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Air Force JTACs train on leading edge technology

by Staff Sgt. John Gordinier
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/4/2008 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN) -- Approximately 20 Air Force joint terminal attack controllers from 16 different locations throughout the U.S. and other countries arrived here Feb. 23 to perform training with the mobile Air Support Operations Center Gateway in preparation for deployment.

The JTACs will be at Shaw Air Force Base for about a week, said Master Sgt. Dave Howard, the tactical air control party, or TACP, modernization fielding and training lead from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

They receive three days of academics, software and hardware training on the Gateway in a classroom environment at the 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron. The JTACs also receive three days of digital close air support system or CASS training on the Gateway with F-16 Fighting Falcons from Shaw AFB, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Moody AFB, Ga. and Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System aircraft from Warner Robbins AFB, Ga.

This event was created to meet the requirements from Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, the U.S. Central Air Forces commander, said Master Sgt. Matt Nugent, Air Combat Command tactical air control party requirements lead.

Since the JTACs here are being trained on how to utilize the mobile ASOC Gateway to support the war on terrorism, they also train on the latest version of TACP CASS and its integration with the Gateway, he said.

The state-of-the-art ASOC Gateway shortens the kill chain, reduces humanistic error and improves situational awareness for pilots, aircrew and JTACs, said Sergeant Howard.

The advanced mobile Gateway is the one of the first operational in the Air Force and is controlled primarily by fighter duty technicians, or FDT, and support personnel located on the ground in the ASOC, said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Jones, the 682nd ASOS communication systems NCO in charge.

The ASOC is the primary command and control agency for integrating joint air power with Army operations. FDTs coordinate air support for the JTACs and provide airspace de-confliction for tasked aircraft. Once JTACs receive a handoff of aircraft from the ASOC, it's their job to direct the fighters to the correct targets within close proximity to ground forces using radios and communications equipment.

Before the Gateway, the JTACs on the ground had to verbally tell the pilot everything; what he wants him to do, where to go, how to do it and when to do it. Depending on the expertise of the JTAC and pilot, the process could take up to 15 minutes, said Staff Sgt. Ryan Fausey, the 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron FDT.

With the Gateway, all the ASOC and JTACs have to do is click a button and the pilot can receive all information instantly, he said. Performing this task digitally reduces the time dramatically. During a recent Central Air Forces Atlantic Strike Exercise, the time from aircrew check-in to bombs on target was reduced by 47 percent.

The pilot now has the information before he even approaches the target instead of being on top of the target and then getting information for it, Sergeant Fausey said. The new process also burns less fuel. More fuel allows the pilot to make more passes over the target area, which improves mission efficiency.

"We are breaking new ground," Sergeant Nugent said. "We are here to get the (JTACs) digitally trained (on the Gateway) to defeat the enemies of our country quicker and more efficiently."

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