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Air liaison officer


An air liaison officer (ALO) is a specialized military officer responsible for coordinating air support with ground forces during a mission. They act as the primary point of contact between air and ground units, ensuring effective communication, planning, and execution of aerial operations. ALOs play a vital role in mission success by providing crucial information and guidance to both aircrew and ground personnel.

Key Takeaways

  1. An Air Liaison Officer (ALO) serves as a critical link between ground combat forces and air-supporting elements, effectively coordinating air power in military operations.
  2. ALOs are responsible for planning, integrating, and executing air support missions, such as close air support, air interdiction, and reconnaissance, greatly enhancing a force’s overall operational effectiveness.
  3. As a subject matter expert, the ALO advises ground commanders on the capabilities and limitations of air assets, while also providing critical feedback to the air component about the ground situation, thus facilitating real-time decision-making in dynamic operational environments.


The role of an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) is crucial in military operations because they serve as the essential link between ground forces and air support, ensuring seamless communication, coordination, and execution of air missions in support of ground objectives.

ALOs possess in-depth knowledge of both ground and air capabilities, tactics, and procedures, enabling them to bridge the gap between two distinct units and facilitate effective decision-making for joint operations.

They are responsible for planning and integrating air assets, advising ground commanders on the best use of air resources, and enhancing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the combined mission.

Hence, an Air Liaison Officer plays a critical role in maximizing the joint force’s combat potential, contributing to the accomplishment of mission objectives, and increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome in various military operations.


The purpose of an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) is to serve as a vital link between the ground force commander and supporting air component commander in military operations. By acting as the primary conduit for communication, coordination, and integration of air assets, the ALO ensures that the air support is tailored to the specific needs of the ground forces. This symbiotic relationship enables a more efficient and effective use of air support, allowing ground commanders to leverage the advantages of air power in various missions, including close air support, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and air mobility.

The ALO also facilitates real-time information sharing and rapid decision-making in both planning and execution of operations, enhancing the overall joint interoperability of the forces. In order to perform their duties, Air Liaison Officers possess a thorough understanding of both ground and air operations across a wide spectrum, ranging from small unit tactics to joint operational planning. Their expertise enables ALOs to advise ground commanders on how to best employ air assets and to provide timely updates on available air support.

They are also responsible for ensuring the accuracy and clarity of the air requests submitted by ground units. To that end, ALOs work closely with other elements, such as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Tactical Air Control Parties, to facilitate seamless coordination in the heat of battle. Ultimately, the effectiveness of an ALO’s efforts directly contributes to the success of the mission and can be a strategic game-changer on the battlefield.

Examples of Air liaison officer

Operation Desert Storm (1991): During the Gulf War, Air Liaison Officers (ALOs) played a crucial role in coordinating air support with ground forces. One notable example was the 1991 Battle of Khafji, where ALOs helped coordinate airstrikes to support the coalition forces against Iraqi troops. This showcased the importance of communication and collaboration between the air and ground forces, which ultimately contributed to the decisive victory for the coalition.

Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014): During the war in Afghanistan, Air Liaison Officers ensured effective communication and coordination between air and ground elements, supporting combat operations in a complex and challenging environment. ALOs embedded with Army and Marine Corps units helped orchestrate close air support and surveillance operations to target and disrupt enemy forces, contributing to the overall success of the operation.

Operation Inherent Resolve (2014-Present): In the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Air Liaison Officers have continued to demonstrate their importance in modern military operations. They work closely with ground force commanders to integrate air power into the overall strategy, allowing for more precise and effective airstrikes on enemy targets. A notable example is the 2016 liberation of Mosul in Iraq, where ALOs played a critical role in coordinating air support during the operation to retake the city from ISIS control.

Air Liaison Officer (ALO) FAQ

What is an Air Liaison Officer (ALO)?

An Air Liaison Officer (ALO) is a United States Air Force officer responsible for coordinating air support with ground forces. ALOs act as a bridge between the air and ground units, facilitating communication, planning, and execution of joint military operations.

What are the duties of an Air Liaison Officer?

An Air Liaison Officer is responsible for advising ground commanders on the capabilities and limitations of air support, coordinating air support requests, ensuring effective communication between ground and air units, providing guidance on targeting and mission priorities, and aiding in post-mission debriefs and assessments of air support effectiveness.

How is an Air Liaison Officer selected and trained?

Air Liaison Officers are United States Air Force officers who are chosen based on their knowledge, experience, and leadership qualities. Upon selection, they undergo extensive training that includes Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) instruction, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) familiarization, and courses on air support, air operations, and communication systems.

What rank do Air Liaison Officers typically hold?

Air Liaison Officers typically hold the rank of Captain (O-3) or higher. Occasionally, experienced First Lieutenants (O-2) may be selected for ALO duties, but they usually have to demonstrate exceptional skills and aptitude in air-ground operations and communications.

Which branches of the military do Air Liaison Officers work with?

Air Liaison Officers primarily work with the United States Air Force and Army, but they may also coordinate with the United States Marine Corps, Navy, and other coalition partners during joint military operations. Their role is essential in ensuring seamless integration between air and ground forces in complex tactical environments.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Joint terminal attack controller (JTAC)
  • Tactical air control party (TACP)
  • Close air support (CAS)
  • Forward air controller (FAC)
  • Airspace coordination area (ACA)

Sources for More Information