As the U.S. military is stepping away from the counterinsurgencies of the past and into the near-peer threats of the future, it must continuously evolve to stay ahead in the technological race. The Navy SEAL Teams, being at the tip of the spear alongside with the rest of America’s Special Operations units, have been following suit. Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to give that much-needed edge.
Recently, the Acting Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) Nand Mulchandani, accompanied by a small team of experts, visited the headquarters of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW) in San Diego, California, to discuss ways to improve the combat effectiveness of NSW’s operators.
Mulchandani and his team met with the leadership of NSW but also with the newly established Future Concepts and Innovation Directorate (N9) of the command. The Directorate brings together the Department of Defense’s research agencies and labs with defense companies to produce technology and systems that will benefit commandos.
“We are working with SOCOM on a number of important AI initiatives and this visit provides us an opportunity to expand this important relationship,” said Mulchandani during his visit to NSW.
“The Naval Special Warfare community is at the cutting edge of using, testing, and deploying new technology including AI, and both organizations found an instant connection between current products to collaborate on and align future roadmap activities. We look forward to partnering with Naval Special Warfare to deliver real and tangible capabilities to our warfighters.”
As a force that constantly deploys, regardless if it’s on active warzone or not, Special Operations units have the ability to test weapons and technology and determine their utility. Oftentimes, weapons and technology then trickle down to the rest of the military. That active testing attribute is one of the less recognized contributions of SOF to a military.
From the NSW side, Captain Christian Dunbar, the Director of the NSWC Future Concepts and Innovation, said that “NSW has a history of rapidly adapting and adopting new organizations, processes and technologies at speed to innovate effectively to deliver the force and effects our nation needs and expects. Artificial Intelligence and autonomy are already changing the complexion of warfare and being employed downrange now. AI, automation and autonomy will fundamentally transform and disrupt the future of what we today call warfare.”
AI can contribute both to logistics and operations. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), under which NSW falls, has already been implementing AI to improve its logistics and maintenance capabilities. Operations is the new frontier that needs to be conquered.
The Naval Special Warfare Command is made up of the Navy SEAL Teams and the Special Boat Teams. The former are comprised of SEAL operators and specialize in Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, and Counterterrorism, among other mission sets; the latter are comprised of Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC), who operate NSW’s Special Operations boats and specialize in insertion and extraction of SOF units, among other mission sets.
There are nine active duty regular SEAL Teams and two SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, which specialize in underwater operations. And there are three Special Boat Teams. The units divided between the West and East Coasts. Although SEAL Team 6, also known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), is part of NSW, it falls under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), alongside the Army’s Delta Force. SEAL Team 6 is the cream of the crop of the SEAL Teams, manned by the best operators from all of the SEAL Teams.