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Forward Air Controller

By Capt. Jesus Campuzano
First published in
SFOR Informer #76

Trebinje - A pair of F-16 aircraft fly over the southern part of Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH). "Here Bullfighter three - your target is three hundred meters north of crossroads on your track," called the Forward Air Controller (FAC) through the radio set. "Bullfighter three, I see four big hangars outside the village. Confirm?" "Roger. It's all yours". "Roger - coming in". This is just a hypothetical example of an aircraft controlled from the ground.

SFOR counts on the Air Support provided by the Joint Air Forces Component Command (JAFCC) of the NATO Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH). One of the capabilities of this Air Support is Close Air Support (CAS), which is an air action against hostile ground targets in close proximity to friendly forces. Each mission requires detailed integration with the fire and movement of friendly supported ground forces. This is the mission assigned to the Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP).

"Our TACP is a five man team, all from the Spanish Air Force. The key man of the Team is the Forward Air Controller (FAC), who has the responsibility of performing CAS terminal attack control in close coordination with the ground forces. The TACP also has the mission to support and advise the ground commander about the use of air support," explained Spanish Capt. Santiago Ibarreta Ruiz, leader of TACP Bullfighter three, who works in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the Multinational Division South-East.

"Fortunately, we have not had to act in a real situation so far, but almost everyday we train in the field with the NATO aircraft flying over BiH. Usually, we choose uninhabited areas for practice with the planes to avoid inconveniences to the local population. These exercises make the procedures run smoothly. We train with NATO aicraft regardless of its nationality. This also helps us and the pilots improve our knowledge of the terrain. The purpose of all this is to keep the air support system always ready to SFOR forces," said Ruiz.

Related Link: Spain