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FM 34-36: Special Operations Forces Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations



SOA plans and conducts special air operations across the operational continuum. Specialized SOA assets routinely penetrate hostile and sensitive airspace undetected to conduct and support SO and theater level operational plans. These assets operate with precise execution over extended ranges, under adverse weather conditions, and during times of limited visibility.

The effectiveness of SOA depends largely on the ability of the S2 to gather and disseminate detailed operational intelligence to mission planners in a timely manner. The SOC J2, in coordination with the TASOSC ISE, provides NRT intelligence throughout mission planning and execution.

In the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP), each supported CINC is given SOA assets tailored to meet the specific mission requirements of the theater CINC. A typical SOA force consists of assets drawn from the SOA regiment.

The regiment consists of a headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), SOA regiment (airborne); a special operations helicopter battalion with a light attack company an assault helicopter battalion; and a medium helicopter battalion (lift). (See FM 100-25, Chapter 9, for details of these elements.)


The most frequent SOA mission is infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of SOF by air. SOA units can provide general aviation support to SOF where use of other Army aviation assets are not appropriate, feasible, or available. These types of missions, however, detract from the primary mission of clandestine penetration into denied areas.


The only MI support in SOA regiments and their subordinate battalions are their respective S2 staffs. SOA units have no other organic IEW assets. Figure 6-1 shows the intelligence organization for the 160th SOA Regiment.

The SOA regiment S2 section has three teams: OB, imagery interpretation, and CINC intelligence planning. The SOA regimental S2 staff organization is currently under development.

Accurate IEW support is vital to mission success and survivability of SOA assets. Successful penetration and exfiltration dictate that SOA assets must avoid detection. Pilots avoid detection by--

  • Using advanced terrain flight techniques.
  • Operating under conditions of limited visibility.
  • Relying heavily on a comprehensive aircraft survivability equipment (ASE) system.

In SOA operations, knowledge and suppression of the foreign air threat is paramount. The staffs of the SOA task force S2 and the area air defense command must closely coordinate to avoid detection and minimize losses. The S2 must push to acquire every asset possible to exactly pinpoint the weapons systems, quantity, and location to assist aircraft in the successful penetration of denied air space.


The SOA S2 is the staff representative for intelligence and CI measures. The S2--

  • Recommends PIR to the commander and establishes IR.
  • Provides accurate air defense information to supported SOF units.
  • Coordinates intelligence requirements.
  • Acquires sufficient imagery for SOA operations.
  • Provides an assessment of the foreign intelligence collection threat.
  • Prepares and implements intelligence training programs.
  • Exercises staff supervision of CI personnel.
  • Helps the operations element prepare essential elements of friendly information (EEFI), vulnerability studies, and countermeasures to be employed by the units in support of the OPSEC plan.
  • Assists the S3 in planning operations. The S2 and S3 should maintain a single situation map with overlays.
  • Coordinates weather information and analysis with the appropriate Army or Air Force weather element.
  • Identifies, confirms, and coordinates priorities for unit geographic area requirement MC&G products to support OPLANs and CONPLANs; monitor and validates map requisitions.

OB Team

This team is responsible for foreign OB files. This team studies and processes information on specific geographical target areas. It also produces intelligence assessments on foreign military actions. SOA OB intelligence goes beyond enemy air defense threats. It includes foreign air support facilities and navigation aids that SOA elements exploit or avoid while deep in hostile territory.

Imagery Interpretation Team

This team develops and maintains imagery data files on specific geographical target areas. The team's focus goes beyond normal OB and ongoing target coverage. It includes foreign or hostile air support facilities that SOA elements can use while in denied territory.

CINC Intelligence Planning Team

This team is responsible for coordinating with the theater CINCs to ensure that the regiment has each theater's intelligence estimates and OPLANs on hand.


Intelligence support to SOA is specialized and sensitive. It is often different from conventional aviation. The Requirements Management Division, USASOC, and the SOA CINC intelligence planning team coordinate with theater and national level intelligence sources to provide needed information.


The SOC J2 primarily is concerned with in-theater IEW policy formulation, planning and coordination. The SOC J2--

  • Ensures that sufficient intelligence support is available for each mission tasked by the SOC.
  • Relies on the theater service IEW organizations to collect, produce, and disseminate intelligence to meet SOA requirements.
  • Tasks subordinate SOF units to collect and report information in support of SOA intelligence requirements.

The SOC J6 coordinates to obtain secure SCI voice and data communications between the headquarters of the SOC, its component commands, and the TASOSC.

The TASOSC S2 provides all-source IEW support to all in-theater ARSOF. Complying with guidance from the SOC J2, the DIO validates, consolidates, and prioritizes standing and routine IR and RIIs. He then forwards them to the TASOSC ISE collocated at the theater Army MI brigade's EACIC.

Under the staff supervision of the TASOSC S2, the ISE--

  • Responds to RII by integrating them into the EACIC requirements list.
  • Monitors RII status until the appropriate collection assets respond.
  • Maintains an intelligence data base to support ARSOF requirements.

HUMINT Support

HUMINT is collected using a variety of methods. HUMINT collectors--

  • Interrogate EPWs and debrief or interview civilian internees, detainees, and refugees.
  • Debrief returned captured US personnel, escapees, and evaders.
  • Exploit CED and CEM.
  • Perform controlled collection.
  • Conduct LRSO, patrols, and OPs.
  • Conduct liaison with local military or paramilitary forces and the local populace; and obtain reports from friendly troops.

Interrogation support for SOA is available from the supported command's MI brigade or tactical exploitation battalion. Otherwise, interrogators are collocated at EPW collection points and holding facilities at echelons, division, and above. Interrogation information then is incorporated into the all-source product. When SOA needs information for mission planning that only interrogators might provide, they must coordinate their requirements with the command that has interrogators.

SIGINT Support

SIGINT is developed from the collection, evaluation, analysis, integration, and interpretation of information derived from intercepted electromagnetic emissions. SIGINT subdivisions include COMINT, ELINT, and FISINT. By integrating SIGINT with intelligence from other resources, accurate targeting and threat data can be obtained.

SIGINT support for planning SOA missions is available from the supported command's MI brigade. The type of support needed depends on the operational factors in the operational area.

IMINT Support

IMINT comes from radar, photographic, infrared, and electro-optic imagery. SOA uses detailed imagery to develop sophisticated target folders.

IMINT covers the target during various seasons, conditions, and angles of a target, provides details on terrain. The SIO must be able to determine the measurements of buildings, spacings between buildings, and the size of any obstacles on roads or intersections. Within SOA's precision assault environment, inches can mean lives and the difference between success or failure. IMINT is a significant source of critical operational data for SOA elements.

IMINT tasking is done through either FRAGO or intelligence annexes to the OPORD, SOP, or RII. Formats to request support from national systems are in the J-TENS Manual, Sections 3, 4, and 5; and FM 34-2, Appendix C. IMINT systems controlled by a higher headquarters, other services, or national agencies respond to approved RIIs through appropriate channels.

The channels used depend on the requesting unit and the requirement, the agency receiving the request, and command procedures. Corps and division assets can provide IMINT when the target area falls within the range of their organic systems. Other services and national assets also can be tasked to provide dedicated IMINT support to SOF operations.


TECHINT consists of S&TI and battlefield TECHINT. TECHINT provides SOA personnel with intelligence about foreign technological developments and the performance and operational capabilities of foreign materiel. Battlefield TECHINT provides the tactical commander with countermeasures to neutralize and defeat enemy systems and materiel.

TECHINT products are produced by the CMEC or a battlefield TECHINT team at corps. TECHINT is incorporated into the all-source intelligence product. Specific requests for TECHINT support are coordinated through the SOC J2 to corps headquarters or above.

EW Support

Depending on the nature of the operation and threat capabilities, SOA may need support from EW units. EW operations disrupt or destroy the threat's C2 ofhis forces and weapons systems, and retain friendly use of the electromagnetic spectrum. EW also is used to support deception operations. EW misleads the threat by manipulating, distorting, or falsifying indicators; thus persuading the enemy to react in a manner against his own interests.

Active jamming prevents enemy early warning radar from detecting airborne forces or, if detected, from determining their route. Also, false transmissions support SOA deception plans or feints. SOA uses selective jamming and imitative deception to disrupt foreign C2 nets, which reduces the enemy's ability to react to SOA presence.

In CONUS, planning and coordinating elements from USASOC contribute to the EW program for SOA. When deployed, the JTF or theater commander is responsible for planning the EW program to support an SOA mission. The EW program must be closely coordinated so it does not disrupt friendly air-to-ground or ground-to-ground communications, or reveal friendly force intentions.

CI Support

CI detects, evaluates, counteracts, or prevents foreign intelligence collection, subversion, sabotage, and terrorism. It determines security vulnerabilities and recommends countermeasures. CI operations support OPSEC, deception, and force protection.

Currently, the SOA regiment has no organic CI support but CI is vital to SOA mission planning, preparation, and execution. In CONUS, the security division, USASOC, conducts liaison with US and foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies as appropriate. This liaison is an important element of CI support to the SOA regiment.

CI supports OPSEC by providing MDCI information and products, such as the MDCI appendix, to the SOA regiment OPLANs and OPORDs. Additional CI support is obtained from the CONUS CI group as required. Upon deployment, CI support is obtained from the appropriate theater MI brigade. For additional information on CI and HUMINT, see FM 34-60 and FM 34-60A.


By their nature, SOA missions require only limited CA support. However, should SOA units be required to stay in one place longer than anticipated, they may require support from adjacent units to include CA.

CA Support

CA elements, in support of SOA, can--

  • Train and advise members of the supported SOA unit in CMO and the political, economic, social, and cultural factors that influence operations.
  • Identify and acquire foreign resources.
  • Coordinate with other agencies to minimize civilian interference.
  • Assist in meeting legal and moral obligations to the local population, families of supported indigenous forces, and persons displaced by operations.
  • Supplement the intelligence effort by collecting information during CMO.
  • Act as staff focal point for cultural aspects that affect SOA operations.

PSYOP Support

SOA missions are characterized by rapid and surreptious entry and exit from denied air space. Therefore, SOA units do not require extensive PSYOP mission support. PSYOP can support SOA operations by reducing the effectiveness of the enemy force. PSYOP elements--

  • Exploit hostile vulnerabilities in the operational area.
  • Design PSYOP for deployed SOA units to execute.
  • Review SOA plans to identify potentially adverse effects on target audiences that could affect mission accomplishment.
  • Identify sectors of population that would aid SOA crews in E&E.
  • Provide basic and special PSYOP assessments that add to the overall intelligence effort in the operational area.
  • Advise commanders and their staffs on the psychological impact of military operations on target audiences within the operational area.

In the event that SOA elements are based in an area for extended periods of times, they will require increasing support from adjacent units, to include PSYOP.

In addition to the support provided by SOA, other support is provided by the SO weather team and MC&G nonstandard intelligence products.


SOA is highly susceptible to the effects of weather, making weather a critical aspect of mission planning. Weather support to SOA is provided by detachments of the SO weather team. Direct weather support must include, but not be limited to--

  • Forecasts of general weather conditions and specific meteorological data elements as described in the 24-hour forecast.
  • Solar geophysical information and climatic studies and analyses.
  • Weather advisories, warnings, and specialized weather briefings, to include flight weather briefings.

SOA Support to the IEW System

Like any other unit, SOA elements can be excellent sources of combat information. SOA are often the first to encounter the enemy and can confirm or deny friendly assessments of threat air and ground-based air defense capabilities. They can report on the effectiveness of friendly weapons and counter-air defense measures on threat systems. If possible without compromising their mission, SOA can also provide real time updates on the movements and concentrations of threat units deep in the enemy's rear area. SOA SIOs must be proactive in debriefing SOA elements to ensure this valuable information enters the IEW system.

MC&G and Other Intelligence Products

The SOA regiment has a standing account with DIA and AIA. All pertinent reports and studies are sent to the SOA regiment when requested. Maps, IMINT, and other special products are also routinely supplied. National assets can supply information for quick response missions and may even dedicate certain assets to support SOA.

SOA units with a proper DMA map obtain MC&G products direct from the DMA Combat Support Center, the appropriate installation map depot, account may or the supporting OCONUS Army map depot. USASOC assists units to obtain special MC&G products and services.

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