Filling the Special Operations Forces Tool Box

Contributor:  John M. Doyle
Posted:  11/20/2012  12:00:00 AM EST
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Filling the Special Operations Forces Tool Box
Contributor: By John M. Doyle
As one of the few Defense Department entities expecting to increase its force size with little or no reduction in funding for Fiscal Year 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is looking for some special equipment to help preform its global mission. 
SOCOM, a combatant command with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps elements, needs aircraft, boats and ground vehicles tailored to its unique missions: providing a fully capable force to defend the United States and its interests, while synchronizing the planning of global operations against terrorist networks.
Each of the armed services will begin a reduction in force starting in Fiscal 2013, SOCOM leaders actually expect the size of special operations forces (SOF) to go up slightly from 66,000 to 70,000 between now and 2015.
SOCOM's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request  of $10.4 billion includes for the first time overseas contingency operations funding – $2.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year – which had been listed off the baseline budget for a decade. The Fiscal 2012 request is down slightly from the $10.5 billion sought in Fiscal 2012.
When it comes to government acquisition, Special Operations Forces Command also has been granted some leeway by Congress, under Major Force Program-11, to make rapid and flexible acquisition of specialized or  “SOF-peculiar” equipment and for the modification of common systems to meet special operations requirements.
Budget Requests
The Fiscal 2013 baseline budget for procurement dropped slightly from $1.9 billion in Fiscal 2012 to this year's $1.8 billion request. Of that, $760.8 million is going for aircraft acquisition and upgrades of existing helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. For example, SOCOM seeks $126.8 million to complete the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into the SOF-configured MH-60M. These upgraded helicopters come in two versions:  a troop transport configuration and a Defensive Armed Penetrator (DAP) configuration.
The DAP aircraft provide armed security for the MH-47G Chinook and other MH-60 aircraft. The MH-60M modernization program began delivering new-build MH-60M aircraft in 2nd Quarter of Fiscal 2011. Once complete, the MH-60M modernization program will provide the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) with 62 MH-60M SOF-peculiar Black Hawks. Completed transition from the MH-60 to a common MH-60M fleet is expected in Fiscal 2014.
The MH-60M aircraft will feature a common avionics architecture system, a suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures, wide-chord rotor blades, active vibration reduction, and an  improved Electro-Optical Sensor System. The incorporation of two General Electric YT706-GE-700 engines with 2,500 shaft horsepower will give the aircraft a high/hot [high altitude, hot climate] capability above any other H-60 variant. 

For vehicles that move in and under the water, SOCCOM is seeking $23 million, mostly for the Shallow Water Combat Submersible program, a new wet submersible program (SWCS Block I) capable of operating from an existing Dry Deck Shelter on a submarine. It will replace the legacy SEAL Delivery Vehicle. The SWCS will be able to operate from future surface ships as well as subs and with the capability to conduct undersea missions in support of theater and larger national security needs. The primary method of launch and recovery will be from a Dry Deck Shelter on board a host submarine, but alternative methods are available, according to SOCOM.
A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) rises from the extended cradle of its Dry Deck Shelter on the aft deck of a U.S. Navy guided missile submarine. Navy Special Warfare Command has developed the Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) program to replace the legacy SDVs, which can deliver Navy SEALs into a hostile or denied area stealthily.(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer (Diver) Andrew McKaskle
The $1.8 billion SOCOM procurement request also seeks to acquire four additional CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft modified with enhanced situational technology to further reduce risk to the long range, high speed helicopter operated by Air Force Special Operations Command.
“The vertical mobility of the tilt-rotor CV-22 continues to deliver unmatched speed and range to SOF battlefield commanders,” Adm. William McRaven, the SOCCOM commander, told Congress in his  posture statement earlier this year. “Twenty-three of the planned 50 aircraft are fielded to date,” he added.

Soldiers descend from a hovering CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during a special operations exercise known as Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Special Operations Command wants to acquire more special operations forces (SOF) variants of the long range, high speed helicopter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Ritter)
The Future
Among the items on SOCOM's future shopping list is a fast-moving, highly mobile replacement for the Humvee. SOCOM headquarters first made its interest known in a pre-solicitation released in February.
Five companies are vying for the USSOCOM Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 competition. They include Northrop Grumman, Navistar Defense, AM General, Oshkosh and General Dynamics, which is actually offering two separate vehicles through its Land Systems and Ordnance and Tactical Systems units.
The SOCOM GMV 1.1 program is looking for a highly maneuverable vehicle that is stealthier than Humvees and MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) and can be loaded on, and driven off, an MH-47 Chinook. No dollar amount has been discussed publicly but SOCOM said it has funds for research and development in Fiscal 2012 and 2013. 

SOCOM could purchase up to 1,300 vehicles for its special operations missions requiring automatic weapons capabilities, advanced communications and computing technology and high-performance ground mobility – as well as easy air transport. No contract has been awarded but when SOCOM makes its decision, production is expected to begin in 2013.

Special Operations Forces procurement needs and future mission challenges will be among the issues discussed at the Special Operations Summit sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) in Tampa, Fla. Dec. 3-6. For more information, click here
* John M. Doyle is a Washington-based defense and homeland security writer. A former congressional editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology, he has written about military and homeland security issues for Defense Technology International, Seapower, Smithsonian Air & Space and Unmanned Systems. Before that he was an editor and reporter with the Associated Press in the Midwest, New York and Washington. He now blogs about unconventional warfare and where it crosses paths with terrorism, technology, energy, international development and disaster relief at He can be reached at
John M. Doyle Contributor:   John M. Doyle

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