not to be confused with SLAP (saboted light armor penetrator) ammunition which they are also interested in, particularly in 338 NM.

One interesting disclosure by LTC Lancaster was made during an acknowledgement of the US Army’s 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapons program; that US Army Special Operations Command will receive those weapons and ammunition from the Army. What he didn’t say is important. Considering that USASOC has the vast preponderance of SOF ground forces, if the M7 replaces the M4A1s in Army SOF arms rooms, those M4s will once again become SOF unique. Considering the investment, this will lead to a discussion on whether USASOC (and perhaps SOCOM writ large) wants to continue with the M4 or look for a new weapon and possibly caliber. They could reject 5.56mm NATO completely and fully adopt the NGSW weapon and ammunition, or look for a new lightweight carbine in some flavor of 5.56 or another intermediate cartridge (sorry fanboys, 6 ARC isn’t the answer, but that’s another discussion).

On the Visual Augmentation System or VAS front, LTC Lancaster explained that every 18 to 24 months he has an opportunity to transition a promising technology from the work being done by the Joint Acquisition Task Force in pursuit of the Hyper Enabled Operator objective, which is itself an off-shoot of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) or so-called “Iron Man” program.

DANHUD is just such a project. The Day And Night Heads Up Display will integrate with ATAK and head protection systems to project relevant data to the eyes. LTC Lancaster wants to get the operator’s eyes off the screen and back up into the fight. While the Army continues to work on the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), DANHUD is moving at a much faster pace and is more focused on immediate operator needs.

They are also seeking a new Machine Gun Optic for use with LMG-M to be fielded in FY 26 along with the weapon.

Ground Organic Precision Strike System is also a carry over. Envisioned as a system of different sized strike capabilities, GOPSS offers the ground SOF element with its own precision fires.

Maritime Precision Engagement-Munition is managed by Program Management Office–Naval Special Warfare, also inder PEO SOF Warrior. As a surface-based analog to GOPPS, MPE-M delivers a Javelin-sized warhead from a loitering munition launched from a Naval Special Warfare surface craft. It features operator-in-the-loop and can be used against land and surface targets. Future improvements include non-kinetic payloads and Alt-PNT guidance modalities.

Above is a laundry list of capability enhancements USSOCOM is interested in, regardless of whether there is a formal program. Almost all of these are technology insertions into existing capabilities rather than completely new systems. However, the announcement for the Mortar Fire Control Device requirement should be available through SOFWERX soon.

On a final note, lethal droids are coming to SOF. Just as unmanned aerial systems like Switchblade have been weaponized, expect similar results for ground robots. For example, throw bots that explode and weaponized unmanned ground systems. Like with aerial systems, an operator will remain in the loop for final weapon release authority.