SPECIAL OPERATIONS

SOFWERX Exploring New Arctic Tech for Commandos

5/17/2021
By Jon Harper
A special warfare airman conducts airborne training in Alaska.

Air Force photo

SOFWERX, a Tampa, Florida-based innovation hub, recently hosted a “Tech Tuesday” session in concert with U.S. Special Operations Command, which focused on current transformational technologies that could facilitate ops in Arctic climates. Selected organizations had the opportunity to virtually pitch their cutting-edge technology to interested government partners.

“Broadly, we looked at human performance,” SOFWERX Director Leslie Babich said during a presentation in March. “Things that will keep you warm, things that will support your body structure and allow your energy [to be conserved]. … You can do the mission a little bit longer, a little bit farther with the support of these technologies.”

SOFWERX is also looking at communications equipment that would work well at high latitudes, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tools to improve situational awareness.

“ISR capabilities are going to be slightly different than what we’re using now,” Babich said without elaborating.

Other innovations on the wish list relate to energy and power.

“A lot of operators are carrying around packs and packs of batteries, so any way we can take … technologies and alleviate that load” is of interest, she said.

While Special Operations Command may need to acquire some additional specialized equipment for the Arctic, such as snowmobiles, it won’t necessarily be building large stockpiles of expensive platforms for niche missions, noted Steve Bucci, a retired Special Forces officer and a defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation think tank.

Some items of interest, such as cold weather clothing, might be available in the civilian market. SOCOM can also piggyback off of the larger services that develop and purchase large quantities of equipment.

“We do it with weapons. We do it with clothing. We do it with vehicles,” Bucci said. “You get more capability for your buck.”

Special Operations Command and its industry partners can also modify or add capabilities to conventional forces’ equipment to meet SOF needs, he noted.

Topics: Special Operations, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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