In a further attempt to modernize and increase the effectiveness of its ground forces, the Air Force has created a new Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training unit.
The primary mission of Det 2, 6th Combat Training Squadron, will be to streamline training and create a standardized pipeline in the TACP career field.
The best-known duty of TACP operators is to coordinate close air support (CAS) in the battlefield as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) – more popularly known as putting “warheads on foreheads.”
The more important update in the TACP pipeline will be its shortening from the current 18 months to just 21 weeks. The Air Force predicts that this will result in approximately 270 fully qualified TACP operators every year, as opposed to the current number of 220 partially qualified TACP operators. Moreover, the enhanced pipeline will lessen the burden from operational squadrons, which had to put fresh TACP operators assigned to them through a qualification training that was necessary for the operators to be considered deployable.
Air Force Captain Daniel Hill, the commander of the new unit, said in the release that “it is evident that as the battlefield changes and our adversaries increase their capabilities, so must the TACP. The activation of this unit will increase readiness and lethality of the Air Force special warfare TACP, and optimize advanced skills training and education to ensure a full spectrum, high end and fully qualified focused force ready to meet combatant commander’s requirements.”
“Ultimately, this stand-up is going to produce lethal and more survivable joint terminal attack controllers by the end of it for combatant commanders to make their decisions and be able to utilize in the future,” added Lieutenant Colonel James Kappes, the operations officer of the 6th CTS.
Despite these changes, TACP will still have a separate selection once the Special Warfare career field launches. In the new Special Warfare career field, which will encompass the Pararescue (PJ), Combat Control (CCT), Special Reconnaissance (SR), and TACP Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) – currently, these are separate career fields – the initial selection process (Assessment & Selection) will be the same for all except TACP candidates. Thereafter, successful candidates will follow the respective schools of their assigned AFSC. The primary reason for not including TACP in the combined Special Warfare selection is the lack of a universal water confidence requirement in the TACP career field.
Currently, TACP operators assigned to Special Tactics Squadrons, that is, supporting SOF units, do undergo water confidence training. But the majority of TACP operators support conventional units and thus don’t need to be too proficient in the water.