Close Air Support

Since about 1943, US troops have come to expect Close Air Support on call, often virtually around the clock.


All close air support has to be controlled by an observer on  the ground, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), what used to be known as a Forward Air Controller.

In the old days (that is, back when I was in the service) the artillery provided Forward Observers and Fire Support Teams to maneuver battalions, and the Air Force provided Tactical Air Control Parties to brigades and battalions. The Army guys would control artillery, and the Air Force guys would control Close Air Support. To some extent, that’s still true. But increasingly, the division of labor is being broken down so Army troops can be qualified as JTACs and serve as the controller for air strikes.

4 thoughts on “Close Air Support”

  1. Awesome vid. I’ve always wondered what the guys on the ground when under fire, must think of seeing the “devil’s cross” come in for a much needed gun run.

  2. That Army guy that can work CAS is called a Joint Fires Observer, or JFO. He can go to the JFO course and then be authorized to coordinate for CAS. I think he can only provide type 2 or type 3 CAS, which means he is giving information to a JTAC that is probably at BN level, who is actually the guy talking to the aircraft, but in 2/3 the JTAC does not need to see the aircraft or the target. It is relatively easy to get a couple of your fire supporters to JFOC, but it is hard to keep them certified because they have to observe (and by observe, obviously I mean control) a live drop annually.
    Below are the joint-service definitions for CAS. We prefer type 1.

    Type I CAS is the traditional nine-line brief with close control required
    by the terminal controller. Pilots may not release a weapon until the
    controller gains visual contact with the aircraft and clears the drop.
    – Type II support is less restrictive and is most useful during poor weather
    conditions or at night. It assumes the terminal controller may or may not be
    able to see the target, but can pass accurate coordinates to pilots who
    have the ability to attack the target without seeing it. The controller
    coordinates with the attacking aircrew to ensure as best he can that the
    right target is being struck. He still passes clearance to engage, albeit
    without seeing the aircraft.
    – Type III is the least restrictive kind of support. Aircraft are given clearance
    to engage targets that are not in direct contact with friendly forces and that
    are beyond certain geographic boundaries, although other parameters or
    restrictions may apply depending on the situation. The aircrews are left to
    find the targets on their own while the terminal controller monitors their
    activity; clearance from the controller is not required for the attacking
    aircraft to engage.

  3. I went to FO course, but was never an FO, I just went to the course cuz there was an open billet, and I volunteered for everything, thing I noticed, is that the FO’s who have to do it regularly got that CRAP DOWN! I’m pretty good at math, and parallel language, but the FO language and arty language is so distinct as to almost be to the point that they were almost born with the language and the maths (3 of them IIRC)

    I remember a couple of old schoolers saying that Until the A-10, the only Close Support aircraft worth mentioning is the Corsair, but I don’t know, I soldered in a connex.

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