WarningThis information has been archived for reference or research purposes.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.

Soldiers

DND Photo DH03-117-184A

Members of Joint Task Force 2 on exercise.

Special Operations Forces

Canadian Special Operations Forces: A Blueprint for the Future

by Major Bernard J. Brister

Print PDF

For more information on accessing this file, please visit our help page.

“...if you cannot attack your enemy, you should attack the friend of your enemy.”1

The security environment within which Canada must exist for the foreseeable future is characterized by global dominance exercised by the United States of America.2 This dominance is, however, likely to be challenged periodically by trans-national groups and non-state actors who will employ asymmetric tactics and strategies to achieve their goals and objectives – groups that will not necessarily be constrained by funding or technology, or western morals and ethical standards.

Within the global family, Canadians tend to see themselves as champions of human security, individual rights and peacekeeping. However, the reality is that Canada is a wealthy, Western democracy closely identified geographically, culturally and socially with the United States. Canadians could thus be at risk by virtue of our proximity to the Americans from groups and factions intent upon forging a new world order, or simply destroying the one that now exists. If, as Canadians, we attempt to deny this reality of our situation and refuse to take the necessary measures to protect ourselves, we may well become the target of an attack. It is an unfortunate fact of life that refusal to acknowledge a threat or to defend adequately against one will attract rather than deter those bent on mischief.

Canada has a well-established tradition of multilateralism in world affairs, which includes its military contributions to international security. The concept of assisting in the maintenance of international security with our friends and allies by means of expeditionary operations within a coalition is one of the basic precepts of our defence planning. Within the context of the 1994 Defence White Paper, Canada committed itself to the maintenance of a general-purpose military force capable of a broad spectrum of tasks and missions in defence of the nation and of Canadian interests worldwide. In recent years, this has been interpreted as providing forces that are inter-operable with our most probable ally – the United States. But, one of the stark realities of the modern economic and security environment is the prohibitive cost of manning and equipping a modern military force. Despite careful budgeting and spending practices, it is thus unlikely that Canada will have any more success than our traditional allies – the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand – in fielding a general-purpose force with the same or similar technologies and capabilities as those of the United States.

US Navy

US Navy photo 031023-N-3953L-172

Members of US Navy Special Boat Team 22 practicing narrow river beach extractions under hostile fire conditions. The unit’s primary mission is special operations in riverine environments.

Given this, Canada might want to consider the development of certain ‘niche capabilities’. These capabilities must, of course, fit within the general concept of domestic operations and, at the same time, be capable of contributing effectively to an international coalition employing state of the art equipment and tactics. If this position is accepted as being reasonable, the question then becomes: “What niche capabilities should Canada focus upon?” A detailed analysis of just what this focus could entail is beyond the scope of this article. However, by way of background, it may be instructive to note the results of an earlier study conducted by this writer3 and the emphasis placed upon the use of Special Forces (SF)4 and of Special Operations Forces (SOF)5 by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in the most recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If SOF are a viable contribution to coalition expeditionary operations by Canada, the next question to be asked is: “What exactly should Canada focus on in terms of the type, nature and capability of an SOF contribution?” That question will be the main focus of this article. The identification of capabilities will be based upon recent coalition experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. A hypothetical organization and structure for this force, including command and control, will then be presented, using the examples set by Australia and Britain as the basis for discussion. Finally, a Canadian SOF capability and a methodology for its development will be proposed as a possible blueprint for future Canadian contributions to international security.

Special Forces Capabilities

The modern approach to SOF coalition warfare involves the designation of a Lead Nation for a given operation or campaign. That nation provides a major force contribution, as well as the nucleus of the command and control, staff and support infrastructure. The Lead Nation is also expected to provide or assist in the provision of key capabilities, known as ‘enablers’, to the other contributing nations, such as strategic and tactical airlift or logistic support. The combined (multinational) and joint (multi-service or component) nature of the coalition concept extends down to the individual National Task Group level. There is no integration of national forces or components below this point, and the guiding principle being observed is “unity of command along national lines.”6

Top of Page

Despite a Lead Nation’s obligation to provide strategic and operational enablers to contributing nations, the realities of defence budgets, even amongst those nations capable of acting as Lead Nation in a coalition, quite naturally limit the amount of assistance that can be provided. Thus, the extent to which any participating nation can contribute a stand-alone strategic and operational level SOF capability will determine the relative value of that contribution to the coalition’s overall goals and objectives. Those nations contributing the most capable SOF task forces will possess capabilities at the strategic and operational levels that will earn them significant influence over the conduct of activities. This influence will exist not only with respect to issues concerning the actual conduct of coalition military operations but also in the international political and diplomatic processes surrounding those operations.

Special Operations Forces are differentiated from one another on the basis of an assessment of the quality and the scope of their capabilities. Those organizations possessing the highest quality skills, expertise and professionalism and the broadest scope of capabilities are categorized as ‘world class’ or ‘Tier 1’, a term used both formally and informally.7 The key characteristics that generally define a Tier 1 SOF organization are as follows:

  • Power Projection. The organization must be able to project itself strategically into a theatre without assistance from or reliance upon the resources of the Lead Nation. Operationally, the National Task Group must also have the resources to move itself about the theatre with the necessary national air, land or maritime resources, such that it does not have to draw upon the resources of the Lead Nation other than for very unique situations or missions.

    Strategic lift is extremely expensive for any nation to acquire and maintain, and this type of transport is in chronically short supply among nations requiring a global or strategic reach for their forces. In a time of a crisis that would generate the requirement for a coalition, each nation’s lift capability would likely be committed entirely to moving its own forces to and from an operational arena. Thus, the requirement for a contributing nation to provide its own strategic lift, either organic or contracted, is essential if its SOF are to be considered a Tier 1 organization.8

    Tactical or operational mobility in the theatre of operations is also a critical prerequisite of an effective SOF contribution. As with strategic lift, there are few nations capable of fielding sufficient operational and tactical lift to fully support their own forces. The ability of a nation to deploy fixed-wing aircraft with specialized navigation and defensive suites, combined with an air-to-air refuelling capability, would help to ensure that national forces have the support they need to conduct the missions for which they have been deployed. Having to rely on other coalition nations to provide this type of assistance is an uncertain option at best, since that lift support will, in all likelihood, be addressed only after the other nations’ own requirements have been met. Similarly, having helicopters with the same specialized equipment, including an air-to-air refuelling capability, provides greatly increased flexibility for the execution of the SOF mission.

    Taken together, the possession of sufficient strategic, operational and tactical airlift by a nation deploying an SOF task force will help categorize its SOF within the Tier 1 community, and place it on the list of preferred military coalition partners.9 On the other side of the coin, without mobility at the strategic, operational and tactical levels, regardless of the quality of the men and equipment deployed, an SOF task force will be of limited value in most coalition situations.10

  • Command and Control (C2). The C2 capability of the SOF task force should include strategic, operational and tactical communications, and a stand-alone intelligence capability that could include signals, electronic, imagery and human intelligence assets, as well as linkages to other government agencies. It should also include a full-spectrum planning capacity, as well as sufficient resources to exercise positive command and control during the execution of all operations. The SOF task force must have the resources to plan and conduct operations while keeping the national chain of command and the coalition fully apprised of the situation. The value of the national SOF contribution to the coalition can be enhanced by the addition of national specialty skills to the overall coalition capabilities, such as intelligence collection and analysis.11

  • Operational Flexibility. A national SOF contribution must have the resources and capabilities to operate as a discrete force in the execution of its missions. It must also be able to incorporate and effectively use attachments from each of the national land, sea and air components. And it must have the ability to function effectively within a joint force construct, either as part of a national task force, such as the British campaign in the Falklands, or as a member of a combined SOF coalition, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Tactical Capability. A national SOF must have the capability to execute a broad spectrum of high-order missions. These could include strategic reconnaissance, conducted either on foot or with vehicles; direct action assaults on enemy strong points, and sensitive site exploitation tasks requiring precision entry and shooting skills; and the pursuit and recovery of high value targets associated with an opposing force or regime. These missions are generally associated with the ability to conduct sustained operations over a lengthy period of time (low intensity, long duration) combined with an ability to transition, with little or no notice, to a high energy response or manoeuvre (high intensity, short duration).12

  • Specialist Support. The contributing nation must be able to tailor support to its SOF as required by the operational environment. Well-trained and capable specialist support, such as airborne, commando or ranger-type units, must be available if necessary. These types of units could perform security tasks in support of the main effort, or act as a quick reaction force to assist in the extraction of SOF elements from their mission areas. Another type of specialist support that should be made available, if it is not organic to the SOF, is a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response team. The importance of such a unit for survey, detection, analysis and exploitation of situations that may involve those types of weapons or threats has been highlighted in both the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns.13

Top of Page

US Navy

US Navy photo 030312-7590-030

The US Navy’s Seal Team 1 conducting a free-fall parachute jump from a US Army Black Hawk helicopter.

The common theme of the argument presented above is that the most effective national SOF niche capability to contribute to a coalition is a high-quality force capable of supporting itself at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. These capabilities are not inexpensive, nor can they be rapidly developed in time of need. The development of a Tier 1 SOF organization requires sustained funding over a significant period of time. Failing to provide a force with all fundamental Tier 1 capabilities will limit its effectiveness, and therefore the value of the SOF contribution.

Force Structure Models

The structure of a national Tier 1 SOF capability usually follows one of two models. The first model is best described as the ‘centralized’ approach, where all the required units or sub-units, equipment, capabilities and groupings are organic elements, and it is, in essence, a separate component of a national military capability, a force unto itself. As a stand-alone organization, it is funded as a separate entity and competes with the other components for defence dollars. Although this provides a welcome degree of independence, it also puts the Tier 1 SOF component into what could be unhealthy competition with the other service components for funding.

The Australian Model

A number of nations, including Australia, have adopted the centralized model. Prime Minister John Howard has come to rely upon the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) as his force of choice when there is a military aspect to the achievement of Australian foreign policy objectives.14 The increased employment of SF and SOF, as opposed to conventional military forces, to deal with post-Cold War security issues prompted a review of the structure of the Australian military and how it is postured to address security threats. The process culminated in early 2003 with the establishment of Special Operations Command Australia (SOCOMD), which, in its end-state, will consist of approximately 2000 soldiers and will be considered the fifth component (along with Army, Navy, Air Force and Logistics elements) of the Australian Defence Forces.15

The centrepiece of the new component is the Special Air Service Regiment, which will have the capability of executing all Tier 1 SOF missions, including long range reconnaissance, special reconnaissance, and direct action, as well as special recovery operations associated with counter-terrorism and hostage rescue situations.

Supporting and augmenting the SASR is the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). This unit performs roles typical of a parachute, commando, or ranger-type unit – raids and ‘point of entry’ seizure-type missions. It has also duplicated the domestic counter-terrorism capability that had been the sole province of the SASR. Following the events of 11 September 2001, it was determined that a timely response to domestic incidents of terrorism required the positioning of a counter-terrorism, hostage rescue capability on each of Australia’s west and east coasts. Consequently, the battalion was tasked to establish Tactical Assault Group East, a mission that fits into its high intensity, short duration task mandate. In addition to its domestic counter-terrorism role, the unit will continue to be employed in conjunction with the SASR as a quick reaction force, or in an outer cordon role during the deployment of national SOF assets. It will also serve as a high quality recruitment reservoir for the Special Air Service Regiment.16

Another significant component of the Australian model is the Incident Response Regiment (IRR), an engineer-based organization comprised of specialist response groups, such as explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) analysis, survey and consequence-management groups. Combat service support will be provided to all elements of the command by a dedicated group focused on the unique support requirements of the full range of special operations missions. Recruitment and initial training of applicants to all these special operations units will be coordinated through a Special Forces Training Centre, which will directly support unit training and doctrine requirements.17

Strategic, operational and tactical air and aviation lift is being addressed with a hybrid solution. The strategic movement of SOF resources will be accomplished by means of priority taskings to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Once in theatre, the RAAF will also provide operational or theatre-level support with C-130 Hercules aircraft manned by specially trained crews flying aircraft with specialized self-defence and low-level navigation/terrain avoidance suites. These specialized capabilities will be developed and maintained by the RAAF, working in conjunction with Special Operations Command.

Tactical lift support will be provided by the Australian Army with a squadron of special operations SA-70 Blackhawks, operated by specially trained crews. Other aspects of aviation support will likely be provided by CH-47 Chinook helicopters, several of which were fitted for Persian Gulf operations with an enhanced suite of self-defence and low-level navigation/terrain avoidance equipment similar to that used by the RAAF18.

Top of Page

It should be noted that the capabilities planned for Special Operations Command have not yet been fully funded, developed or fielded, and this is unlikely to happen for several years. Despite this fact, the Australians are included in the very select grouping of international Tier 1 SOF organizations, based upon their past accomplishments and future capabilities. Their achievements in the coalition operations “Enduring Freedom” (Afghanistan) and “Iraqi Freedom”, even with an SOF capability still in its embryonic stage, and because of demonstrated governmental will to employ these forces, have already paid considerable political and economic dividends for Australia.

JTF 2

DND Photo DHD 01-053-02

A JTF 2 hostage rescue exercise.

The British Model

The British Special Forces organization provides an example of the second or ‘decentralized’ model. Commanded and controlled at the national level by the Ministry of Defence through the Directorate of Special Forces, British Special Forces consist only of the Tier 1 organizations themselves. The front line commands of the conventional armed forces provide all the support organizations and attachments that are required for force employment, and they combine with the Tier 1 unit to form the national SOF. These commands task and tailor the support organizations and attachments to the needs and requirements of the Special Forces, based upon the type and nature of the mission under consideration.

Air crew

US Air Force photo 040913-F-0000C-006

A C-130 Hercules crew from the US Air Force 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron run through a check list after taking off from a forward-deployed location in Afghanistan.

The front line commands contribute to British Special Forces with some of their best personnel, and with significant funding. As such, they have a vested interest in ensuring that the forces are used to best effect. The day-to-day support for Special Forces operations within the UK defence community is enhanced by the placement of Special Forces staff in key positions throughout the Ministry of Defence. In addition to providing the front line commands with a return on their personnel investments in British Special Forces, this policy also serves to engender a greater level of understanding and acceptance of the roles and missions of these specialized forces within the military framework.

The end result of this method of organization is that the British Special Forces are viewed as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Britain’s military capability, and not as a separate and possibly threatening entity by the other service components. All components contribute to its quality and capability. Similarly, all components benefit from the development of these capabilities. Controlled at the national strategic level, British Special Forces are tasked with discrete missions in the national interest or as part of a joint operation working in conjunction with one or more of the other components in order to achieve a stated goal or objective. They can be employed jointly with any one or any combination of the other services to enhance and reinforce their mission capabilities. The use of Special Forces in joint operations of this nature also forms part of the return on investment to the components for their contributions to developing and maintaining this capability.

Command and Control

The development of a Special Operations Force is an evolutionary process that requires time to mature. Regardless of the force structure adopted, be it a centralized Special Operations Command organization similar to the Australian example, or a de-centralized structure such as employed by the British, the creation of a Tier 1 SOF organization in Canada or elsewhere requires more than just the allocation of men, funding, resources and time. It also requires significant amounts of operational experience and acumen. Thus, to reach its full potential as quickly and as effectively as possible, a Tier 1 SOF organization requires the synergistic learning effect of working and associating with Allied Tier 1 SOF organizations that have similar roles, responsibilities and capabilities.

Tier 1 SOF missions are tactical actions that achieve strategic results. That is not to say that SOF will not or should not be employed for operational or tactical results on occasion; they should indeed be deployed wherever and whenever their unique skills and capabilities can be used to best effect in the attainment of national goals and objectives. Retaining command and control of SOF resources at the national strategic level, however, achieves what is arguably the most important aspect of the command and control of SOF resources. It ensures that a mechanism is in place at the highest level to make an overall assessment of where and when the use of SOF best serves the national interest.19

Top of Page

Operations in Afghanistan provided evidence that the struggle to maintain control of SOF operations at the strategic level has in some instances failed. There, a number of contributing nations arrived with SOF elements attached to their conventional formations for use as reconnaissance troops – tactical tasks with tactical effects. In effect, this indicated a failure of the organizations involved to transition from a Cold War perspective on the role of SOF. In circumstances where most nations can afford only a small SOF organization, placement of these specialized forces within component commands interferes with their most effective employment at the national level for strategic effects.20

The American case is somewhat different, in that their SOF community is sufficiently large and diverse to function at several levels simultaneously. It does, nonetheless, demonstrate that the employment and focus of SOF is a function of where it is placed in a nation’s order of battle. The American model parcels out slices of SOF around the globe, and then, following a request for forces, places them under the operational control of one of five regional or theatre command headquarters.21 At the same time, the Americans retain SOF organizations for strategic applications at the national level. Thus, in the American case, the sheer size of their military assets permits the employment of SOF at both the national strategic and operational levels in several theatres of operations.

The balance of evidence would indicate, however, that most nations, constrained as they are by economics, would only have the resources to maintain an SOF capability that is relatively small in comparison to American capabilities. In these instances, nations are probably best served by retaining command and control of their SOF at the national or strategic level. If SOF are retained as a force provider at the national level in conjunction with the land, air and maritime components of a nation’s military, they can be utilized at all three levels as situations dictate. This will enable a ‘god’s eye’ evaluation of opportunities for the employment of SOF, such that their eventual employment should always reflect national strategic priorities and concerns.

The British case provides an example of the benefits to be derived from the retention of command and control at the national level. The British SOF can be employed as a separate force on strategic operations, or as part of a joint force in combination with the other components of the armed services. As they are controlled at the national level, their employment will always tend to be strategic in nature, but they will remain available for operations with the other components as circumstances dictate. The optimum employment for British SOF strategically, operationally and tactically is always determined at the strategic level, and from a strategic perspective.22

Soldier

DND Photo DHD02-289-01

A JTF 2 soldier talking on the radio during a winter exercise.

The Australian case is in a state of transition. At present, their Special Operations Command is subordinated to the land component. However, over the next several years, the four component commands, as well as the Australian Defence Force’s operational headquarters and Special Operations Command Headquarters, will be concentrated in the capital, Canberra, bringing all key operational and component headquarters into close proximity.23 This will have the effect of establishing Special Operations Command as the fifth component of the defence forces in all but name. This concept is reinforced by the fact that the Special Operations Commander holds a rank equivalent to that of the other service chiefs. He is already included as a key member in most if not all senior military and government decision-making fora. Clearly, the trend in Australia is to move its SOF resources from the component level to the national strategic level for more effective allocation and employment of these resources. This trend will bring the Australian Defence Forces into line with the same SOF command and control philosophies espoused by Canada’s closest allies, the Americans and the British.

The Canadian Blueprint

After having examined and considered the experience and practices of some of Canada’s closest allies with respect to SOF capabilities, what direction should Canada follow? If one considers, as stated in the introduction to this article, that such a capability could be the nation’s most effective option in providing an expeditionary contribution to international security, what specific form should this capability take? What follows is an outline concept for such a capability that might provide for Canada its most effective contribution to international security, and, concomitantly, recognition of that contribution in international fora.

Top of Page

  • Force Capabilities and Force Structure. Government spending priorities and budget constraints will require that any Canadian contribution be small but effective. Within these parameters, there is a choice between providing a vertical or full capability ‘slice’ of SOF, or a horizontal ‘slice’ – a partial capability but of greater strength – to a coalition. The recommended solution, elaborated below, will be a full capability, stand-alone SOF grouping, because of the generally greater value of such a contribution to any coalition, and because of the increased national recognition that such a contribution would generate.

    At the core of this hypothetical Canadian SOF niche capability would be Joint Task Force (JTF) 2, a Tier 1-capable unit, acknowledged by the Chief of the Defence Staff as a counter-terrorism and special operations unit capable of deploying abroad for the conduct of special operations in support of national political and military objectives.24 Three company-sized light infantry sub-units of approximately 180 personnel each, with specialized parachute, ranger and commando skills, would provide essential tactical support to JTF 2, both domestically and internationally. They could reduce the tasking load for JTF 2 personnel on other than clearly defined Tier 1 missions, and could also provide a pool of training and experience for the core unit to draw upon for replacements and reinforcements. Specialist support groupings would include company-sized elements proficient in explosive ordnance disposal and Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear survey and exploitation. A dedicated combat service support grouping would provide logistic support.

    Strategic lift would be provided by existing or enhanced Air Force resources assigned on a priority basis to the missions. Operational or theatre level air support would also be provided by the Air Force with specially trained crews and C-130 Hercules aircraft modified with enhanced self-defence and low-level navigation/terrain avoidance suites. Tactical lift would be supplied by leased or purchased medium lift helicopter resources, crewed by the Air Force and equipped with the same defensive and navigation/terrain avoidance capabilities as the Hercules.

    The mechanics of raising, training and deploying the SOF as a whole would be left with the air, land and sea components, similar to the British model. JTF 2, as the core Tier 1 SOF unit, should be a stand-alone fighting force complete with its operational and tactical level command and control groupings and indigenous combat service support capability. Specialist groupings and the individual specialist components of the intelligence and command and control functions would remain with their parent component for normal operations and training, but would receive funding from the SOF budget to maintain a required level of capability and expertise with respect to their SOF-specific tasks and responsibilities. They would be required to train with the SOF on a regular basis and remain on call for SOF operations at a heightened state of readiness.

    The lift capabilities at the strategic, operational and tactical levels would be funded by SOF. They would reside with the Air Force but be subject to minimum training and exercise requirements with the SOF, and to short notice recall for SOF missions. The total complement of the entire Canadian SOF capability would not likely exceed 2,000 personnel.

  • Command and Control. As is the case with Australia and Britain, it should be anticipated that the Canadian SOF assets would be very much in demand across the spectrum of military tasks, especially in those situations requiring an operational response on short notice. In order to ensure that the SOF elements are employed to the greatest effect, command and control of these forces should be retained at the highest strategic level. To do otherwise would risk the misemployment of these assets on tasks achievable by other forces, while higher national priorities requiring SOF specific capabilities might be overlooked. Command, therefore, must continue to be exercised by the CDS through the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (DCDS).

Summary

The use of niche military capabilities is both a viable and cost effective means for governments to make meaningful contributions to international security at the times and places of their choosing. Within the category of niche capabilities, the use of SOF task groups is one such contribution that provides a particularly high ‘payback’ in terms of influence and recognition among members of the international community. When faced with the range of options available to Canada in the provision of such a capability, one’s attention must gravitate naturally towards the option that provides the greatest return for the dollar in terms of influence with our allies and partners. Thus, a full-capability or Tier 1 SOF grouping becomes, in this writer’s opinion, an excellent choice for expeditionary contributions to be made by Canada in the interests of international security.

This SOF contribution can be quite small relative to those of our friends and allies. It is important, however, that the contribution be a stand-alone component fully capable of deploying itself, conducting operations at the highest level and with the greatest skill for extended periods of time, and returning home unassisted when the assigned task is completed. The resources comprising the contribution should be raised, trained and sustained by the subject matter experts in each specialist area, but retain the capability to gather and deploy quickly for operations. Lastly, control of this asset must be retained at the national strategic level to ensure its most effective use and employment in the national interest.

In conclusion, it must be clearly understood that while SOF has an extraordinary ability to deliver effect and capability, a number of prerequisites must be met before this can happen. First, the nation must be willing to invest sufficiently in its creation, development and upkeep. And this investment must be done in a timely manner, since the creation of an SOF organization cannot be initiated when a crisis is looming. Further, the nation must be willing to invest sufficient funds to ensure that the best personnel have the required equipment to achieve the greatest effect with the smallest numbers, since large SOF components are fiscally and practically unrealistic. The nation and the military must also be willing to commit their best personnel to this force, as only the best are likely to be guarantors of success under the situations and circumstances in which this force would, in all likelihood, operate.

Top of Page

Once the investment has been made, the national political and military leadership must be willing to use the SOF in the pursuit of national political and military goals and objectives. It must be seen as a precision tool to be used in special circumstances to achieve very specific and well-defined effects under a variety of difficult and demanding circumstances. It must also be viewed as a means of mitigating high-risk situations to achieve substantial gains and successes out of proportion to the resources employed. Developed and employed in this manner, this force could become a blueprint for Canadian success as internationally respected Special Operations Forces possessing very credible and significant capabilities.

CMJ Logo

Major Bernard J. Brister is a tactical helicopter pilot who is a doctoral candidate at Royal Military College.

Notes

  1. Words of convicted 1993 World Trade Centre bomber, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. Benjamin Weiser, “Two Convicted in Plot to Blow Up N.Y. World Trade Center.” The New York Times, 13 November 1997.
  2. Directorate of Strategic Analysis, Strategic Assessment 2002 (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2002), p. 11.
  3. Bernard J. Brister, The Role of Special Forces in the Execution of Canadian Foreign Policy, paper presented at the 2nd Special Operations Symposium Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario, 7 March 2002.
  4. For the purposes of this article, Special Forces are defined as those forces specifically selected, trained, equipped and tasked with a range of missions outside the spectrum of conventional military operations. Adapted from Thomas K. Adams, US Special Operations Forces in Action: The Challenge of Unconventional Warfare (London: Frank Cass, 1998), p. xxiv, p. xxv, and pp. 5-7.
  5. Again, for the purposes of this article, SOF are defined as those elements of a task force, military, paramilitary and civilian, that are assigned to support a Special Forces task group in the execution of a mission outside of the spectrum of conventional military operations. Adapted from Adams, p. xxiv, p. xxv, and pp. 5-7.
  6. Interview with Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003.
  7. Interview with Senior Officer Australian Special Air Service Regiment (AS SASR), 27 March 2003.
  8. Interview with a Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003.
  9. These assets, along with their highly trained crews, will also generate an increase in a nation’s strategic reach, and therefore, its influence, which will pay significant if subtle benefits on the political and diplomatic fronts. The ability to quickly project power in support of allied nations, large or small, close to home or afar, generates a tremendous amount of appreciation and cooperation.

    Interview with Senior Officer AS SASR, 27 March 2003
  10. Ibid.
  11. Areas where a specific nation may have developed an intelligence capability over and above the standard of other contributing nations might include, but would not be limited to, imagery analysis, signal intelligence and intelligence gathering from human sources. Interview with a Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003 and Interview with Senior Officer AS SASR, 27 March 2003.
  12. Interview with a Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003 and Interview with Senior Officer AS SASR, 27 March 2003.
  13. Interview with Senior Officer AS SASR, 27 March 2003.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Discussion with Senior Officer AS SASR, 9 July 2004.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Interview with a Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003.
  20. Interview with a Senior Officer AS SASR, 27 March 2003.
  21. Adams, p. 7.
  22. Interview with a Senior Officer British Special Forces, 25 April 2003.
  23. Discussion with Senior HQ AST Staff Officer, Sydney, Australia, 8 August 2003.
  24. A Time for Transformation: Annual Report of the Chief of the Defence Staff 2002-2003 (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2003), p 5.
Rangers

DND Photo IS2004-2126a by Sergeant Frank Hudec

Canadian Rangers in Pangnirtung waiting to take part in a joint patrol during Exercise “Narwhal” on the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Island, August 2002.


Top of Page