US Air Force Special Operations Forces, known also as Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) are Enlisted Terminal Attack Controllers (ETAC) who work aligned with US Army Special Operations Forces.
Their primary task is to provide close air support/terminal guidance control for exercise and contingency operations, on a permanent and continuous basis, with a mission to increase the combat capability of the US Forces. Members of TACP also provide additional expertise in Artillery, Naval Gunfire, and Attack Helicopters.
TCAP five-fold mission is:
- Support of US Army Special Operations Command, US Army Special Forces Command, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, 1st, 3d, 5th, 7th and 10th Special Forces Groups, US Army Rangers, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Joint Special Operations Task Forces, and other special operations units.
- Advise the ground commander on the capabilities and use of tactical airpower.
- Assist the ground commander on the planning and employment of tactical air support.
- Provide a link with the Theater Air Control System.
- Conduct Emergency Close Air Support/Terminal Guidance Operations training.
USAF TACPs trace their roots back beyond the original Tactical Air Control Party supporting both the US Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) and Rangers to World War II. It wasn’t until after Desert Storm that Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) formalized an agreement with Air Combat Command to provide Tactical Air Control Party’s at USASOC, USASFC, JFKSWCS, every Special Forces Group and Special Operations Aviation Regiment, in addition to the Tactical Air Control Party’s at Ranger Regiment and the 3 Ranger Battalions.TACP during training jumbs
During the fall of 1994 the initial cadre of 32 hand-picked personnel reported to USASOC. With an initial charter to provide Special Forces personnel with Close Air Support (CAS) training, their operational tempo quickly increased. Shortly after standing up, the newly-christened Special Operations Forces Tactical Air Control Party ACPs were deploying with Special Forces from Special Forces Operational Battalion to Operational Detachment level. It wasn’t until 1998 that ACC recognized the Special Operation Forces Tactical Air Control Party selection process as a way to select only best personnel to support Army SOF. Only experienced ETACs are authorized to attend. Selection is done over 6 days and is set-up to test the individual’s maturity and mental and physical capabilities. TACP skills and capabilities mirror their Army counterparts.
Being Airborne qualified is mandatory; however, current members are qualified in many areas including HALO, HALO jumpmaster, Static-line jumpmaster, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Scuba and Ranger.TCAP recruits during training
Tactical Air Control Party members supported these public known operations in past, as many others which are not publicly known:
- Urgent Fury
- Operation Just Cause
- Desert Shield/Storm
- Iris Gold
- Joint Endeavor
- Joint Guard
- Desert Fox/Thunder
Elite soldiers from US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party are among best SOF in entire US military.