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Coalition forces strengthen close air support capabilities

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

A joint coalition force recently trained together at Udairi Range, Kuwait, Oct. 20, 2021.


U.S. Air Force tactical air control party (TACP) Airmen deployed to the 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, along with the U.S. Army 1st Battalion 194th Armor Regiment joint fires observers (JFOs) in-training, and the Italian air force (Aeronautica Militare) Task Group Typhoon practiced close air support, fostering enduring partnerships and advancing its decisive combat dominance.


“While all military training carries inherent risk, close air support by its very nature is significantly riskier,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Hansen, 82nd EASOS joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) program manager and director of operations. “The use of aircraft to deliver munitions in close proximity to friendly ground forces requires detailed integration and skilled proficiency in carefully timed procedures. Steps must be taken to keep both the aircraft and ground personnel safe. Any added variables, such as marking with ground fire or a language barrier, requires even more attention to detail. Our training at Udairi Range offers JTACs, JFOs, aircrew and maneuver elements the opportunity to successfully negotiate these obstacles in a controlled environment to build proficiency in these skill sets.”

U.S. Air Force joint terminal attack controllers are TACPs who specialize in the use of combat aircraft to engage in close air support (CAS) and other air operations from a forward position. Together, coordinating with the Army JFOs and the Italian aircrew above, their communication and teamwork is honed for accuracy.


“All of these individual elements create noise,” said Hansen. “The JTAC's role is that of the conductor: controlling and directing ‘noise’ in such a way so that it creates music. Specific locations, specific munitions, precise timing and attack geometries, all are carefully weighed and balanced by the JTAC so that the supported ground commander can call upon any and all joint fires and receive massed precision strikes, on time and on target.”

This teamwork enhances communication proficiency between coalition partners in a combative scenario.


“We are very happy about this training and being able to work with the American JTACs,” said Italian Air Force Capt. Andrea “LEGO” Task Group Typhoon pilot. “This training is very important for the U.S. and our unit to improve these different tactics and techniques. I look forward to sharing more information and hope we can continue this training in the future.”


The JTAC coordinates with the aircraft and determines targets while the JFOs acts as augmentees to JTACs, releasing targeting data to them. 


“All of our soldiers here are forward observers and some are certified JFOs,” said U.S. Army Capt. David Stolhanske, 1-94 AR battalion fire support officer. “We’re taking advantage of this time to get our FOs the training and experience in the field as joint fires observers. This is the tenth time coming out here with Maj. Hansen. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train in CAS out here and it’s been a wonderful opportunity for us.”

The interoperability between joint and coalition partners enhances the capabilities these assets can provide in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.


“It's been an incredible experience to work with and watch our Army counterparts gain and maintain proficiency in these skills,” said Hansen. “To be able to add the experience of working so closely with our Italian allies on a weekly basis is truly rewarding. Each month together has allowed us to push our training further: from initial CAS flow, to night operations, kinetic marks and even more advanced techniques such as ground-based lasing munitions. We've been fortunate enough to execute live-fire training events, that are typically only accomplished in a simulator, thanks to the efforts of U.S. and coalition partners, military and civilian alike.”