> Unconventional Warfare
This web page provides resources for those who are interested in the
topic of unconventional warfare. It includes definitions,
references, publications, news and magazine articles, and books on unconventional warfare.
Definition of Unconventional Warfare
There are many definitions of unconventional warfare.
Military professionals will sometimes shorten the phrase to UW.
Depending on which country and type of institution you represent the term
means different things. Even within the U.S. Department of Defense
there are several definitions of UW - it depends which organization is
providing the definition and the time period in history when the
definition was provided.
(UW) Defination IAW USSOCOM. The United States Special
Operations Command (USSOCOM) defines
unconventional warfare as:
"Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or
insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or
government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary and
guerrilla force in a denied area"
The UW definition above was approved in May 2009 by
USSOCOM. See Training Circular 18-01, Special Forces
Unconventional Warfare, December 2010. This definition is in
accordance with Title 10 of U.S. Code which lists UW as an activity.
Unconventional Warfare (UW) Definition
IAW JP 1-02. JP 1-02 is the authoritive book to go to for
approved military terminology and definitions. JP 1-02,
Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated terms,
July 2010. See page 383 of JP 1-02 (July 2010) for the UW
definition. JP 1-02 can be viewed at dtic.mil as an Adobe Acrobat
"A broad sprectrum of military and paramilitary operations, normally of
long duration, predominately conducted through, with, or by indigenous
or surrogate forces who are organized, trained, equipped, supported, and
directed in varying degrees by an external source. It includes,
but is not limited to, guerrila warfare, subversion, sabotage,
intelligence activities, and unconventional assisted recovery.
Also called UW. (JP 3-05)."
For an in-depth discussion of the definition of
unconventional warfare see
"What is the Scope of UW?" by the blog
"On Resistances, Revolutions, and Insurgencies.
What are the factors that lead to the use of unconventional warfare? One
study, entitled Why UW: Factoring in the Decision Point for
Unconventional Warfare" seeks to answer that question. The study,
completed in December 2012 and authored by Ryan C. Agee and Maurice K.
Duclos, is available on the "Calhoun" website - the institutional
archive of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). This publication is
extensive in its review of UW history yet provides recommendations in
the use of UW in the future.
How Unconventional Warfare (UW) Fits Into Doctrine
UW and ARSOF. Unconventional
Warfare (UW) is one of nine Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) core
activities. The other eight are Foreign Internal Defense (FID),
Security Force Assistance (SFA), Counterinsurgency (COIN), Direct Action
(DA), Special Reconnaissance (SR), Counterterrorism (CT), Military
Information Support Operations (MISO), and Civil Affairs Operations
UW and Special Forces. Unconventional
Warfare is one of the
five primary missions of U.S. Army Special Forces. The other
four are counterterrorism, direct action, foreign internal defense, and
UW and Irregular Warfare. Unconventional Warfare is
considered to be one of the five components of Irregular Warfare
The other IW components are counterterrorism, foreign internal defense,
stability operations, and counterinsurgency. The IW definition varies
base on which doctrinal source who cite. 3.
and Special Warfare. Unconventional Warfare is considered to be
one of the components of Special Warfare. The current definition (see
ADRP 3-05) 2. states that Special
Warfare is comprised of MISO, CA, FID and UW. Past doctrine has stated
that Special Warfare was PSYOP, COIN, and UW. For an comprehensive discussion of
unconventional warfare view several articles about unconventional warfare in the Winter 2001 edition of
Special Warfare Magazine (Vol. 14, No. 1). Available for
viewing or download in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) by clicking
here, it is 1.24 MBs in size.
UW and Political Warfare.
The U.S. military and various governmental agencies are continually
revising doctrine to meet the requirements posed by the ever-changing
international scene. A number of new terms have come into vogue
Gray Zone, etc.)
to try to explain the new political and military challenges the U.S. is
confronted with. Political Warfare (just like UW) is an old term that is
seeing a revival. The United States Army Special Operations Command is
now exploring this newly discovered (yet again) area of conflict and
attempting to fit UW and Political Warfare into their 'scheme of
Counter-Unconventional Warfare (C-UW). The concept of
Uncoventional Warfare as conducted by U.S. Army Special Forces is
throroughly defined. What is a newly emerging concept is that of
countering the UW and Hybrid Warfare efforts of our adversaries. C-UW is
a relatively new term coined by veterans of global special operations to
describe the efforts of the U.S. to counter the attempts by our
adversaries to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow established governments
(using UW) and other non-conventional means. 6.
Sources of Information about Unconventional Warfare
Unconventional Warfare. By Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Unconventional Warfare Study Center. A resource center for
military personnel, researchers, and academics providing documents on UW
to download or read online. Scribd.com.
Legal Status of Participants in Unconventional Warfare
found on soc.mil)
Prepared by the Special Warfare Research Division,
Special Operations Research Office, The American University, Washington,
D.C., December 1961
Expanding UW Reach. Special Forces Association.
Project Gray. A collaborative study of
the 'Gray Zone' - the space between war and peace. Project Gray is an
initiative of the U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence. UW
is one military tool found in this space.
Publications and References about Unconventional Warfare
Will Irwin, A Comprehensive and Proactive Approach
to Unconventional Warfare, Joint Special Operations University,
JSOU Press Occasional Paper, May 2016.
USASOC, Unconventional Warfare Pocket Guide,
V1.0, April 2016, United States Army Special Operations Command. The
purpose of this 44-page document is to provide a pocket reference of
Unconventional Warfare (UW) doctrine, concepts, academic inquiry, and
suggested supplementary reading for military leaders and planners.
Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in
Insurgencies. DA Pamplet No. 550-104. By Molnar, Andrew R.
Washington, DC: GPO, 1966. Considered a prime source when discussing
guerrilla and resistance movements. Read discussions about this book
on the Small Wars Journal blog (click
here). Download the document (3.6mb) from the Combined Arms
Research Digital Library (click
here). Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here
Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies
Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and
Resistance Warfare. By Andrew R. Molnar. Washington, DC: Special
Operations Research Office, American University Press, 1963. Find
out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare
about Unconventional Warfare
Resistances, Revolutions, and Insurgencies. A blog to exchange
ideas and a repository of information on insurgencies and resistance
Chasing Ghosts. By John Tierney.
Guerrilla. By Charles W. Thayer. New York:
Signet, 1965. This book is considered one of the primers for those
who study guerrilla warfare. Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here
Invisible Armies. By Max Boot.
Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerrilla Warfare,
Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990, Michael
McClintock, Pantheon Books, 1992.
Total Resistance. By Major H. von Dach. Paladin Press,
1992. The official Swiss manual for resistance to enemy occupation by
employing stay-behind guerrilla warfare was written by a Swiss army
officer. Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here
Modern Irregular Warfare: In Defense Policy and as a Military
Phenomenon. By Friedrich August Heydte. New York, NY: New
Benjamin Franklin House, 1986. Read about the author here -
Freidrich Heydte (Wikipedia). Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here
Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare. By Hy
S. Rothstein. US Naval Institute Press, 2006. The author
examines the current state of Special Operations forces and calls for the
establishment of a new service or unconventional warfare command. In
effect, his plan would separate special operations forces that conduct
direct action and unconventional warfare. Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare
. Read a
review of the book in Air & Space Power Journal (Fall 2007).
Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency,
and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990. By Michael McClintock.
Random House, 1992. See
with book in its entirety or purchase from Amazon.com by clicking here
Instruments of Statecraft.
The Art of Counter-Revolutionary
Warfare. By John McCuen.
Unconventional Conflicts in a New
Security Era. By Sam Sarkesian, 1993.
Military Publications about Unconventional
Draft, United States Political Warfare Policy, January 2015.
USASOC, Counter-Unconventional Warfare, a white paper by United
States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), 26 September 2014.
U.S. Department of the Army. ATP 3-05.1, Unconventional Warfare,
September 6, 2013. This Army Techniques Publication is the Army's
doctrinal foundation for UW. Available at the Army's
Doctrine and Pubs website.
DA, Special Operations, ADRP 3-05, August 2012.
A Leader's Handbook to Unconventional Warfare, by LTC Mark Grdovic,
SWCS Pub 09-1, Nov 2009, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare
Center and School.
United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
Unconventional Warfare Definition Brief. Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas, July 9, 2009.
U.S. Department of the Army. Field Manual 3-03.130 Army
Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare. Washington,
District of Columbia: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2008.
Magazine, Newspaper Articles, and Blog Posts
about Unconventional Warfare (UW)
September 28, 2016.
"Enabling Unconventional Warfare to Address Grey Zone Conflicts",
Small Wars Journal.
March 7, 2016.
"Proposal of an Unconventional Warfare Strategy to Dominate the Human
Domain", by Carole N. House, Small Wars Journal.
January 14, 2016.
"Special Operations and the Challenge of Working in the "Gray Zone",
January 1, 2016.
Unconventional Warfare in the Gray Zone, by Joseph Votel,
Charles Cleveland, Charles Connett, and Will Irwin.
December 29, 2015. "Congress Has Embraced Unconventional
Warfare: Will the US Military and the Rest of the US Government?",
Small Wars Journal, December 29, 2015. The NDAA of 2016 directs
SECDEF to develop a strategy to counter UW being conducted by
adversaries of the U.S.
May 25, 2015. "The Need to Understand and Conduct UW".
Small Wars Journal. Interview of retired Special Forces Colonel David S. Maxwell by Octavian Manea.
February 9, 2015.
"How to Win Covert Wars". by Richard L. Russel, The National
Interest. The author points to the inexpensive use of covert
operations to accomplish national objectives - saving money and lives.
October 24, 2014.
"Give (unconventional) war a chance". The Strategist.
October 23, 2014. "Do We Really Understand
Unconventional Warfare?", by David s. Maxwell, Small Wars Journal.
October 2014. Unconventional warfare and strategic
optionality, The Strategist Blog. The author states that successful
UW sometimes requires boots on the ground of SOF operators to ensure
that your strategic goals are met; using the examples of early OEF and
September 8, 2014. "Send in the Guerrillas", Foreign
Policy Magazine. In a world where our enemies don't wear uniforms,
our allies don't have to, either. Available
February 4, 2013. "Pakistani Unconventional Warfare
Against Afghanistan: A Case Study of the Taliban as an Unconventional
Warfare Proxy Force", by Douglas A. Livermore. Posted on Small Wars
http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/pakistani-. . . UW
October 31, 2013. "Thoughts on the Future of Special
Operations: A Return to the Roots - Adapted for the Future", Small
Wars Journal, by David S. Maxwell. The author, a retired SF 0-6,
argues " . . . that the future of Special Operations rests in a thorough
understanding of its fundamental and traditional missioins and then
adapting sound, tried and true, and still relevant historical doctrine,
mission sets, and tactics, techniques, and procedures for the uncertain
future operating environment".
August 12, 2013. "Unconventional Warfare Does Not Belong
to Special Forces", War On The Rocks, blog
post by COL (Ret) David Maxwell refines thinking on SF role and UW.
January-February 2011. "Defining War," Special
Warfare, Jeffrey L. Hassler.
January 9, 2011.
The Need to Create an Unconventional Warfare Advanced Studies and
Training Center. John Cochran. Posted
here on Small Wars Journal.
April 25, 2010.
"Why Does Special Forces Train and Educate for Unconventional Warfare?"
COL Dave Maxwell, Small Wars Journal.
April 23, 2010.
"Do We Still Need Special Ops?" Robert Haddick, Foreign Policy.
March-April 2010. "The Great UW Debate," by COL David
Witty. Special Warfare. United States Army John F.
Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
"Developing a Common Understanding of Unconventional Warfare".
by Mark Grdovic. Joint Force Quarterly, issue 57, 2nd
quarter, 2010. (document posted on National Defense University website).
"Unconventional Warfare: The Missing Link in the Future of Land
Operations," Tony Balasevicius, Canadian Military Journal,
Volume 9, No 7.
November 13, 2008.
"Army Rethinks Unconventional Warfare". NAVYSEALS.com.
March 24, 2008.
"Unconventional Warfare in the 21st Century: US Surrogates, Terrorists and
Narcotrafficers". Signs of the Times. (a definite
December 2, 2008.
"Normalizing unconventional warfare". ISN.
November 12, 2008.
"Army Rethinks Unconventional Warfare". Secrecy News.
January 15, 2008.
"Conventional vs. Unconventional Warfare". ChronWatch.
"Support grows for standing up an unconventional warfare command". by Sean D. Naylor. Armed Forces Journal.
"Special Operators Criticized for Snubbing Unconventional Approaches". National Defense.
"UW Support to Irregular Warfare and the Global War on Terrorism". Special Warfare Magazine, pg 12. (Adobe Acrobat pdf file).
"Naval Unconventional Warfare: Supporting GWOT on the Cheap".
By Chris Rawley, Excerpted from Small Wars Journal, Volume 7.
July-August 2006. "UW/FID and Why Words Matter," Special
Warfare, MAJ D. Jones.
March 18, 2005.
Joint and Interagency Unconventional Warfare Training Strategy for
Special Forces in the 21st Century", Colonel David G. Fox, US Army
War College Strategy Research Project.
April 11, 2004.
"Afghan duty offers ultimate in unconventional warfare". USA
April 9, 2002. Current Unconventional
Warfare Capability Versus Future War Requirements. LTC
Walter M. Herd, United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA,
here on Small Wars Journal.
"The Renaissance of Unconventional Warfare as an SF Mission",
Special Warfare Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 1, pages 16-21. (Adobe
Acrobat pdf file
March - April 2000. "Robin Sage: The
World's Foremost UW Exercise Turns 35", Special Warfare Magazine,
Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 14-20. (Adobe Acrobat pdf file located
Special Forces Missions: A Return to the Roots for a Vision of
the Future. by David S. Maxwell. Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas. Accessed on Small Wars Journal
1994. Unconventional Warfare and
the Principles of War. MAJ E. Deborah Elek, USMC.
CSC, 1994. Accessed here on Small Wars Journal.
"Unconventional Warfare in Communist Strategy". Foreign Affairs.
"Unconventional Warfare". Foreign Affairs.
April 4, 1961. A Basic Doctrine for the Conduct of
Unconventional Warfare, Franklin Lindsay.
"Unconventional Warfare during the Civil War - John S. Mosby's campaign
for the Shenandoah". MilitaryHistoryOnline.
"Guerrilla Warfare, Subversion, Espionage And The USMC".
Veterans of Special Forces.
"The MARSOC - Should the Leopard Change His Spots?". Veterans of
Undated. Special Forces at War in
SE Asia, 1957-1975, Shelby Stanton.
History of Unconventional Warfare
Jedburgh Teams During World War II in Europe
Jedburgh teams were infiltrated into Europe during WWII
prior to the invasion to organize resistance forces. These teams
were early practioners of unconventional warfare. See the
following references for more information.
Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of the 12th Army Group, August 1944,
by S.J. Lewis, Combat Studies Institute, published 1991. (document
found on soc.mil website).
Operation Jedburgh. Wikipedia.
Partisan Warfare in the Balkans During World War II
The Allies provided advisors, intelligence, equipment
and supplies to partisans fighting the Germans in the Balkans during
World War II. The partisans proved to be a constant irritation for
the Germans that drained fighting formations from the fight on both the
Eastern and Western fronts.
Partisan Warfare - A Treatise Based on Combat Experiences in the Balkans,
by Alexander Ratcliffe, Generalmajor a.D., Foreign Military Studies,
Historical Division, Headquarters US Army, Europe, MS # P-142, 1953.
Unconventional Warfare in the Pacific During World War II
The Pacific also saw unconventional or special operations types forces
utilized during World War II. These operations took place in
Burma, Philippines, and elsewhere. These units, along with their
counterparts in the European theater, would lay the foundation for the
establishment of special warfare capabilities within the CIA and Special
Forces in the 1950s.
Paddock, Alfred H. Jr. "American Guerrilla: A Review",
2010. A critique of a book by Mike Guardia. Article is
accessed on Small Wars Journal
Unconventional Warfare in
President Kennedy helped usher in a new phase of unconventional warfare
training for the United States Army. He recognized the changing nature
of warfare in a speech before graduating cadets at West Point on June 6,
"This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its
origin - war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins war by
ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression,
seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging
him. It is a form of warfare uniquely adapted to what has been strangely
called "wars of liberation," to undermine the efforts of new and poor
countries to maintain the freedom that they have finally achieved. It
preys on economic unrest and ethnic conflicts. It requires in those
situations where we must counter it, and these are the kinds of
challenges that will be before us in the next decade if freedom is to be
saved, a whole new kind of strategy, a wholly different kind of force,
and therefore, a new and wholly different kind of military training".
Although the U.S. Army Special Forces
had already existed as a unit (since 1952) his embrace of Special Forces
and its UW mission accelerated and expanded the growth of SF units and
Unconventional Warfare (UW) as an Activity of Irregular Warfare (IW)
Sometimes the concept of Irregular Warfare (IW) is confused with
Unconventional Warfare (UW). Unconventional Warfare is one of the
five principle or core activities of Irregular Warfare. The other four
principle IW activities are Foreign Internal Defense (FID),
Counterinsurgency (COIN), Counterterrorism (CT), and Stability
Operations. IW is not an approved, official U.S. military doctrine
but is best described in
Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept, Version 2.0, dated
May 17, 2010 (Adobe Acrobat PDF file). The document mentioned
above (IW JOC) provides us with a description of Unconventional Warfare
(pages 23-24) within the context of Irregular Warfare. See an
extract of the document at the following link
IW JOC Definition of UW.
Proxies and Unconventional Warfare
The use of surrogates or proxies as a component of unconventional
warfare has a long history. Using surrogates can offer a cloak as to who
is behind the action but there is the strong possibility of 'blowback'.
Unconventional Warfare and the Gray
In 2015, the special operations community rolled out a
new term to describe the space between peace and war. While there are a
number of terms - such as unconventional warfare, political warfare,
hybrid warfare, low intensity conflict, etc. - none seem to fit the
needs of the SOF world in describing where they operate short of
Project Gray - US Army Special Operations Center of
Special Forces Training