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SOCOM Clarifies SOF Experimentation Plans

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United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) representatives have clarified near term plans to continue a collaborative industry experimentation program. Emerging as the Tactical Network Testbed (TNT) program, the demonstration and SOF experimentation effort soon grew to encompass a range of tactical technologies well beyond networking resources. The latest USSOCOM announcement, which does not use the TNT moniker, serves to update related briefings presented during last month’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC).

“SOF experimentation will explore emerging technologies, technical applications, and their potential to provide solutions to future SOF capabilities,” it adds.

Under the designation of “Technical Experimentation (TE) Collaboration,” the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) request for information solicits “technology experimentation candidates from research and development (R&D) organizations, private industry, and academia for inclusion in future experimentation events coordinated by USSOCOM. USSOCOM invites industry, academia, individuals and government labs to submit technology experimentation nominations addressing innovative technologies leading to possible government/industry collaboration for development of USSOCOM technology capabilities. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the special operations forces (SOF) warfighter.”

“SOF experimentation will explore emerging technologies, technical applications, and their potential to provide solutions to future SOF capabilities,” it adds.

While the future SOF experimentation plans were only roughly outlined during SOFIC, the latest announcement clarifies that the initial FY’14 event will be held Oct. 15-24, 2013, at Camp Atterbury, Ind., where the technology focus will include “Survivability and Performance Improvement/Unconventional Warfare.”

“Any technology-based experiment conducted at the event will need to be capable of supporting a SOF unit to provide a revolutionary improvement in SOF operations,” it states. “Any and all solutions must include all necessary software and hardware to accomplish the mission.”

Identified USSOCOM interest areas in the survivability and performance improvement/unconventional warfare arena include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI);
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
  • Human Performance Optimization of SOF: Maximizing physical, mental, cognitive performance of SOF including improving sleep function/mental acuity);
  • Protection Solutions, including armor for ballistic protection, and blast protection;
  • Exoskeletons – improving load carriage for SOF operators; and
  • Injury Prevention, Rehabilitative Technologies – Pre-habilitation and Rehabilitation for SOF and real-time Physiological Status Monitoring for SOF operations.

Specifically identified areas of interest for Unconventional Warfare include:

  • Precision target tracking and Locating (TTL);
  • Counter surveillance/collection detection/avoidance;
  • Specialized entry techniques, alarm system detection and bypass;
  • Cultural and language methods and technologies; and
  • Emotional, cognitive and stress profiles.

This October event is also being designed to allow technology developers to submit nominations focusing on the emerging SOF Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) concept and its associated enhanced mobility/protective technologies.

According to the announcement, representative TALOS technologies that might be explored include:

  • Advanced armor materials to support next generation Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including head protection;
  • Mobility and agility enhancements like powered exoskeletons;
  • Situational Awareness improvements;
  • Light/noise discipline;
  • Command, Control, Communications & Computers (C4) human factors integration like conformable and wearable antennae and wearable computers;
  • Individual soldier combat ready displays: Including non-visual means of information display, and potentially utilization of cognitive thoughts and the surrounding environment to display personalized information;
  • Power generation and management;
  • Thermal management of suit occupant; and
  • Medical systems like embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, and electromechanical compensation.

Two additional Technical Experimentation Collaboration events are currently planned for later in FY’14. These include a Maritime Mobility/Counter Mobility focus event in February or March of 2014. In addition, an event focused on Theater Special Operations Command/Partner Nation SOF Systems is being planned for June 17-26, 2014. The location of both events remains to be determined/announced.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...