VSOFIC NEWS: Special Ops Community Developing Drone-Killing Drones

By Jon Harper

Special Operations photo by Master Sgt. Barry Loo

Special Operations Command wants to equip its warfighters with unmanned aerial systems that could be used to defeat enemy drones, according to a top official.

Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, are at risk from adversaries’ UAS, noted Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

“Drones, especially in denied environments, are a significant threat,” he said. “These secret-revealing machines take away our ability to hide or remain invisible. They are everywhere. If they see us, we lose our advantage.”

U.S. personnel need ways to counter the growing threat, including new platforms.

“Together [with industry] we are designing drones to find and kill enemy drones,” Beaudette said May 13 during a panel discussion at the Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, or vSOFIC, which is managed by the National Defense Industrial Association. He did not disclose the industry partners involved in the project or provide additional details about the systems, such as the types of weapons they would employ.

Artificial intelligence will also play a role in future efforts to defeat adversaries’ unmanned aircraft, he noted.

“Once we target common characteristics of a drone and pair it with machine learning on the edge, operators can move through their decision cycle at machine speed” to engage the threat, he explained.

Great power competitors are making investments in capabilities to erode U.S. military advantage, he noted.

USASOC units are designed to operate in small teams behind enemy lines where they are especially vulnerable to attack.

“We're expected to be surrounded and outnumbered, equipped with only what we can carry in many ways,” Beaudette said. New technology is needed for Green Berets to survive and be effective in that environment.

“We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow's wars with yesterday's weapons or equipment,” Beaudette said. “Our operators need technology that's intuitive, it's mobile and it's survivable. It must deliver the right information at the right time to speed their decision-making.”

The command is looking for a variety of new technology to help it maintain its edge on the battlefield.

In the future, human-machine teaming enabled by AI will provide cognitive enhancements for warfighters and greater situational awareness, he said.

USASOC wants capabilities that will help troops see better and be stealthier.

“We need you all to make us invisible, enhance our senses, help us see through walls, across domains and from every perspective,” he told members of industry.

The command wants weapons that have greater range than today’s arsenals and communications equipment that will work even in the most challenging environments, Beaudette noted.

“Give us the tools to detect, engage and destroy any threat— physical or virtual — blind our enemy and deny them any lead advantage or safe haven,” he said.

SOCOM is looking to industry for game-changing capabilities, and technology that can be rapidly replaced when it becomes obsolete, he added.

“We need to think big and take risks and we need to turn science fiction into science fact,” he said.

SOCOM is currently accepting proposal submissions responding to a science-and-technology broad agency announcement that has been released, he noted. The BAA will be open until May 21.

“This is a key process for us for helping us solve our most difficult problems in the future,” Beaudette told members of industry. “I assure you, we read every one. Please send us what you've got. We need your help.”

Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Robotics, Special Operations, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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