United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party

U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party

United States Air Force TACP Flash with Crest
Country  United States of America
Branch  United States Air Force
Size approx. 1100
Part of Air Combat Command
U.S. Air Forces Europe
Pacific Air Forces
Air Force Special Operations Command
  • Official: "The Strong Shall Stand, The Weak Will Fall by the Wayside"
  • AFSOC TACP: "100%, and then some"

Other mottos:

  • "Death on Call"
  • "Air to Mud"
  • "Advise, Assist, Control"
Colors Red, Green, and Blue
TACP and ALO black beret
An Air Liaison Officer with the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron, parachutes to the ground during a joint forcible entry exercise May 31, 2013, at the Nevada Test and Training Range at Nellis Air Force Base, NV.
USAF TACPs in the Battle of Do Ab. In the battle, a scout platoon from the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army, 20 Afghan soldiers, and two United States Air Force TACPs were ambushed by over 300 Taliban near the village of Do Ab. With assistance from close air support, the coalition forces repulsed the ambush, killing approximately 270 Taliban.
Six GBU-38 munitions are dropped by a B-1B Lancer aircraft onto an insurgent torture house and prison in Northern Zambraniyah, Iraq, March 10, 2008. The munitions drop was cleared by a USAF JTAC from Fort Hood Texas, and deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
USAF 1C4X1 JTACs providing over-watch and close air support in Jaghato, Afghanistan. Most USAF TACP teams consist of a junior 1C4X1 and a 1C4X1 certified as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who provides terminal control of close air support missions.

A United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party, commonly abbreviated TACP, refers to an individual or team of United States Air Force personnel with AFSC 1C4X1, who are aligned with a conventional United States Army combat maneuver unit or to an Air Force, Army, or Navy special operations unit, to provide precision terminal attack guidance of U.S. and coalition fixed- and rotary-wing close air support aircraft, artillery, and naval gunfire; establish and maintain command and control (C2) communications; and advise ground commanders on the best use of air power.

In conventional settings, TACPs are the principal Air Force liaison element to the United States Army (USA).[1] In this context, the TACP is an Air Force liaison element aligned with Army combat maneuver echelons from Corps to Battalion level. The TACP provides its aligned Army unit with expertise in planning and executing airpower in support of the land component commander's scheme of maneuver. In special operational settings, TACPs deploy with special operations units, including Air Force Special Tactics, Army Special Forces, and Navy SEAL teams, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Units, acting primarily as precision airstrike controllers and communication/C2 experts.


The USAF TACP when operationally employed as an element of the Theater Air Control System (TACS), is subordinate to the Air Support Operations Center (ASOC), which in turn is subordinate to the Air Operations Center (AOC). The AOC is the senior TACS agency responsible for the centralized control and decentralized execution of airpower in support of the Joint Force Commander.[2] The USAF/USA Memorandum requires the USAF to provide Air Liaison Officers, Battalion Air Liaison Officers, enlisted technicians (1C4X1s) skilled in planning, requesting, and managing airpower resources, and 1C4X1 Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs). JTACs are specially trained and certified airmen who provide terminal control of airpower, usually in the form of Close Air Support missions.[3] The TACP also provides USAF Intelligence, Space, Electronic Warfare, Weather, and other liaisons to the Army. These liaisons serve as USAF subject-matter experts within their areas of expertise and assist in planning and integrating these functions with their aligned Army unit. All of these USAF liaison personnel are assigned to a USAF Air Support Operations Squadron. Operationally, liaisons serve within a TACP aligned with an Army Brigade Combat Team (BCT), Division, or Corps. 1C4X1s and Air Liaison Officers serve in TACPs at Army echelons from battalion through corps.

Overview of the AFSC

Initial AFSC training took place at Hurlburt Field, FL until 2015, when it was moved to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. Graduates of the TACP schoolhouse (AFSC 1C4X1) attend USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) School at Fairchild AFB, WA, after which they are assigned to a TACP unit to undergo qualification, skill level upgrade, and initial mission readiness training. Most TACP personnel are assigned to Air Support Operations Squadrons (ASOS), which are organized, trained and equipped to perform one of two functions, that of a Tactical Air Control Party or an Air Support Operations Center (ASOC). 1C4X1s are experts on man-portable, vehicle-mounted, and field-expedient communications and are trained in weapons and fieldcraft, including navigation, individual and crew-served weapons systems, small unit tactics, demolitions, and close air support tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Air Support Operations Squadrons

The Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) is a USAF squadron, usually located on an Army installation, which is subordinate to an Air Support Operations Group in keeping with traditional USAF organizational practices. An ASOS is commanded by an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who also serves as the senior Air Liaison Officer. For the purpose of this Wiki, only the TACP will be discussed. The TACP mission is to support the host Army division and its subordinate brigade combat teams (BCTs). The BCT is the basic deployable unit in the US Army. TACPs are located on nearly all major Army installations. Few 1C4X1s will ever be assigned to an Air Force base during their career. Instead, 1C4X1s will be assigned to various ASOSs on Army installations throughout the U.S and overseas during their careers. As an unstated prerequisite to a career as a 1C4X1, it is understood that 1C4X1s live, train and deploy with U.S. Army combat units worldwide under some of the most demanding and difficult conditions in often very austere environments. Additionally, there are numerous ASOSs within the Air National Guard that have actively participated in combat operations world-wide supporting the Global War on Terror since 9/11.

When assigned to a TACP, the mission of the 1C4X1 is to advise and assist Army ground commanders and fire support officers in planning, integrating, requesting, and employing airpower consistent with Joint Army, and Air Force doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures. Because of their unique position in the USAF, which places enlisted airmen in positions of authority and responsibility normally placed on commissioned officers, 1C4X1s must be thoroughly proficient in their specialty and experts on airpower and joint operations. During a TACP assignment, 1C4X1s must continually possess a high degree of self-motivation, enthusiasm and a willingness to operate often as the lone airman in a joint team. Though challenging, a TACP assignment has its rewards: 1C4X1s are uniquely afforded the opportunity to increase their knowledge, skills, and operator capabilities by attending Basic Airborne, Military Freefall, Air Assault, Pathfinder, and Ranger schools.[4]

Air Support Operations Center

The Air Support Operations Center (ASOC) is an element of the Theater Air Control System (TACS) aligned with the senior Army maneuver unit (Division or Corps/Corps Equiv) in theater and directly subordinate to the Air Operations Center, which is the senior TACS agency in a theater. Organizationally, ASOCs are also Air Support Operations Squadrons and named as such, but organized and equipped as an ASOC. ASOCs are commanded by an Air Force LtCol. The ASOC manages allotted air resources and executes missions supporting its aligned Army units. 1C4X1s assigned to an ASOC fill a vital role by receiving air support requests from forward deployed JTACs.[5] Once an air support request is received, the air support request is either approved or disapproved by the ground commander's land component chain of command. If approved, immediate requests to support urgent, troops-in-contact situations may result in strike aircraft being sent by the ASOC to the JTACs location for terminal control of immediate close air support. Approved, but non-urgent, air support requests submitted after the cut-off time for inclusion on the next Air Tasking Order will become scheduled missions on the subsequent Air Tasking Order. If an air support request is disapproved, the disapproved request should be sent back to the requesting unit with reasons for disapproval. It is important to understand that approval and disapproval authority of air support requests is the responsibility of the Army / Land Component being supported.[6]

Special Operations Force TACP

The US Special Operations Command was established in 1987 at MacDill AFB, FL. One MSgt. 1C4X1 (then AFSC 275X0) was assigned to the command as a liaison, but the position was disestablished in approximately 1991. In 1997, two MSgt. JTAC-qualified 1C4X1s assigned to the 17th ASOS at Ft. Benning, GA were selected for assignment to two of the Air Force Special Operations Command's Special Tactics Squadrons. TACP flights have been co-located with each Army Special Forces Group, each of the 75th Ranger Regiment's three battalions, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). During Operation Iraqi Freedom, TACPs deployed with Operational Detachment Alphas from multiple Special Forces groups and with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Additionally, within Joint Special Operations Command, a small number of TACP personnel were assigned to the US Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron and to a time sensitive targeting (TST) cell dedicated to prosecuting high-value targets and targets of opportunity in support of JSOC objectives.

Recently, the 17th ASOS, which provides JTACs and ALOs to the 75th Ranger Regiment and its three line battalions, has transferred from Air Combat Command to Air Force Special Operations Command and in July 2013 was renamed 17th Special Tactics Squadron. JTAC-qualified 1C4X1s at the "5" or "Journeyman" skill level may apply for a Special Tactics assignment within Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). After a rigorous selection process and training program, AFSOC 1C4X1 JTACs provide terminal attack control and fire support expertise for the three Ranger Battalions, the 75th Ranger Regiment's Reconnaissance Company, all seven Army Special Forces Groups, multiple Naval Special Warfare Groups (SEAL Teams), and all four active duty CONUS Special Tactics Squadrons.[7]

Air Liaison Officer

Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) and Air Liaison Officer (ALO) beret flash

An Air Liaison Officer is a rated officer who is assigned to an ASOS or ASOC as the USAF airpower advocate, subject-matter expert, and advisor to his or her aligned Army staff. In 2009,[8] an Air Liaison Officer AFSC has been created to form a career force of Air Liaison Officers. Upon completion of initial qualification training, these non-rated officers are awarded the 13L AFSC.[9] 13Ls attend the same 85-day training as the enlisted TACPs and must achieve the same academic standards, though the physical standards are not as rigorous for the 13L. The ALO represents the Joint/Combined Forces Air Component Commander as a member of the Army commander’s special staff at the Battalion through Corps echelons in a coalition, joint, or interagency force. He or she provides subject matter expertise to lead, plan, and manage Command-and-Control and terminal execution of Air, Space, and Cyber operations in direct support of land component forces. The ALO assists in developing fire support coordination plans to include Close Air Support (CAS), Air Interdiction (AI), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Warfare (EW), and Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD). The ALO may engage enemy forces using advanced technologies and weapon systems to direct lethal and non-lethal fires and effects in close proximity to friendly forces as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC). Air Liaison Officer training includes, but is not limited to:

TACP Beret and History

US Air Force's Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) beret, flash, and crest

In 1979, the black beret was authorized for wear by enlisted personnel in the Tactical Air Control Party. In 1984, two airman from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina submitted the current flash and crest design. It was approved for all TACP airmen in 1985. Tactical Air Control Party specialists (AFSC 1C4X1) are currently the only United States Air Force specialty allowed to wear the coveted black beret as part of their daily duty uniform wear. Air Liaison Officers (ALOs) are also authorized to wear the black beret after they graduate from the Joint Firepower Control Course, conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Career ALOs (AFSC 13L) are also authorized to wear the beret when awarded the AFSC. While authorized, many rated (non-career) ALOs choose not to wear the black beret out of respect to the career ALOs (13Ls) and 1C4X1s, who have endured the rigorous training of the Tactical Air Control Party Apprentice Course.[10]

TACP Flash and Crest Heraldry

The US Air Force ordinary holds the position of honor at the top of the crest. It is supported by the erect wings, which symbolize the combat ready United States Air Force and the Theater Air Control System. At the bottom of the wings rests the TACP ordinary, representing the most forward element of the Theater Air Control System. The sword symbolizes the strength and firepower controlled by the TACP, while the lighting bolt represents a modern-day standard for communications, the backbone of the TACP. The eight-point omnidirectional star symbolizes the worldwide mobility commitment of the TACP, as well as his ability to navigate over all terrain. The scarlet border of the cloth flash symbolizes the immense firepower that can be brought to bear when Air Force and Army assets are combined. The red dovetail divider symbolizes the strong interlocking relationship between the Army, the field of green, and the Air Force, the field of blue, created by the liaison functions of the TACP.

1C4X1 Initial Qualification Training

After graduating Basic Military Training, all enlisted 1C4X1 candidates are sent to Medina AFB, TX to attend a five-day indoctrination course. Those candidates who successfully complete indoctrination attend the 85-day 1C4X1 3-level (Apprentice) initial qualification training course, also at Medina AFB, TX. The 3-level course was held at Hurlburt Field, Florida for 36 years prior to the July 2015 move to Texas. Those who successfully complete the initial training course are awarded the "3" or "apprentice" skill level and then attend the USAF Survival School at Fairchild AFB, WA. During the previous five years, the attrition rate of the 1C4X1 3-level course has been approximately 50%, which is consistent with the historical attrition rate.[11] This relatively high rate is primarily attributed to the constant physical demands students face throughout the entire length of the course, with the difficulty level increasing until graduation. The relentless physical demands combined with a challenging academic curriculum require constant focus on attention to detail. After completing initial training and arriving at the first duty station, training continues with the goal of obtaining Combat Mission Readiness. After one year of maintaining Combat Mission Ready (CMR) status and possessing the "5" or "journeyman" skill level, 1C4X1s are eligible to attend the Joint Terminal Attack Controller qualification course at Nellis AFB, or if stationed in Germany or Italy, the USAFE Air-Ground Operations School. Course attendance is based on training NCO and commander recommendation and is not guaranteed.

TACP Preparatory Course

USAF TACP candidates raise a pole during a team building exercise at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 10, 2011. The pole weighs approximately 300 pounds, therefore requiring all of the full strength of the candidates to complete such a rigorous task.

A enlisted 1C4X1 candidates and 13L ALO candidates will attend a 5-day indoctrination course at Medina AFB immediately following basic military training. The course educates candidates on the TACP career field and also identifies candidates unsuitable for the AFSC. An entry-level Physical Abilities and Stamina Test (PAST) test and a 4-mile timed ruck march must be successfully completed to pass the Indoctrination course and progress to the Initial Qualification Course at Lackland Air Force Base.[12]

Initial Training

Portable radio familiarization, basic career knowledge, and associated publications.[13]

Field training exercise, day and night land navigation, vehicle navigation, convoy training, and small unit tactics. Also including training in bivouac setup, site selection, patrolling methods, and day and night navigation on foot and in a vehicle.

Methods and means of requesting close air support, weapons effects and utilization, and other coordination procedures.

Advanced Training

This course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas using minimal equipment. This includes instruction of principles, procedures, equipment and techniques that help individuals to survive regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments, and return with honor.

Students learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop. This course includes ground operations week, tower week, and "jump week" when participants make five parachute jumps. Personnel who complete this training are awarded the basic parachutist rating and are allowed to wear the Parachutist Badge.

**Note: Some of these courses are unit dependent and not all students may be selected.

Further Advanced Training[7]

Notable 1C4X1 JTACs

Silver Star Recipients[14]

See also


  1. Memorandum of Agreement Between the United States Air Force and the United States Army for the Exchange of Liaisons, 31 March 2011.
  3. JP 1-02, DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 8 Nov 2010 (As Amended Through 16 July 2013)
  4. "Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) in Afghanistan". Usmilitary.about.com. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  6. JP 309.3, Close Air Support, 8 July 2009
  7. 1 2 "AFSOC - TACP".
  8. "Air Liaison Officers: Former TACPs pave the way for new career field as officers". Nellis Air Force Base. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  9. "Air Liaison Officer" (PDF). www.clemson.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  10. "U.S. Military Beret History (Page 2)". Usmilitary.about.com. 2001-10-17. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  11. Success in the TACP Training Program, An Objective Method for Selecting Battlefield Airmen, United States Air Force, December 23, 2009
  12. Michelle Tan (January 22, 2011). "Course introduces airmen to the battlefield". Air Force Times. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  13. 1 2 3 Jamie Haig. "Feature – TACP training". .hurlburt.af.mil. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  14. "U.S. Air Force Silver Star Citations for Gallantry in the War on Terrorism". Homeofheroes.com. Retrieved 2014-08-26.

Further reading

Steve Call (2010). Danger Close: Tactical Air Controllers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1603441421. 

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