Special Operations Forces (SOF) must react rapidly and effectively to emerging technology used by enemy combatants in an evolving battlespace, Commander of French Special Operations Command, Rear Admiral Laurent Isnard, explained to the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) on 28th March.
Having taken operational control of the 4,400-strong Command on 1st September 2016, Rear Admiral Isnard warned how the Internet had created a technology ‘levelling effect’ now freely available to enemy forces.
“We are witnessing easier access to information and knowledge is being shared extremely fast. If we are late, it’s already being used by the enemy and we have to find a way to counter it,” he stated by referring to generic technology uplifts as well as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the likes of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
Referring to the organic UAV capabilities of the French Special Forces, Isnard described ongoing requirements to fly “vast numbers” in order to gain tactical information across the battlespace.
“The tactical drone for the Commando is the extension of the weapon. Some can fire missiles from thousands of metres away so it’s an extension of our action. But how do we use it in the best way possible like binoculars or cell phones?” he continued while also calling for the proliferation of disposable equipment.
“This technology is here and being mastered by some people. We have to take advantage of that and gain some seconds on the enemy. We need some early wraning to deal with them before they deal with us,” he added while highlighting counter-UAV technology.
“In today’s world, we need a few seconds to shoot before the enemy does. Do we prosecute or not? If so, we need to detect fast while possessing active protection. All this will help us to be more efficient,” Isnard continued.
Discussing how any fatalities across the special operations community were now deemed as “unacceptable by society”, Isnard also called for further development by his force components into reduction of radar signatures.
“We need active camouflages for discreet deployments. Discretion can come from some specific equipment but this is not the place to discuss it,” he urged.
Additionally, Isnard called for further development into military working dogs and K9 technology, in line with ongoing trends across the international special operations community who routinely use breeds such as the Belgian Malinois for direct action and special reconnaissance missions.
“This hould be developed. We are quite present in the development of our dog teams. it is a weapon system and I am really keen on getting information and know how about not only the dog and his handler but also equipment and training that comes with it.”
Elsewhere, Isnard called for the exploitation of other specialist equipment including intelligence-gathering tools including Electronic Warfare capabilities.
“Our operators are more and more involved in EW. It is already on our aircraft and speedboats. But we need to identify tunnels and understand what’s happening behind the wall. This gives us the edge today but we need to go further,” he proclaimed.
Referring to the processing of such intelligence, he also called for the greater proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techology to assist in the exploitation of megadata and images. “If we can’t process it, it becomes useless,” he warned.
“We also need to develop connectivity which is key. We are never alone on the battlefield and we have to recofingure fast; abandon heavy structures; and become plug and play like Apple an computer. We have to connect our operator in middle of desert with a transport plan, UAVs, boats and other commandos,” Isnard continued.
Finally, in the area of combat service support, he considered future energy requirements across his Command, describing this as his biggest need: “We need to reduce volume of batteries and increase autonomy with rechargeable, small form factor batteries.”
Isnard also called for increased utility of three-dimensional printing- something which he described as currently being under development with the French Special Operations Command at present. “We need to find anything to help the fighter do what he is trained to do, which is fight,” he concluded while describing emerging unmanned convoy technology.