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Forward air control.

I found the article on the Aussie forward air controllers (FACs), "Forward Air Control: A Royal Australian Air Force Innovation," by Carl Post to be very interesting and informative. But his comment that "It is important to remember where it first originated" is a bit of a stretch. There is anecdotal evidence that during the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, spotters aloft in balloons were able to "control" artillery fire using rudimentary communications. In 1912, U.S. Army 2d Lt. Henry H. Arnold conducted a field exercise to determine the efficacy of using an aircraft with "wireless equipment" to direct artillery fire. In World War I, some U.S. Army aviators were issued field instructions to do exactly this.

Post also states that the essential elements of FACing were: "... communication with local ground forces, acquisition of friendly and enemy locations, the indication of the target to the attacking aircraft." But, that focus misses what is really the essence of the mission. More importantly, the FACs had the authority to control the air attack elements, and in many cases again, even artillery, to support friendly ground units or interdict enemy troops. That is the real key to their effectiveness. In fact, I think that detailed research would indicate that the air and ground forces of many nations worked at this problem in some form. It is fundamental to the integration of ground and air power.

Instead of talking about the "origination" of forward air controlling, I think that better purpose is served in studying its evolution, something which still occurs in our most recent conflicts.

Hand salute on an interesting article. It adds to the story. And I would also like to point out that during our long war in Southeast Asia, thirty-six fine Australian airman (and fourteen from New Zealand) served as FACs side-by-side with their American counterparts and were in most cases, integrated fully into U.S. FAC units. The operation was almost seamless. The only thing which separated the two groups was our common language. Fair dinkum!

Col. Darrel D. Whitcomb, USAFR (Ret.), Fairfax, Virginia. Historian, FAC Association.
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Author:Whitcomb, Darrel D.
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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