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Storm The Swarm: SOCCENT deputy chief asks for technology to stop threat of Iranian small boats

Posted May 22, 2012 by Howard Altman

Updated May 22, 2012 at 11:29 PM

When it comes to the technology that would help them do their jobs, the Theater Special Operations Command honchos gathered in the ballroom of the Tampa Convention Center all asked defense industry leaders in attendance for improved communications and better, faster and more comprehensive networks that allow allies access without compromising security.

Here are some of the highlights from a fascinating discussion on the opening day of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

Satellite technology does not work so well way up north because of the curvature of the earth, says Army . Gen. Michael Repass, commanding general of SOCEUR. And as polar ice caps melt and with it, possible new passageways, there will be increased competition for those new lanes, making it even more important to establish a robust communications system.

Right now, HF seems to be the preferred method, says Repass.

While a lot of attention is being paid to PACCOM these days, Air Force Maj. Gen. Norman Brozenick – whose AOR has 16 time zones, 3,000 languages and is so big it encompasses “half the world and half of humanity” – says that so far, there are no “planes full of kit” heading his way

For what it’s worth, while this country is struggling mightily and slashing the defense budget, Latin America is flush these days says RADM Thomas L. Brown, commander of SOCSOUTH.

Latin American countries are seeing a 6 percent annual growth rate and they are looking to buy the kind of military goods and service being showcased in the exhibition hall upstairs.

In particular, nations like Colombia are looking to field lightweight expeditionary equipment, says Brown, that is good for long treks through the jungle looking for the FARC or narcotrafficantes.

“We’re not looking for advanced technologies or Star Wars solutions,” Brown says.

Next up is Army Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of the smallest TSOC, SOCKOR.

“We have only two countries and one time zone,” he says. “But what we lack in size we make up for in kilotons of evil.”

North Korea, he says, presents a particularly vexing adversary, because they have so many underground facilities – about 11,000 in all.

There are 180 munitions factories underground in North Korea.

At least one entire air force base, with a 1,300 meter runway where planes fly out of.

“There were four tunnels under the DMZ,” he says. “Those are the ones we know about.”

The challenge, he says, is getting good information.

“After 50 years, we still don’t know much about the full extent of their underground facilities,” says Tolley, who asks the industry folks to develop “man-packable” sensors that will allow special operators making incursions into the north to get a better handle on just what the North Koreans have underground.

RADM Kerry Metz, the deputy commander of SOCCENT, is filling in for Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, who is running the show at Eager Lion, a 19-nation special ops training maneuver in Jordan.

Tops on his wish list is “anti-swarm” technology that will take care of the fleet of small boats the Iranians can employ at the choke point of the Straight of Hormuz.

“Affect the driver. The hull. The motor. The propeller,” he says.

Metz also asks for improved ISR, “overhead, under water…video, seismic, sonographic.”

After the panel discussion is over, I ask Metz if the kind of tunnel-peeping technology requested by Tolley would come in handy in his AOR, what with Iran supposedly having so many underground facilities of its own.

“In theory, yes,” he says.

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