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SOFIC 2017: SOCOM Commander’s Comments

Full spectrum in the air, on land, over and under the sea

Commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Gen. Raymond T. Thomas, has outlined his technology requirements as the force continues to evolve in the face of “complex challenges” across the battlefield.

Speaking at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida on 16th May, Thomas explained how the Command was currently equipped with an incredible array of systems, extending survivability, lethality and communications of his special forces.

Specifically, he highlighted, “leading edge satellite, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions and air mobility platforms which are now being proliferated to USSOCOM partners internationally. However, he warned how it remained essential to seek out the next generation of systems in order to “retain the technological advantage against neer-peer competitors,” before describing how USSOCOM was seeking to enhance cooperation with industry, particular in areas concerning deep learning and cognitive intelligence.

Explaining how discussions undertaken this week at SOFIC would drive forward development and equip USSOCOM force components over the next decade, Thomas warned that technological superiority was never guaranteed, particularly with Near Peer intellect and capacity to keep pace with or exceed pace of change in the US.

Describing how he had recently returned from a battlefield tour of Iraq and Syria, Thomas described how US Special Forces continued to face an, “adaptive enemy who for a while enjoyed tactical air superiority in the air” with commercial off the shelf drone technology. “Our only response was small arms,” he said.

The Department of Defense is a leader in the emergence of technologies but we need new capabilities for SOF at a rate that outpaces our adversaries. Ultimately, success will be measured on the battlefield. We have never been so relevant to the contemporary operating environment and we must strive to remain that relevant, while reducing bureaucracy and increasing responsiveness to our operators’ needs,” Thomas stated.

Thoughts were confirmed by Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics’ Acquisition Executive, James “Hondo” Geurts, who called for increasing numbers of scalable platform and, “relentless and bold,” experimentation. Geurts also mentioned the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) concept; affordable satellites; urban operations; and increasing levels of commercial technology.

USSOCOM is thinking about how we vision SOF in the future. It’s a battle of ideas. Not about technology and equipment and right now, we are planning a budget for ten years from now. We have to build scalable platforms,” he added while referring to Common Launch Tubes; Big Data Analytics; and Open Architecture.

Other areas of interest include gunship-mounted high energy lasers, single-man flying machines, swarm technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the “full spectrum” of robotics in the air, on land, over and under the sea, Geurts explained.

Referring to robotics, Geurts concluded: “We are very interested in all that but not to replace the human but allow the human to do what he does best.”


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