Legendary Military Units: US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) – “Death On Call”

TACP

The Tactical Air Control Party dons their signature Black Beret and assists Army combat maneuver units worldwide. Working in pairs, the TACP forms plans and requests air strikes on enemy targets.

The TACP team helps with battle planning, gives advice on aircraft usage, and helps with aerospace missions. Tactical Air Command and Control Specialists help Army combat commanders with the best use of airpower, like executing close air target attacks, making sure the enemy is hit, and not our troops.

The TACP is on the battlefield keeping an open line of communication with air and ground units while providing cover and working with the Army. They live, train and deploy together.

TACP History

Close Air Support dates back to World War I when soldiers were in the trenches between Flanders’ Fields and the Pyrenees Mountains. CAS pilots were brave, courageous, daring, and skilled. Their innovation left an impression on the ground troops.

However, during World War II, whatever respect and admiration were created in the prior war was forgotten. Instead, the focus was on bombing from high in the air, supporting the ground troops.

Close air support was a last resort at the time, and no one really wanted to deal with it. So the goal was to find a better solution before attempting it.

The tide changed during Korea and Vietnam. ROMAD was actually first used in Vietnam. There, fighter pilots provided support for the Army units on the ground using radios to communicate.

However, only one person was allowed to call in airstrikes, the Battalion Air Liaison Officer. The creation of the A-10 brought close air support to the foreground.

Moving Into The Present

In the sixties and seventies, fighter pilots were on the ground working with the A-10 controlling them creating Air Force detachment in each Army division to execute the tasks. These units eventually morphed into the TACPs.

In the eighties, the Enlisted Terminal Attack Control was created to help with the Air Forces issue of having enough bodies to fly and be in the Army units.

In Panama, an Army Ranger TACP led a parachute invasion. TACPs already in the country supported the 193rd Infantry and the 82nd Airborne Division TACP dropped in via parachute. ETACs were in charge of airstrikes using the AC-130, A-7, and OA-37.

They have also been used in Grenada, Somalia, and Haiti.

Sources: 1, 2

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