Future airpower: trends and implications for Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM)
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A mature Special Operations Forces (SOF) capability requires dedicated Air and Aviation resources, yet the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has not responded to the deepening operational relevance of Canadian SOF. In its capstone document, Air Force Vectors, the RCAF clusters SOF with Space and Cyber activities, both significantly more niche and less mature than Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). Similarly, recent Airpower articles from the Canadian Military Journal and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute mention CANSOFCOM in passing only. With more than ten years of domestic and expeditionary SOF operations in support of Canada’s national interest, CANSOFCOM has emerged as a highly reliable organization. More importantly, future indications show no end to the requirement for SOF. The Chief of Force Development characterizes the Future Security Environment as one where “…state and non-state actors alike will seek to combine conventional, irregular and high-end asymmetric methods concurrently, often simultaneously in the land, sea, air, and space environments and the cyber domain to gain advantage in future conflict. With irregular and asymmetric threats, the irregular and asymmetric solutions provided by SOF are essential. As U.S. Admiral Eric Olsen stated, “…most conflicts involving NATO in the future will require broadly capable and skilled SOF.” Uniquely poised to respond to irregular and asymmetric threats, CANSOFCOM requires an increase in joint interoperability and capability development with the RCAF. This article analyzes broad trends in Air and Aviation as they relate to SOF Airpower. It clarifies the need for SOF Airpower, explores six technological trends: unmanned systems, autonomy, next-generation rotary wing, future precision strike, alternate-service delivery, and fuel requirements, and ultimately, presents implications for CANSOFCOM in order to advocate for future SOF Airpower
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