One of the greatest advantages of Special Operations Forces (SOF) is their inherent flexibility and their ability to excel in the unknown.
Whether we’re talking about a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA), a Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), or a Navy SEAL platoon, SOF units can operate behind enemy lines with little or no resupply.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and its subordinate commands, however, are always seeking ways to make their operators more effective and lethal on the battlefield.
The U.S. Army has been working on the concept of a deployable Expeditionary Outpost for some time now. The outpost is designed for a 25-man force – usually, an ODA is comprised of 12 Green Berets, an MSOT of 14 Marine Raiders, and a SEAL platoon of 16 frogmen; these numbers don’t include attached enablers. Consequently, the 25-man figure is tailored for small SOF elements.
The concept falls under the Army’s Force Provider program, which is designed to achieve quick and scalable housing and support facilities to deployed units.
The compact version of the Expeditionary Outpost is centered on three expandable Tricon containers, which can be assembled together to create a single Intermodal Container (ISO) – these are the most common kind of containers, usually used to freight goods by truck, ship, or train. The complete product has a kitchen and administration unit, a hygiene unit – a key addition on the field where small wounds and illnesses can quickly turn ugly and make a unit combat ineffective – and a power unit that includes heating and air conditioning. Moreover, the compact outpost comes with two air beam tents that can be inflated to provide living areas for the men.
In total, the compact version weighs approximately 30,000lbs (each Tricon component weighs 10,000lbs). The relatively small weight, for its size and utility, of the compact Expeditionary Outpost means that it could be inserted in the field through a number of methods.
In conjunction with the development team, the Army is currently experimenting with vehicular, heavy-lift rotary-wing, and aerial insertion. Additionally, they are exploring the feasibility of an airdropped Expeditionary Outpost. For such a scenario, each Tricon component would be outfitted with a Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS 10K), which utilizes an autonomous guidance GPS unit and onboard guidance, navigation, and control system that ensures pinpoint accuracy.
According to the capabilities description, the JPADS 10K “is designed for aircraft to drop cargo from altitudes of up to 24,500 feet mean sea level. It releases cargo from a minimum off-set of eight km from the intended point of impact, with an objective capability of 25 km off-set. This off-set allows aircraft to stay out of range of many anti-aircraft systems. It also enables aircraft to drop systems from a single aerial release point and deliver them to multiple or single locations, thus reducing aircraft exposure time. Once on the ground, the precise placement of the loads greatly reduces the time needed to recover the load as well as minimize exposure to ground forces.”
If the airdrop insertion option is greenlighted, the Expeditionary Outpost would be dropped by C-130 or C-17 aircraft.
If the concept becomes operational, it would greatly enhance the sustainability, and thus effectiveness, of SOF forces.