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Forward air controller (airborne) (FAC(A))

Definition A Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC(A) is a qualified military officer stationed in an aircraft who is responsible for coordinating the actions of ground and air elements with respect to mechanized warfare. The primary function of a FAC(A) is to direct air strikes and support ground forces during military operations. They communicate and […]

Definition

A Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC(A) is a qualified military officer stationed in an aircraft who is responsible for coordinating the actions of ground and air elements with respect to mechanized warfare. The primary function of a FAC(A) is to direct air strikes and support ground forces during military operations. They communicate and cooperate with other military units to ensure accurate delivery of air firepower on enemy targets.

Key Takeaways

  1. A Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC(A) is a specially qualified pilot onboard an aircraft who is responsible for coordinating the actions of ground attack aircraft to ensure air support is directed towards the correct targets on the battlefield. This often involves a close collaboration with ground units.
  2. The FAC(A)’s primary duties include communication with ground forces, determining target locations, coordination of air resources, and adjustment of artillery fire. As the airborne eyes of the ground commander, they maintain situational awareness of the battlefield and ensure the safety of friendly forces during close-air-support missions.
  3. Notably, the utilization of FAC(A)s enhances the effectiveness of air-ground operations by significantly reducing response times for air support, improving precision in terms of target identification and hit accuracy, and reducing the risk of friendly fire incidents. This role is therefore critical in modern warfare where the timely and accurate delivery of air support can greatly influence the outcome of a conflict.

Importance

The military operations term “Forward Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC(A))” is crucial because it refers to a specialist pilot responsible for guiding and coordinating air attacks from a forward position in an aircraft, overseeing a designated area on the battlefield.

The FAC(A) identifies and verifies targets, communicates their locations to strike aircraft and ground forces, and controls the strike’s timing and direction.

This critical role enhances the accuracy, effectiveness, and safety of air operations, reducing the risk of friendly fire and collateral damage, while ensuring the most effective use of air assets in supporting ground operations.

Explanation

The Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC(A) serves a critical role in military operations, particularly in facilitating coordinated air-ground combat. Their primary purpose is to direct airstrikes on enemy targets that ground forces have identified, ensuring a precise, effective, and safe application of airpower.

As airborne specialists, they are often positioned in light observation or attack aircrafts, and they have an optimized view of the battlefield which makes them effective in locating and verifying ground targets. FAC(A)s are not just used for direct combat operations, but also in surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

They gather and provide crucial intelligence about enemy positions, movements, and capabilities, thereby equipping ground forces with the necessary information for strategizing and planning. Additionally, they function as relays between ground forces and the command chain, ensuring both the operational efficiency and safety of the ground troops.

Due to their vital function, FAC(A)s undergo rigorous training to gain proficiency in various areas such as flight navigation, communication, and target identification amidst complex and adverse conditions.

Examples of Forward air controller (airborne) (FAC(A))

Operation Desert Storm (1991): During this operation, the U.S. Air Force used airborne forward air controllers (FAC(A)) in their A-10 Thunderbolt II and OA-10 aircraft. Their role was to identify and mark enemy targets ahead of the main force, ensuring successful strikes and minimal collateral damage. The pilots of these aircraft used infrared markers and laser designators to direct coalition aircraft towards their targets. This operation saw one of the most extensive uses of FAC(A) in modern warfare.

Vietnam War (1955-1975): Airborne forward air controllers played a significant role, often flying small, slow aircrafts to identify enemy forces and direct air strikes onto them. They operated in many significant battles, including the Tet Offensive. These FAC(A) missions often faced heavy anti-aircraft fire and had high casualty rates.

Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014): In Afghanistan, FAC(A) were used extensively by the US and its allies to coordinate air strikes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets. Due to the rugged terrain and lack of advanced communication infrastructure on the ground, airborne controllers proved invaluable for directing precision strikes and providing close air support for the ground forces. Each FAC(A) team consisted of a pilot and a combat systems officer who liaised with ground troops and used a variety of sensors to identify enemy targets.

FAQ Section: Forward Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC(A))

What is a Forward Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC(A))?

A Forward Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC(A)) is a qualified aviator tasked with directing aircraft engaged in close air support of ground troops. The FAC(A) operates from the air, providing a bird’s eye view of the battlefield and coordinating the activities of combat aircraft in the area.

What are the responsibilities of a FAC(A)?

The FAC(A) is responsible for ensuring friendly troops are safe during close air support operations. They must differentiate between enemy and friendly forces, give clearance for an air attack, and provide any additional tactical information to the pilots in the air.

How is a FAC(A) different from a regular FAC?

While both FACs and FAC(A)s have the job of directing air operations, their main difference lies in their location. A FAC operates from a ground location and communicates directly with aircraft in flight, while a FAC(A) performs their role from an airborne platform. This airborne perspective gives the FAC(A) an ability to mark targets and assess post-strike damage from a vantage point not accessible to a ground-based FAC.

What type of training is required for a FAC(A)?

FAC(A) personnel undergo a rigorous and comprehensive training program. This includes, but is not limited to, joint fire observer training, air weapons delivery training, and battlefield air operations training. Through these various trainings, they learn how to precisely coordinate air strikes and minimize the risk of friendly fire while maximizing operational effectiveness.

Related Military Operation Terms



  • Airborne Command and Control
  • Combat Air Support
  • Air Strike Coordination
  • Target Designation
  • Tactical Air Navigation


Sources for More Information

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