Assault Airlift: Achieving Relative Superiority and Survivability in SOF Direct-Action
Damron, David J.
Sepp, Kalev I.
Hammond, Jesse R.
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Assault airlift can contribute to a higher degree of direct-action mission success for special operations forces, independent of mission objective achievement, by bolstering the likelihood that assault forces can return home safely. As America's domestic social and political sensitivity to casualties continues to rise, mission success has become principally contingent upon a nation’s perceived ability to ensure the survival and return of the assault force in addition to achievement of mission objectives. The concept of force survival as a prerequisite to mission success in all but the most in extremis cases is validated through historical case studies, including Operation KINGPIN. President Barack Obama acknowledged the ability to safely extract the assault force as a primary consideration in the “go-ahead” for Operation NEPTUNE’S SPEAR; Operation EAGLE CLAW and Operation ANACONDA bear this same characteristic. Yet the current “theory of special operations” overly focuses on actioning mission objectives and insufficiently addresses extraction—a critical component necessary today for overall mission success along with survival of the mission force. The demand for a “two-way mission” can be satisfied through the use of assault airlift to capitalize on Admiral William McRaven’s theory of relative superiority via the principles of simplicity, speed, and surprise.
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