Interesting article on the state of FAC (A) in the US. A friend shared it and mentioned that the Royal Australian Air Force has Number 4 Squadron, which trains and deploys FAC (A), JTAC and Combat Control Teams. Their FAC (A) fly in Pilatus PC-9s, not too far removed from our Harvard IIs. If we had the will to do so, it wouldn't be a big leap to start up our version of 4 SQN.https://www.airforce.gov.au/About-us/Structure-of-the-RAAF/Air-Command/Air-Combat-Group/No.-82-Wing/No.-4-Squadron/?RAAF-KIY1qKx9otX0oDRS/4M9ZvVqsJePmMLM
A downed pilot or dislocated friendly servicemember is sighted and being closed on by an overwhelming enemy force. Suddenly, coordinated airstrikes rain down to avert the enemy and protect the friendly position. This is the result of one of the most misunderstood and under-used military instruments of airpower — the airborne forward air controller. Distinguished from his ground-based brethren by an appended “(A)” for airborne, the FAC(A) is the airborne equivalent of a joint terminal air controller (JTAC). Both the JTAC and FAC(A) can nominate and mark targets, de-conflict airspace, relay critical ground schemes of maneuver, and authorize airstrikes — all for the purpose of synergizing the ground and air attack team. One does it from the ground, while the other performs it from the air.https://warontherocks.com/2017/03/21st-century-forward-air-control-the-roots-to-rebuild/
The Air Force has the equipment, know-how, and no shortage of targets to use this skillset — yet this tool remains in its box gathering rust. With “far more mission than Air Force today” and a growing pilot shortage, some might conclude that this derivative mission should be retired. This is dead wrong.
The brewing idea by the Air Force to rapidly procure 250 to 300 two-seat OA-X aircraft to perform light attack missions could be a welcome springboard to rejuvenate the FAC(A) mission, but it also has the potential to wreak havoc on manning. Beyond the highly publicized pilot shortage crisis, there is an even worse shortage of fighter weapons system officers, those who fly in the backseats of the B-1, F-15E, and F-18D/F. It may be possible to kill three birds with one stone by simultaneously providing an increase in force structure tailored for irregular conflicts, alleviating the shortage of fighter aviators, and restoring FAC(A) capability to the combat air force.