The Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) is a premier event held annually in Tampa, FL home of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The venue is a collaborative effort between USSOCOM and the National Defence Industrial Association (NDIA). NDIA is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The organization traces its roots to the American Defense Preparedness Association (ADPA), founded in 1919, and the National Security Industrial Association (NSIA), founded in 1944. For 100 years, NDIA has been the glue that creates a collaborative environment between Defense, Industry and Academia. Organizing SOFIC is one of those activities. So, what is SOFIC?
The conference brings together the U.S. and international Special Operations Community with industry to exchange ideas, communicate needs and explore opportunities. Every year, thousands of attendees from all over the world and over 400 exhibitors gather at the Tampa Convention Center in what is one of the best SOF centric conferences available anywhere.
The Special Operations Community is called upon to do some of the heavy lifting as we prosecute the GWOT. The asymmetric environment these men and women operate in is both challenging and perilous; placing demands on people and assets that require a continual evolution of methods and technology. Complicating this complex fabric is the very real fact that our adversary is employing readily available technology to communicate, plan, and execute with increasing effectiveness. To counter this momentum, industry needs to develop SOF centric technologies that deny and mitigate the effective use of technology tools against our and our partner’s forces. Winning the day in today’s theaters is no longer a function of the biggest tank, the best firearms or artillery. The battlefield circa 2017 needs information, analytics, behavioral biometrics and other “force multipliers.” Technology must not only be better, it must be faster and cheaper. Operators in the field now are confronting commercially available drones being used for ISR and weaponized; therefore, technologies are needed to detect and destroy the sUAV in the field. In the words of LTG Kenneth E Tovo, Commander, USASOC “we don’t just need a drone we need swarms of them.” That statement alone is an industry signal on needs going forward – technology serving as force multipliers.
USSOCOM Service Component & Sub-Unified Command Panel were very much in sync identifying needs that address sustainment and future capability gaps.
LTG Ken Tovo, USA, CDR, USASOC
CAPT Keith Davids, USN, NAVSPECWARCOM
Lt Gen Marshall Webb, USAF, CDR, AFSOC
Maj Gen Carl Mundy, USMC, CDR, MARSOC
Maj Gen Gregory Lengyel, USAF, DCDR, JSOC
So what’s hot at this year’s SOFIC Conference?
At the top of the list is the sUAV, all of the services want more of them; specifically, sUAVs that can be operated by a single operator, which suggests that you’ll see a huge increase in Part 107 compliant (gross weight between .5lbs to 55lbs) UAVs. Size alone is not at the heart of innovation, flight performance and payloads are being aggressively developed. One impressive example exhibited at this year’s conference is Drone Aviation Corp’s Heavy Lift WATT 300 Multirotor Tethered Drone and the recently upgraded WASP Military Aerostat Platforms.
In addition to ISR the sUAV will play an increasingly important role in logistics, and in the very near future operators will be resupplied via UAV. As the sUAV permeates the Services, industry will drive demand for payload packages, man-portable platforms will need tactical nylon specifically designed to transport the UAV and their corresponding remote control platforms and weaponizing the sUAV will likely be a dedicated industry sector.