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Archive for the ‘SOFIC’ Category

USSOCOM Small Arms Update

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

During this week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference hosted by NDIA, LTC John M. (Tosh) Lancaster, USA, serves as Program Manager SOF Lethality, but the update on SOF small arms and ammunition programs was provided by his boss, PEO – SOF Warrior, COL Joel Babbitt, USA, as part of the entire portfolio.

Weapons

While there are multiple efforts underway to enhance the lethality of SOF, two primary capabilities were briefed which offer overmatch to our forces who have faced enemy small arms with longer ranges, by increasing their operational envelope.

The first is the Mid-Range Gas Gun (MRGG and pronounced like “Margie”). Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, this gas operated rifle will be offered in two variants: Assault and Sniper Support. Consequently, you will see the variants referred to as MRGG-A and MRGG-S respectively. USSOCOM adopted 6.5 CM in 2018 which replaces 7.62mm NATO for Sniper Support Weapons.

The second effort is the Lightweight Machine Gun – Medium (LMG-M) in 338 Norma Mag, a true game changer which offers accurate fire at ranges approaching that of an M2 .50 HMG, but at a dry weapon weight below the M240.

Weapons Timeline

USSOCOM plans to procure both of these weapons using Middle Tier Acquisition.

Mid-Range Gas Gun

A Military User Assessment was conducted in 2019 for MRGG to inform this requirement with COL Babbitt mentioning that SOCOM has, “conquered the intellectual high ground,” on how to best use 6.5 CM. According to industry sources, while numerous companies participated in that event at Camp Atterbury, only Larue and LMT were down selected for further evaluation. Finally, it’s important to note that this requirement is limited to Naval Special Warfare.

Lightweight Machine Gun – Medium

LMG-M promises engagement of both point and area targets out to 2500 meters. MARSOC has already conducted a Combat Evaluation of SIG SAUER’s Light Machine Gun to inform this requirement. According to PEO SOF Warrior, one point of feedback was that Operators were impressed that they were hitting the target with the first round. A fire control system will also be procured via its own program.

Ammunition

Since both of these weapons fire SOF unique calibers (based on use within DoD), SOCOM also has to develop and procure the ammunition. This requires developing cartridges and soliciting industry for their manufacture, just like any other commodity.

Ammo Timeline

While limited amounts of both 6.5 CM and 338 NM ammunition has been procured via OTA, full production will be accomplished via a full and open competitive contract opportunity.

Since it’s in the slide, we’ll also mention that the Lightweight Cased Ammunition program has had some great success with .50 but there are still issues being worked through on the 7.62mm NATO rounds. COL Babbitt related that, “the smaller the caliber, the more difficult to achieve lighter weight.” This is because the case isn’t as large and that’s where the weight reduction is being realized, by transitioning from brass to polymer.

6.5 Creedmoor

COTS ammunition was utilized for the 2018 effort to decide between 260 Remington and 6.5 CM as an intermediary caliber for SOF. Now, a government specified projectile and load have been developed and are being procured.

338 Norma Mag

The 338 NM caliber is also part of the new Mk22 Advanced Sniper Rifle which has been adopted by all the Army and Marine Corps as well as USSOCOM. However, cartridges for use by Machine Guns will be different than those used by snipers. Additionally, MG ammunition requires a link which is a government controlled design. While the sniper round will become service common, the MG round will remain SOF peculiar, at least until the services adopt a 338 NM MG.

USSOCOM Seeks Amphibious MC-130 & Remote Gunship

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

During a briefing by USSOCOM’s PEO – Fixed Wing, COL Kenneth Kuebler, USAF, at NDIA’s virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, he mentioned that SOF is seeking several future aircraft initiatives. According to COL Kuebler, “In the future, freedom of maneuver may not be guaranteed.” Consequently, they need to consider new ways to get to the fight.

First, is an amphibious version of the MC-130 infiltration aircraft referred to as MAC for MC-139J Amphibious Capability with a goal of being able to take off and land from both land and a maritime environment on the same mission.

Next is High Speed Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL). This capability is an improvement over the current CV-23 Osprey by utilizing jet propulsion rather than propellers.

Finally, the last aircraft type SOCOM is investigating is a Remote Gunship.

In addition to future aircraft, SOCOM is also interested in developing several enabling technologies for their current and future airframes.

These include improved launch mechanisms for munitions, integrated swarming effects for unmanned systems and munitions as well as light aircraft radar which offers enhanced situational awareness.

In the near-term, SOCOM will be demonstrating a AC-130J High Energy Laser, a ~60Kw offensive laser which is low probability of detection and can target small vehicles and C3 nodes.

USSOCOM PEO-SOF Digital Applications Update

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Under the helm of COL Paul Weizer, USA, PEO-SOF Digital Applications serves as USSOCOM’s “One-Stop-Shop” for SOF software intensive digital applications. This new office was just announced during last year’s SOFIC and they’ve hit the ground running.

To set up this new PEO, they sought out “digital natives,” according to SOCOM’s Acquisition Executive Mr Jim Smith, who oversees all of the Command’s acquisition efforts. Bringing in the right talent, they assembled government personnel, contractors and so-called reimbursables, which are personnel who belong to outside organizations but accomplish work for SOCOM based on interdepartmental transfers of funds. That happened fairly quickly while they simultaneously looked at the Command’s acquisition portfolio to determine what exactly belonged in PEO-SDA.

They brought in programs that include Mission Command Systems, SOF Digital EcoSystem, Special Operations Mission Planning and Execution, and Tactical Assault Kit.

Mission Command Systems: Intelligence and Operations analytics systems that provide a unified SOF Common Intelligence Picture and Common Operating Picture (CIP/COP) and decision support to USSOCOM Commanders/Operators at all echelons. Delivers interoperability and integration required for synchronized SOF Global Situational Awareness. COL Weizer referred referred to this program as the, ” ring that binds them all.”

SOF Digital EcoSystem: Data Analytics Services and Tools

Special Operations Mission Planning and Execution: Mission planning & execution software tools (SOF Air, Ground & Maritime)

Tactical Assault Kit (TAK): Suite of Map-Based, Situational Awareness (SA) Software Applications across multiple platforms to include Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and HTML, that provides Tactical Capabilities for Military, Federal Government, and Civil 1st Responder operations

PEO-SDA has breathed new life into long-term programs such as mission prep which date back almost to the founding of USSOCOM. They look at the programs with a new set of eyes and move away from stovepipe approaches to capabilities to a more holistic operating environment.

With USSOCOM’s transition from looking at software as a component of a program to the glue that binds multiple capabilities together, they’ve taken charge of software development efforts on their own behalf rather than living with the software that comes on a system.

One of the challenges PEO-SDA is facing, is articulating what is “SOF Unique” about Software. This can be a sticking point of whether USSOCOM’s MFP-11 funds can be used to pay for a program. COL Weizer explained that use of and individual requirements for software can be SOF unique, but the code itself isn’t.

Even more challenging, is the lack of a current DevSecOps strategy which offers challenges when interfacing with other organizations within DoD and industry. However, it seems to be happening, if only because SOF personnel tend to get things done.

For those unfamiliar, DevSecOps is getting the developers, security and operators to work together from the outset of a software effort. Generally, it requires an integrated development environment.

The goal is to field new software every six months or faster. Although SOF are well known for their speed at fielding solutions, they have had to adapt to such an ambitious schedule. Already, they’re working with vendors to speed to integration of new SOMPE software from 18-24 months down to as little as four months. COL Weizer mentioned how the software acquisition pathway is adapting to commercial practices for development, which regularly rolls out software in support of their wares. Understandably, this faster process means that changes will become less substantial with incremental upgrades. Additionally, to mitigate configuration management issues across the enterprise which can come with frequent software updates, COL Weizer explained that his office is automating the process.

As part of instituting DevSecOps, the team has formalized a relationship with the user community, and Mr Smith tells us he is “most excited about the focus on the user,” which he went on to describe as, “a fanatical focus on the user.” Likewise, PEO SDA cuts across the entire SOF enterprise, including all of the other PEOs. Additionally, they look outside of the Command itself with customers at all of the SOF components as well as the Theater Special Operations Commands. In fact, they regularly utilize SOCCENT, co-located at MacDill AFB as a test element for new software before they release it to the field.

PEO-SDA has already made improvements on how quickly user software requirements are satisfied and it has only been a year.

USSOCOM Moves Forward with 5 Armed Overwatch Contenders

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Last week USSOCOM selected five candidates for their Armed Overwatch program which the Command places a high priority on to provide dedicated Close Air Support, precision strike, and airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) from austere locations in a permissive environment.

The candidate systems:

L-3 Communications Integrated Systems AT-802U Sky Warden

Leidos Inc Bronco II

MAG Aerospace MC-208 Guardian

Sierra Nevada Corp. MC-145B Wily Coyote

Textron Aviation Defense AT-6E Wolverine

Missing is the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano or A-29, as it has been known during the cancelled USAF Light Attack Aircraft trials which seemed a serious contender when USSOCOM began talking about the need for an Armed Overwatch capability a few years ago. Even stranger, Air Force Special Operations Command is poised to begin operating three A-29s as part of their Combat Aviation Advisor mission.

It’s important to note that the Air Force also purchased several AT-6E Wolverine examples after cancellation of the Light Attack Aircraft program which it continues to experiment with.

However, the candidates selected are all noticeably different aircraft which will give the Command multiple data points to determine how to best fulfill their requirement.

USSOCOM is using the Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement acquisition strategy. To mitigate risk, they’ve looked at this from the outset as leveraging Near Non-Developmental airframes from industry.

Despite this, last year Congress put the brakes on purchasing the aircraft but allowed the Command permission to conduct an evaluation during this year.

In all, USSOCOM plans to buy 75 Armed Overwatch aircraft to satisfy their global commitments. As an offset, it looks like AFSOC’s fleet of U-28A “Draco”, a legacy airborne ISR aircraft which is based on the Pilatus PC-12 will get the axe to help free up manpower billets, ramp space and the budget. Draco can’t fulfill the Armed Overwatch mission due to its lack of close air support capability.

Noticeably absent from the candidate aircraft are unmanned systems. During a SOFIC media round table yesterday, USSOCOM Acquisition Executive Mr Jim Smith explained that the Command always anticipated a mix of manned and unmanned systems, but in the future he expects Armed Overwatch to become even more capable by controlling semi-autonomous unmanned aerial systems as part of the program.

Despite the program’s foxua on manned aircraft, Dr Michael Vickers, former Army Special Forces Officer and CIA Operations Officer who just so happened to also serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities, made an rather compelling case in an Op-Ed in the Military Times for relying on the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper for the mission. He cited the lack of risk to a manned crew and noted that the aircraft is already in the inventory rather than a new system as well as a few other points. It’s worth a read, but keep in mind that he now sits on the General Atomics advisory board which manufactures the MQ-9.

To select the right aircraft for the job, Mr Smith laid out the criteria the Command would use to evaluate the systems with emphasis on what he described as the “move, shoot, and communicate” Key Performance Parameters.

– Austere Take Off and Landing
– Range / Endurance
– Weapons Employment (they will be interested for the evaluation)
– Communications (Line of Sight and Beyond Line of Sight)
– Cockpit Configuration
– Full Motion Video capture
– Auto Pilot

They’ve allotted five weeks in June and July at Elgin AFB, Florida for the five candidates and each will make five flights. The first three flights will be used to evaluate the criteria listed above. The fourth flight is a make up and the final flight will include an AFSOC Operator in the crew.

After that, the Command will take a hard look at the candidate performance as well as the logistics chain required for the 75 aircraft. According to past comments by AFSOC Commanding General Lt Gen James C. “Jim” Slife, they hope to make a decision and begin procurement in 2022.

SOCOM Heads to Space

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

While there are a few SOF personnel who have joined NASA’s Astronaut Corps over the years, what SOCOM has in mind is placing sensors into Low Earth Orbit on Space Force cube satellites rather than operators.

During a briefing during yesterday’s virtual Special Operations Industry Conference presented by NDIA, Mr David Breede, the head of USSOCOM’s Program Executive Office – Special Reconnaissance (PEO-SR) discussed Program Manager Integrated Sensor Systems’ efforts to expand the Joint Threat Warning System, which is a SIGINT program of record, to the Space domain.

The plan is to test the capability during an Industry Demonstration Event at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana later this year.

USSOCOM Acquisition Executive Jim Smith commented that utilizing the space domain to collect information was a new thrust by PEO-SR stating, “how can we leverage space in a permissive environment?” He went on to explain that they also were working on improving how they fuse information gained from cyber, space, and small unmanned systems.

JTWS has fielded ground, air and maritime systems for decades and continues to adapt to the current operating environment.

JTWS is joined by another program of record called Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination which does exactly what the name describes to information gathered via JTWS.

Socks for Chem/Bio Environments Featuring GORE CHEMPAK Selectively Permeable Fabric

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

WL Gore & Assoc offer a an Advanced Chemical/Biological Sock made with GORE CHEMPAK Selectively Permeable Fabric.

These breathable socks are designed to be worn under standard combat boots, offering protection against a broad range of threats, including Chemical Warfare Agents, Toxic Industrial Chemicals, and Biological hazards. By allowing the operator to wear standard boots, there’s no loss of traction or mobility due to clunky over boots.

Air impermeable and liquid-proof, the sock offers broad protection against liquid and wind driven agents in liquid, vapor, or particulate form , such as contaminated wind driven sand.

What’s more, their Multiple wash/wear capability allow them to be reused if they have not been exposed to chemicals.

Check out WL Gore & Assoc’s portfolio for the SOF Operator at www.goretexprofessional.com/SOFIC2021.

Safran Optics 1 is Exhibiting During vSOFIC

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Be sure to visit Safran Optics 1 during this week’s vSOFIC. Their booth is located here.

SKYDEX Among Industry Leaders to Showcase Solutions at SOFIC Online 2021

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Government, academia, and international partners explore latest innovations from SKYDEX, a global leader in advanced impact mitigation and energy absorption solutions

CENTENNIAL, COLO. (May 2021) –  SKYDEX, a global leader in advanced impact mitigation and energy absorption solutions, today announced that the company will be participating in the Exhibitor Showcase at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). The conference will take place virtually, and will be held May 17-21. This event represents an opportunity for interaction and networking among players in the special operations forces community, and will better equip industry leaders to combat the challenges of tomorrow.

SOFIC is recognized as the premier gathering of SOF community leaders and provides a platform that nurtures, development, creativity, and collaboration. The event includes, keynote speakers, executive forums, panel discussions, showcases, among many other valuable educational experiences. Attendees come from all sectors of the SOF community including, government, academia, international partners, and industry.

SKYDEX will be sending the following representatives on behalf of the team to provide insight on what impact mitigation technology brings to the SOF community and to illustrate the benefits of the company’s latest product innovations:

• Scott Osborn, Director of Business Development, Defense – on the company’s advancements in military vehicle protection, including blast mats, seat cushion inserts and other energy absorbing materials.

• Renee St. Lawrence, Business Development Manager, Marine Products – on the company’s latest products to enhance marine performance, including impact mitigating decking and shock mitigating seat cushion inserts.

• Collin Metzer, Director, Blast & Ballistics – on company’s latest materials for protection in the blast and ballistics space, including layers for ballistics plates and helmet protection solutions.

“We’re thrilled to attend the SOFIC conference virtually and to connect with industry leaders on the latest challenges, trends and product innovations that can help the force,” said Mr. Metzer. “We look forward to connecting with SOF operators to discuss how SKYDEX is innovating to meet the changing demands of this community.”

For more information about how SKYDEX keeps the SOF community safe, please visit www.skydex.com or contact the team via email at [email protected] to set up a meeting.