Army JTAC training—the way ahead

Army JTAC training—the way ahead

Steven P. Milliron

As the Army transforms, one of the key challenges will be to train and qualify a core of Soldiers to employ joint surface-to-surface and air-to-surface supporting fires. These personnel will be integral to the Army’s new modular organizations and must be skilled in delivering artillery, naval surface fire support (NSFS), attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, the latter providing close air support (CAS).


As the Chief of Staff of the Army stated in the white paper, “An Army at War–A Campaign Quality Army with a Joint and Expeditionary Mindset” (March 2004). “All of our modular solutions depend on enabling even our smallest combat formations to leverage joint fires through … ‘joint effects control teams.’ To facilitate more effective employment of close air support in a noncontiguous battlespace, we need universal standards for observation, designation and target acquisition.”

Effective 3 September 2003 with the publishing of Joint Publication (JP) 309.3 Tactics. Techniques and Procedures (TTP) for Close Air Support, the joint community codified the requirements for an individual to direct the actions of combat aircraft engaged in CAS and other air operations. This position, called a “joint terminal attack controller,” or JTAC, was created to standardize the certification and qualification process for terminal attack controllers to ensure a common capability across the services. The Army needs to develop Soldiers who, from a forward position, can deliver joint indirect fires and direct the actions of joint combat aircraft engaged in operations in close proximity to friendly forces.

The training and development requirements set forth in JP 3-09.3 and the soon-to-be-signed JTAC Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Army and Air Force are clear: a JTAC candidate must complete the service academic and practical training requirements of a core JTAC curriculum and undergo a comprehensive evaluation.

To begin training Army JTACs, we will have to leverage one of the established JTAC schools: the Air Ground Operations School (AGOS) at Nellis AFB, Nevada; Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic Fleet (EWTGLANT) at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, Virginia; USMC Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific Fleet (EWTGPAC) at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base, California; and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) at Fallon Naval Air Station, Nevada.

The Army must establish a standardization program, build an Army JTAC curriculum, identify the Army candidates to become JTACs, equip Army JTACs and provide resources to the school that will train Army JTACs. This article addresses those requirements for creating a core of Army JTACs–which is the way ahead.

Army JTAC Standardization Program. Before the Army qualifies its first JTAC, we must have a document that establishes the regulatory requirements for Army JTACs. At a minimum, it must address personnel entry qualifications; content and maintenance of individual JTAC training records; the certification, qualification, currency and proficiency training to attain and maintain JTAC status; and the process to be certified as a JTAC instructor. The document must be similar to the “Air Force Instruction 13-112 Terminal Attack Controller Training Program” to ensure consistency of JTAC training and development cross the services and provide the appropriate policies and responsibilities to enable Army JTAC training.

Army JTAC Curriculum. The curriculums at the four established school-houses train personnel who are already familiar with CAS operations and the terminal control of CAS aircraft. These are Air Force enlisted terminal attack controllers (ETACs) and special tactics team personnel; Marine Corps flight officers serving as ground forward air controllers (FACs); Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) personnel; and Air Force. Navy and Marine Corps forward air controllers (airborne), called FAC(As).

Currently, none of these curriculums are sufficient to qualify Army JTAC to serve as a terminal air controller. We must create a new curriculum to supplement the Army JTAC candidate’s knowledge in the CAS mission area.

Terminal Attack Controller’s Course (TACC). This three-week course at AGOS provides academic and hands-on instruction to Air Force JTAC candidates. The training consists of classroom instruction on service doctrine, the theater air-ground system (TAGS), CAS mission planning and control, integrated combat airspace command and control, aircraft capabilities and limitations, weapons effects, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) and other subjects. It also provides simulation training in terminal control, as well as a minimum of four live, graded controls at the National Training center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California.

But TACC is only one part of a three-part training regimen for Air Force JTACs. Air Force JTAC candidates progress from Initial Qualification Training (home station and TACC) through Mission Qualification Training (home station) to Combat Mission Ready status. The Air Force JTAC receives his home station training under the supervision of a terminal air control instructor (TAC-I) during both Initial and Mission Qualification Training in accordance with the tasks listed in “Air Force Instruction 13-112” (See Figure 1 on Page 52). The Air Force JTAC eventually is rated as Combat Mission Ready when he passes a formal performance evaluation conducted by a TAC-I and is signed off on by the JTAC’s unit commander signs.

Army JTAC Qualification Course (JTACQC). TACC provides an excellent core of instruction for the eventual qualification of an Army JTAC. With the addition of two weeks of training, TACC can provide the foundation for a JTACQC.

The Army Joint Support Team-Nellis has developed a plan to train Army JTACs at AGOS (see Figure 2 on Page 53). This proposal has four phases: Phase I Initial Certification Training, Phase II Certification Training, Phase III Advanced Certification Training and Phase IV Mission Qualification Evaluation. In accordance with the proposal, the Army JTAC will be fully mission qualified after he completes the training and passes a formal performance evaluation by a TAC-I, as “signed off” by the Army JTAC’s unit commander.

* Phase I Initial Certification Training certifies an Army JTAC in basic controller duties and validates his ability to serve as an Army JTAC. The training consists of five days of introductory academics at AGOS on the tasks listed in Figure 2 as well as supervised simulated CAS controls provided by a TAC-I. Completing Phase I to standard is mandatory for advancing to Phase II. This first week of training provides the knowledge base required for TACC in Phase II.

* Phase II Certification Training consists of the three-week TACC at AGOS. This teaches the Army JTAC the joint mission tasks associated with the CAS mission area and provides the fundamentals for planning and executing CAS operations. This phase uses the indirect fire and forward air control trainer (I-FACT) simulator to provide hands-on training in calls-for-fire and terminal control procedures. It also includes four supervised live controls at the NTC. Successful completion of Phase II is mandatory for Phase III.

* Phase III Advanced Certification Training certifies an individual as an Army JTAC. It consists of one week of advanced classroom instruction and field academics coupled with additional supervised and graded live and simulated terminal attack control missions conducted at AGOS and the NTC.

It focuses on CAS practical exercises (PEs) using I-FACT. The PEs are comprehensive training on CAS planning, coordination and execution and designed to have Army JTAC candidates demonstrate the correct TTP for various types of CAS controls. The PEs also allow the Army JTAC candidate to rehearse a mission before conducting it live.

In addition to the advanced PEs, the Army JTAC candidates conduct eight supervised live controls using both fixed-and rotary-wing aircraft in all three control types.

* Phase IV Mission Qualification Evaluation at home station are conducted by Air Force TAC-Is from the local Air Force air support operations squadron (ASOS) until the Army can qualify TAC-Is (takes two or more years). In the absence of a standardization and evaluation capability within the Army, Army JTACs will depend on Air Force TAC-Is to provide any additional training as part of the local “top off” and eventual rating as fully mission qualified.

After the Army JTAC candidate completes a unit training program developed in conjunction with the local ASOS, the ASOS’ standardization and qualification section administers the formal performance evaluation and provides the Army JTAC’s commander a recommendation that as to whether or not he should sign off that the Army JTAC is fully mission qualified.

At this point, if the commander signs off, then the candidate is an Army JTAC, fully qualified to perform unsupervised terminal attack control of CAS missions.

Army JTAC Personnel. The Army must identify the personnel to perform the terminal control function. The Army Joint Support Team-Nellis recommends that the Army use an already established military occupational specialty (MOS). The logical choice is the FA 13F Fire Support Specialist. Already trained in delivering artillery and naval surface fires, 13Fs have the requisite base of knowledge and, more importantly, are best located on the battlefield to control CAS.

However, because we will not “grow”. Army JTACs out of 13F basic training and through their initial utilization tours, we have to establish minimum entry standards to offset the Soldiers’ lack of experience in the CAS mission area.

The Army Joint Support Team-Nellis has developed proposed standards for individuals to become Army JTAC candidates. Unit commanders designate 13Fs or specified 18 series (special operations) for entry into Phase I JTAC training who are at least staff sergeant (or above) and serving in an operational company, battalion, brigade or regiment, to include Ranger and Special Operations Forces (SOF), or an organization that provides direct support to ground maneuver forces. The individual must have a minimum of 48 months of operational experience in his duty MOS and have served a minimum of 12 months as a company fire support NCO (FSNCO), combat observation lasing team (COLT) chief or as a member of an operational detachment alpha (OD-A). In addition, the 13F JTAC candidate must have a minimum of a Secret clearance, normal color vision, vision correctable to 20/20, a General Test (GT) score of at least 105 and an English comprehension of Level III or higher.

Once the Army JTAC candidate completes Phase II of the JTAC training, he must serve in a JTAC-coded position with a minimum of two years’ retainability.

If the Army creates a “universal observer” who provides targeting information and terminal guidance rather than terminal control, then the optimum progression would be from universal observer to JTAC, if the universal observer meets the minimum entry requirements.

Equipping the Army JTAC. Performing the CAS control mission will require more than just an FM radio. The Army JTAC will need a communications suite that provides both voice and data in UHF, VHF, HF plus satellite communications (SATCOM). He will need target acquisition, marking and coordinate generation capabilities and interoperable information management tools that will expedite and increase the accuracy of air power and maintain situational awareness.

Although the Army is lagging in determining what equipment is required, both the Air Force and Marine Corps have equipment proposals the Army could leverage. In the end, if the Army wants to develop JTACs, then it will have to commit to providing the appropriate equipment for the mission.

Army Resource Support for AGOS. The Army will have to dedicate personnel and other resources to conduct Army JTAC training at AGOS. The small contingent of Army personnel in Army Joint Support Team-Nellis at AGOS (three instructors) are not qualified as TAC-Is.

With a student-to-teacher ratio of 3:1, AGOS can train 12 Air Force JTACs per course. For AGOS to increase the throughput of both Army and Air Force JTACs from 12 to 24 (assuming the Air Force continues to train 12 JTACs and the Army trains 12) the Army will have to provide, at a minimum, four additional instructors. With the addition of four 13F30/40s who would be trained as JTACs and, with a waiver from the Commander of Joint Force Command (JFCOM), qualified as TAC-Is, AGOS could sustain the student-to-teacher ratio and meet the student training requirements in less than six months.

For an Army JTAC to leave AGOS certified after Phase III, the JTAC candidate must conduct 12 live, graded controls successfully. As defined in the pending JTAC MOA, a “control” consists of at least one aircraft attacking a surface target. The control begins with a CAS briefing (9-line is the JP 3-09.3 standard) from a JTAC and ends with either an actual or simulated weapons release or an abort on the final attack run. No more than two controls can be counted per CAS briefing per target.

Based on Air Force Instruction 13-112’s definition of “controls,” AGOS currently counts one 9-line briefing as one control, regardless of the number of aircraft attacking the target on the same briefing. The JTAC MOA’s definition could effectively double the number of controls for JTAC students for every two or more aircraft attacking per 9-line briefing.

Using the 13-112’s definition and based on the average number of controls provided by two aircraft attacking per 9-line briefing and the average control attrition per TACC student. AGOS currently must provide 17 aircraft, or 34 sorties, for every 10 students to achieve four successful controls.

Applying the more lenient JTAC MOA criteria for a control and based on the same number of aircraft per 9-line briefing and JTAC student control attrition, AGOS would have to provide nine aircraft, or 18 sorties, for every 10 students to achieve four successful controls.

But even applying the more lenient control definition, the total number of sorties available still is insufficient to certify Army JTACs in the required 12 controls. The additional week of training for Army JTACs would allow them to use existing sorties and help offset the delta, but in the end, AGOS will need additional resources for this training proposal to work.

An important component of this training proposal is our ability to leverage Army aviation to help train JTACs at AGOS. Although the Army doesn’t conduct CAS operations with its rotary-wing fleet, it does perform close combat attack (CCA) operations using the same established procedures, e.g., the 9-line brief. If we want Army aircrews to be able to receive a 9-line from any JTAC on the battlefield and conduct attacks consistent with that information and, at the same time, develop JTACs (Army or Air Force) who can direct the actions of rotary-wing aircraft from a forward position, then logic dictates we train those personnel at the same time. Using Army rotary-wing aircraft to train JTACs provides resources for AGOS to train Army JTACs and develops more capable Air Force JTACs–a win-win situation for both services.

With the addition of four AH-64s or OH-58Ds helicopters to AGOS training, we not only would meet the requirements for training Army JTACs, but also provide joint synergy to better train Army aircrews and Air Force JTACS.

If we used Army rotary-wing aircraft for four of the 12 required controls, a JTAC candidate would only require eight fixed-wing controls. Eight fixed wing controls means AGOS would need 104 controls, which equates to about 18 flights of two aircraft, or 36 sorties. That is roughly the equivalent of what AGOS currently receives.

However, for this proposal to work, we must adjust the JTAC MOA to mandate a minimum of eight fixed-wing controls and four rotary-wing controls (vice the 12 fixed-wing controls) for certification.

This change remains consistent with the proposed JTAC MOA’s “Joint Mission Task List” for providing terminal air control for CAS missions: “Control day/night/adverse weather CAS missions fixed- and/or rotary-wing in support of the ground maneuver plan” (Duty Area 7. Subparagraphs 7.1 and 7.2). More importantly, this proposal falls within the intent of the JTAC MOA’s creation of a common standard for training JTACs across all services.

In an environment where the US armed services are seeking joint interdependence, the training program for JTACs could serve as a model. Ultimately, if we want to train Army JTACs at AGOS, the Army will have to reach into it rotary-wing fleet to make the training happen.

There is no joint mission area more contentions than CAS, so the expectation exists that many who read this article will disagree vehemently. However, for those who find issue, or for that matter, for those who agree, the intent of this article is to show just one way ahead for developing Soldiers who can safely and effectively employ joint surface-to-surface and air-to-surface supporting fires for the ground force.

Warfare is changing rapidly, and we must understand that jointness is the future. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 9 July 2003, one of the key lessons learned from recent operations is “the importance of jointness and the ability of US forces to fight, not as individual deconflicted services, but as a truly joint force–maximizing the power and lethality they bring to bear” [emphasis added].

In the end, Army JTACs only will supplement, not eliminate, the requirement for Air Force air power experts–Air Force air liaison officers (ALOs) and ETACs. These personnel will remain the cornerstone for planning and executing CAS in support of the ground commander’s scheme of maneuver.

However, fully mission capable Army JTACs will provide the Army an additional capability as well as increase the overall effectiveness of the tactical air control party (TACP) and air power in general.

Training Item Phase I Phase II

1. CAS Mission Preparation

a. Mission Planning B 3c

b. ATO Information B 3c

c. Weather B 3c

d. Range Procedures B 3c

e. Equipment Preparation B 3c

f. Airspace Requirements B 3c

2. Target Analysis

a. Target Suitability B 3c

b. Identification B 3c

c. Description B 3c

3. Aircraft Weapons and Tactics

a. Air to Ground Weapons and Effects B C

b. CAS Aircraft Capabilities and Tactics B C

4. Ground to Air Threats B C

5. Mission Coordination

a. S2 B 3c

b. S3 B 3c


d. Aviation LNO B 3c

e. ADA LNO B 3c

f. Ground Commander B 3c

g. Other Agencies B 3c

6. CAS Integration

a. Ground Maneuver 1b 3c

b. Surface Fire Support 1b 3c

c. Localized SEAD 1b 3c

d. Attack Helicopters A 3c

e. JSTARS 1b 3c

f. Joint/Combined [C.sup.2] Integration A B

g. ISR Integration (UAV and Rivet) A B

h. SOF Operations A B

i. ADA and IADS 1b 3c

7. Develop CAS Briefing

a. 5/6/9/15-Line Brief Requirements 1b 3c

b. Additional Remarks 1b 3c

8. Initial Contact B 3c

a. FAC(A)/TAC Interface A b

b. Mission Check-In 1a 3c

9. Marking B C

a. Target with Indirect Fire A B

b. Target with Laser A B

c. Target with IR Systems A 2b

d. Friendly Locations B 3c

10. Final Attack Control B 3c

a. Day 1a 3c

b. Night-Visual 3c

c. Night System Aided 3c

d. Night-NVD 3c

e. Ordnance Selection and Adjustment 1a 3c

(Live Mission)

f. Clearance (Dry or Live) 1a 3c

g. Abort Procedures 1a 3c

h. Minimum Safe Distances A C

i. Attack Headings/Angles 1a 3c

11. Post Attack Procedures 1a 3c

12. TAC

a. TAC Mission #1 1a 2b

b. TAC Mission #2 1a 2b

c. TAC Mission #3 1a 2b

d. TAC Mission #4 2b 3c


ADA = Air Defense Artillery

ATO = Air Tasking Order

[C.sup.2] = Command and Control

FAC(A) = Forward Air Controller Airborne

FSE = Fire Support Element

IADS = Integrated Air Defense System

IR = Infrared

ISR = Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

JSTARS = Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System

LNO = Liaison Officer

NGF = Naval Gunfire

NVD = Night-Vision Device

SEAD = Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses

SOF = Special Operations Forces

UAV = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Standard Level Value The Individual-

1 Needs to be told or shown how to do most of the

task. (Limited)

Task 2 Needs help only on the hardest parts. (Partially


Performance 3 Needs only spot checks of completed work.


4 Can tell or show others how to do the task.

(Highly Proficient)

a Can name parts, tools and simple facts about the

task. (Nomenclature)

Task b Can determine step-by-step procedures for doing

the task. (Procedures)

Knowledge c Can identify why and when the task must be done

and why each step is needed. (Principles)

d Can predict, isolate and resolve problems about

the task. (Advance Theory)

A Can identify basic facts and terms about the

subject. (Facts)

Subject B Can identify relationships of basic facts and

state general principles about the subject.


Knowledge C Can analyze facts and principles and draw

conclusions about the subject. (Analysis)

D Can evaluate conditions and make proper decisions

about the subject. (Evaluation)

Figure 1: Air Force JTACs receive Mission Qualification Training on

these tasks (to the standards indicated) at home station under the

supervision of a TAC instructor. (Taken from Table 2.1 of the “Air Force

Instruction 13-112 Terminal Attack Controller Training Program.”)

1 Week 3 Weeks 1 Week

Army JTAC Qualification Course

Air Force Terminal Attack Controller Course (TACC)

Phase I Phase II Phase III

Initial Certification Certification Training Advanced Certification

Training Training

* Introduction to JP * Theater Air Ground * CAS Mission Planning

3-09.3 System

* Joint * MDMP * Artillery Call-For-Fire


* Communications * JSEAD * Terminal Control


* Radio Procedures * J-Laser -Day/Night/Adverse


* GPS Operations * Artillery -Fixed-&

Cali-For-Fire Rotary-Wing/AC-130


* Hand-Held Targeting * Advanced Aircraft -Laser/CDW

Devices Capabilities

* Fixed- and * Advanced Aircraft -JAAT

Rotary-WingAircraft Weapons

Capabilities * CAS Mission Planning * Live/Simulated CAS


* Aircraft Weapons * Terminal Control

* CAS Mission * Live/Simulated CAS

Planning Controls

* Simulated CAS

Controls (Supervised)

Written Exam 2 Written Exams and 1 Evaluation


Legend: CDW = Coordinate Dependent Weapon

GPS = Global Positioning System

JAAT = Joint Air Attack Team

J-Laser = Joint Laser

JP 3-09.3 = Joint Pub 3-09.3 Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for CAS

JSEAD = Joint Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses

MDMP = Military Decision-Making Process

Figure 2: Proposed Five-Week Training Program for Army JTACs.

By Lieutenant Colonel Steven P. Milliron. AV

Lieutenant Colonel Steven P. Milliron, Army Aviation (AV), is the Commandant of the Army Joint Support Team-Nellis, the Army Liaison Officer to the Air Force Air-Ground Operations School (AGOS) at Nellis AFB, Nevada. He is responsible for the Army academics that support AGOS’ Terminal Attack Controller Course (TACC), Air Liaison Officer Qualification Course and the Joint Firepower Course. His previous assignments include serving as the Executive Officer of the 6th Cavalry Brigade and S3 of the 3d Squadron, 6th Cavalry, both in Korea. He commanded three troops: D Troop, 3d Squadron, 1st Cavalry at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and D and F Troops in the 2d Squadron, 1st Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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