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U.S. Army Special Forces
"The Green Berets"

Technology and Missions

The United States faces continually evolving civil and military challenges -- Special Operations Forces must be ready to meet them head on. In the face of shifting international relationships and complex regional issues, Special Operations Forces missions will be more complicated politically and tactically. Not only must Special Operations Forces be particularly sensitive to mission context and objectives, it must also have the technological advantage with which to combat the increasingly sophisticated measures being used by our adversaries.

New Challenges -- New Technologies

The dramatic shifts in the national security environment will continue to change Special Operations Forces missions and the ways in which Special Operations Forces apply their capabilities. This underscores the need for a continuing investment in science and technology (S&T). Now, more than ever, Special Operations Forces depend on S&T to provide the critical advantage to support increased participation in a growing number of challenging missions, from regional peace operations to combating drugs to counter-proliferation.

To meet these challenges, Special Operations Forces must be able to deliver people, equipment, and weapons with surgical precision; locate high-value, strategic, movable targets; and deliver firepower more accurately with less collateral damage and injury to civilian populations. They will also need less-than-lethal, nondestructive technologies to further expand their options while conducting missions. The proliferation of electronic sensor systems among previously ill-equipped adversaries compels Special Operations Forces operators to move faster and farther and still avoid detection. In addition, the growing number of Special Operations Forces operations conducted at night and in adverse weather conditions drives the need for more sophisticated sensors as well as direction finding and enhanced vision equipment.

Special Operations Forces's missions and collateral activities increasingly call for interaction with diverse joint and multinational coalition forces, with a corresponding need to acquire and transfer large amounts of information reliably, securely, and in real-time. Finally, since Special Operations Forces personnel usually operate in small independent units, there is a continuing need for smaller and lighter systems and technologies for the individual operator.

In seeking out advanced technologies to meet the special requirements of their diverse missions, Special Operations Forces often serve as a test bed for demonstrating and evaluating prototype equipment, materiel, techniques, and tactics that later transfer to conventional forces. For example, Special Operations Forces were instrumental in developing night-vision equipment and tactics, high-altitude mountaineering and free-fall parachuting techniques and equipment, extreme cold weather clothing and equipment, and helicopter fast rope insertion techniques. All of these devices are now standard in conventional military organizations. Some are now used by U.S. law enforcement agencies to deter civil crime.

"The unique and diverse capabilities of Special Operations Forces are
increasingly important in the new international security environment.
They are particularly well-suited for the challenges ahead."

H. Allen Holmes
Assistant Secretary of Defense
Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict

USSOCOM's Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center (SORDAC) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, serves as the centralized management agency for the research, development, and acquisition of special operations-peculiar equipment, supplies, and services. They seek to provide a well-integrated, focused acquisition framework that includes S&T efforts.

Special Operations Forces will continue to advocate new technologies, equipment, and techniques to maintain their competitive edge and provide the critical advantage that extends their unique capabilities. This will reinforce Special Operations Forces's unmatched utility across the spectrum of their current missions as well as those of the future.


A Special Operations Forces priority is to modernize the equipment of the individual operator to maximize capabilities. The future special operator will be a mechanically and sensor- enhanced individual, capable of increased survivability in remote, hostile, and austere environments. New S&T developments and applications are paramount to maintaining the strategic edge that is being eroded by the proliferation of military technology to lesser developed countries. The primary land applications for new technologies are discussed below.

Personal Gear.

Special Operations Forces must be able to extend the survivability and capabilities of their personnel. Developments include advanced personal camouflage with enhanced protection against harsh environments and climatic conditions. Clothing will offer individual body armor and safeguards against chemical-biological agents. Helmets will be fitted with enhanced sensory head-up displays including thermal, image-intensified, and acoustic sensors. External and imbedded optics will enable operators to see long distances clearly without using handheld optical systems. Special Operations Forces personnel will also have enhanced night vision gear that provides clarity equal to daytime vision even through thick fog and smoke.

External skeletal systems will improve individual physical skills, enabling special operators to move faster, jump farther, and lift more weight. Greater load bearing capabilities will increase lethality and survivability by enabling special operators to carry a greater variety and quantity of weapons and munitions. Such enhanced physical attributes will allow future operators to deliver more deadly force with greater accuracy and penetrating power.


Advanced materials and electronic developments will lead to enhanced Special Operations Forces communications capabilities. These include features such as miniaturized command, control, and communication functions as well as embedded artificial intelligence for situational decision making. Weapons and sensor systems will also merge. Advanced microelectronic devices will allow integrated sensing and artificial intelligence. Fusion of these technologies will permit weapon systems to become an extension of the individual. To keep pace with mission requirements, Special Operations Forces will require enhanced, next-generation communications equipment and advanced mine detection sensors.


This page is an unofficial document and does not represent information endorsed by the United States Government, the United States Special Operations Command or the United States Army Special Operations Command. However, most information is derived from those sources and has been checked for accuracy. For comments, questions, and suggestions, please go to the Communications Center.

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