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Subject: Air Force Special Operations
Iano_returns    10/24/2007 7:57:10 PM
Evening all, Reading the Sayeret Shaldag/IAF airstrike thread on here and happening to have come across a video of USAF 'PJ' indoctrination last night got me thinking of various nations SOFs air component and the specialist units various Airforces maintain, and how they might be deployed. Many threads and much thought and interest seems to be dedicated to unconventional warfare in the Army or Naval fields but there is little insight into Airforce special operations. I'd always thought that Airforce special operations were confined to air transport of other SOF - such as modified C130/helicopter squadrons with the equipment and training to penetrate enemy air defences to insert and extract SOF teams in the enemy's rear echelons. In this way, Air Force Special Operations seemed to be open only to aircrew and I'd imagined that if any airman wished to serve in Special Operations 'on foot' and not as an insertion/extraction hercybird/helo crewman, he would have to apply to be released to Army SOF for a term, seeing as 'Air Forces don't have ground units'. Doing a bit of research however, in the American model it seems there is a career field known as 'Special Tactics' comprising Combat Controllers and Pararescue Jumpers. The roles here being to sieze and operate enemy airfields, and to carry out combat search & rescue of downed aircrew or other lost personnel. Would this be an accurate description or is there something I have missed? If we could have discussion on the nature of air force special operations and the forces that undertake them, rather than 'my special operations unit could beat up your special operations unit anyday', that'd also be appreciated... ;)
 
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Horsesoldier       10/24/2007 11:29:15 PM

I'd always thought that Airforce special operations were confined to air transport of other SOF - such as modified C130/helicopter squadrons with the equipment and training to penetrate enemy air defences to insert and extract SOF teams in the enemy's rear echelons. In this way, Air Force Special Operations seemed to be open only to aircrew and I'd imagined that if any airman wished to serve in Special Operations 'on foot' and not as an insertion/extraction hercybird/helo crewman, he would have to apply to be released to Army SOF for a term, seeing as 'Air Forces don't have ground units'.

Doing a bit of research however, in the American model it seems there is a career field known as 'Special Tactics' comprising Combat Controllers and Pararescue Jumpers. The roles here being to sieze and operate enemy airfields, and to carry out combat search & rescue of downed aircrew or other lost personnel. Would this be an accurate description or is there something I have missed?

If we could have discussion on the nature of air force special operations and the forces that undertake them, rather than 'my special operations unit could beat up your special operations unit anyday', that'd also be appreciated... ;)

USAF "operator" types fall into three career fields, basically:
 
Para-rescue (PJs) who do combat search and rescue (and peacetime SAR as well).
 
Combat Controllers (CCTs) who function as forward air controllers.  They can call airstrikes, which is what everyone associates them with, but can also manage battlefield airspace and put into operation and operate forward air bases under austere conditions (i.e. like right after the Rangers have gotten done evicting the previous owners).
 
The last guys are even more obscure as far as the usual civilian understanding of SOF assets go -- TACPs.  This is a seperate career field from CCT (I think the AFSC codes are 1C2 for CCT, 1C4 for TACP), though kind of related, in that they're specialists at directing CAS (but can't do other aspects of the CCT job).  Not all TACPs are "operator" types -- most support conventional units, but a segment of them are direct support assets for the Rangers, SF, etc.
 
Some non-US nations have their own traditions of special troops of some sort in the Air Force.  Keep in mind that some nations originally had their airborne forces as part of the air force rather than army.  Off the top of my head, the Brazilians have PJ equivalents (Para-SARs), while Spain (and possibly some other Spanish speaking countries) have Para-Zapadores who have some resemblance to CCTs.  I think Portugal has something similar as well.  There are probably others, though nothing comes to mind at the moment.
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 8:07:38 AM
I've got to say, it seems odd to me to have the option of joining the USAF as a Combat Controller or as a Pararescue Jumper. Surely you can have CC or PJ units, but you can hardly have CC or PJ individuals. Take Combat Controllers, I would think the unit would be a mix of parachute-trained SOF soldiers (and maybe some FACs/JTACs) and Air Traffic Control officers and assistants doing a tour in/having specialised in Combat Control. The unit can then take and operate an airfield - two distinct functions. But CCs are advertised as 'doing it all'... can you really have a half SOF soldier, half Air Traffic Controller hybrid individual and hope to achieve the same standards in each field as you could if you had specialised individuals to take care of each function? As for PJs I suppose it is easier to give SOF soldiers some paramedical training but having a unit of half SOF soldiers and half medical technicians could be another approach...
 
Talking of airborne/parachute forces being in the Air Force, I seem to recall hearing Fallschirmjagers were under Luftwaffe control. Not so disimilar to the Marines being with the service that delivers them, the Navy, rather than the Army. Interesting way of doing things though.
 
What do you think of the British model?
 
The RAF Regiment isn't 'special forces', but they do fulfil some of the roles you've outlined above that USAF Special Tactics carry out.
 
Their major role is force protection of deployed RAF assets on the ground - 'dominating the ground outside the airfield to protect the forces within it'. I believe this is something the USAF leaves to their Security Police. The RAF Police also seem to handle security in benign environments alongside their policing role, but where there is any real threat present the RAF Regiment have the remit; they are organised as a mobile (Land Rover WMIKs) infantry-type unit.
 
They used to have an air defence role with the Rapier SHORAD system, and even an armoured role with CVR(T) vehicles, however these have been withdrawn.
 
They provide manpower for the Joint NBC Defence Regiment, and provide the majority of FAC personnel and TACPs for the Army. 
 
One squadron of the RAF Regiment is parachute trained, and has a capability of seizing enemy airfields. I'm not sure as to the arrangements for follow-on specialists to actually operate the airfield however, I think it may be only a 'take and hold' role. The RAF Regiment provide personnel for Personnel Recovery/Combat SAR operations too, although I think they may rely on medical specialists for any advanced care and are there chiefly to search an area and secure a landing site.
 
They provide personnel to the Special Forces Support Group, the new 'Ranger-type unit' you may have heard being recently formed.
 
RAF Regiment personnel are employed in small teams training the remainder of RAF crew in force protection duties and ground defence training, and one squadron also provides the RAF's ceremonial drill unit (Queen's Colour Squadron) as well as being a deployable field squadron.
 
Additionally I believe they are furthering themselves as a general infantry type unit, that is to say that there aren't enough infantrymen in the Army to go around at all times, so as a comparable type of unit, they should be able to fill in at some level. Whatever, they are a 'growth industry' within the RAF and are taking on more people as the size of the overall RAF is shrinking (and have a lot of Regiment/force protection trained reservists in the Auxiliaries too), so thats got to indicate their role is growing...
 
The major difference here seems to be that RAF Regiment do force protection of deployed airfields, whereas you leave that to the Security Police - even when deployed in a high threat environment? But then again just about all of the USAF Special Tactics functions seem to be covered by the RAF Regiment too. Certainly seems to be a part of the Air Force with a fair bit of variety.
 
The other arm of the RAF involved in unconventional operations is its modified C130 and helicopter units for insertion and extraction of UKSF into enemy territory.
 
 
 
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 8:11:09 AM
I've got to say, it seems odd to me to have the option of joining the USAF as a Combat Controller or as a Pararescue Jumper. Surely you can have CC or PJ units, but you can hardly have CC or PJ individuals. Take Combat Controllers, I would think the unit would be a mix of parachute-trained SOF soldiers (and maybe some FACs/JTACs) and Air Traffic Control officers and assistants doing a tour in/having specialised in Combat Control. The unit can then take and operate an airfield - two distinct functions. But CCs are advertised as 'doing it all'... can you really have a half SOF soldier, half Air Traffic Controller hybrid individual and hope to achieve the same standards in each field as you could if you had specialised individuals to take care of each function? As for PJs I suppose it is easier to give SOF soldiers some paramedical training but having a unit of half SOF soldiers and half medical technicians could be another approach...
 
Talking of airborne/parachute forces being in the Air Force, I seem to recall hearing Fallschirmjagers were under Luftwaffe control. Not so disimilar to the Marines being with the service that delivers them, the Navy, rather than the Army. Interesting way of doing things though.
 
What do you think of the British model?
 
The RAF Regiment isn't 'special forces', but they do fulfil some of the roles you've outlined above that USAF Special Tactics carry out.
 
Their major role is force protection of deployed RAF assets on the ground - 'dominating the ground outside the airfield to protect the forces within it'. I believe this is something the USAF leaves to their Security Police. The RAF Police also seem to handle security in benign environments alongside their policing role, but where there is any real threat present the RAF Regiment have the remit; they are organised as a mobile (Land Rover WMIKs) infantry-type unit.
 
They used to have an air defence role with the Rapier SHORAD system, and even an armoured role with CVR(T) vehicles, however these have been withdrawn.
 
They provide manpower for the Joint NBC Defence Regiment, and provide the majority of FAC personnel and TACPs for the Army. 
 
One squadron of the RAF Regiment is parachute trained, and has a capability of seizing enemy airfields. I'm not sure as to the arrangements for follow-on specialists to actually operate the airfield however, I think it may be only a 'take and hold' role. The RAF Regiment provide personnel for Personnel Recovery/Combat SAR operations too, although I think they may rely on medical specialists for any advanced care and are there chiefly to search an area and secure a landing site.
 
They provide personnel to the Special Forces Support Group, the new 'Ranger-type unit' you may have heard being recently formed.
 
RAF Regiment personnel are employed in small teams training the remainder of RAF crew in force protection duties and ground defence training, and one squadron also provides the RAF's ceremonial drill unit (Queen's Colour Squadron) as well as being a deployable field squadron.
 
Additionally I believe they are furthering themselves as a general infantry type unit, that is to say that there aren't enough infantrymen in the Army to go around at all times, so as a comparable type of unit, they should be able to fill in at some level. Whatever, they are a 'growth industry' within the RAF and are taking on more people as the size of the overall RAF is shrinking (and have a lot of Regiment/force protection trained reservists in the Auxiliaries too), so thats got to indicate their role is growing...
 
The major difference here seems to be that RAF Regiment do force protection of deployed airfields, whereas you leave that to the Security Police - even when deployed in a high threat environment? But then again just about all of the USAF Special Tactics functions seem to be covered by the RAF Regiment too. Certainly seems to be a part of the Air Force with a fair bit of variety.
 
The other arm of the RAF involved in unconventional operations is its modified C130 and helicopter units for insertion and extraction of UKSF into enemy territory.
 
 
 
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 8:13:15 AM
I've got to say, it seems odd to me to have the option of joining the USAF as a Combat Controller or as a Pararescue Jumper. Surely you can have CC or PJ units, but you can hardly have CC or PJ individuals. Take Combat Controllers, I would think the unit would be a mix of parachute-trained SOF soldiers (and maybe some FACs/JTACs) and Air Traffic Control officers and assistants doing a tour in/having specialised in Combat Control. The unit can then take and operate an airfield - two distinct functions. But CCs are advertised as 'doing it all'... can you really have a half SOF soldier, half Air Traffic Controller hybrid individual and hope to achieve the same standards in each field as you could if you had specialised individuals to take care of each function? As for PJs I suppose it is easier to give SOF soldiers some paramedical training but having a unit of half SOF soldiers and half medical technicians could be another approach...
 
Talking of airborne/parachute forces being in the Air Force, I seem to recall hearing Fallschirmjagers were under Luftwaffe control. Not so disimilar to the Marines being with the service that delivers them, the Navy, rather than the Army. Interesting way of doing things though.
 
What do you think of the British model?
 
The RAF Regiment isn't 'special forces', but they do fulfil some of the roles you've outlined above that USAF Special Tactics carry out.
 
Their major role is force protection of deployed RAF assets on the ground - 'dominating the ground outside the airfield to protect the forces within it'. I believe this is something the USAF leaves to their Security Police. The RAF Police also seem to handle security in benign environments alongside their policing role, but where there is any real threat present the RAF Regiment have the remit; they are organised as a mobile (Land Rover WMIKs) infantry-type unit.
 
They used to have an air defence role with the Rapier SHORAD system, and even an armoured role with CVR(T) vehicles, however these have been withdrawn.
 
They provide manpower for the Joint NBC Defence Regiment, and provide the majority of FAC personnel and TACPs for the Army. 
 
One squadron of the RAF Regiment is parachute trained, and has a capability of seizing enemy airfields. I'm not sure as to the arrangements for follow-on specialists to actually operate the airfield however, I think it may be only a 'take and hold' role. The RAF Regiment provide personnel for Personnel Recovery/Combat SAR operations too, although I think they may rely on medical specialists for any advanced care and are there chiefly to search an area and secure a landing site.
 
They provide personnel to the Special Forces Support Group, the new 'Ranger-type unit' you may have heard being recently formed.
 
RAF Regiment personnel are employed in small teams training the remainder of RAF crew in force protection duties and ground defence training, and one squadron also provides the RAF's ceremonial drill unit (Queen's Colour Squadron) as well as being a deployable field squadron.
 
Additionally I believe they are furthering themselves as a general infantry type unit, that is to say that there aren't enough infantrymen in the Army to go around at all times, so as a comparable type of unit, they should be able to fill in at some level. Whatever, they are a 'growth industry' within the RAF and are taking on more people as the size of the overall RAF is shrinking (and have a lot of Regiment/force protection trained reservists in the Auxiliaries too), so thats got to indicate their role is growing...
 
The major difference here seems to be that RAF Regiment do force protection of deployed airfields, whereas you leave that to the Security Police - even when deployed in a high threat environment? But then again just about all of the USAF Special Tactics functions seem to be covered by the RAF Regiment too. Certainly seems to be a part of the Air Force with a fair bit of variety.
 
The other arm of the RAF involved in unconventional operations is its modified C130 and helicopter units for insertion and extraction of UKSF into enemy territory.
 
 
 
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 8:13:50 AM
Woops, itchy mouse finger!
 
 
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mough       10/25/2007 1:34:16 PM



I'd always thought that Airforce special operations were confined to air transport of other SOF - such as modified C130/helicopter squadrons with the equipment and training to penetrate enemy air defences to insert and extract SOF teams in the enemy's rear echelons. In this way, Air Force Special Operations seemed to be open only to aircrew and I'd imagined that if any airman wished to serve in Special Operations 'on foot' and not as an insertion/extraction hercybird/helo crewman, he would have to apply to be released to Army SOF for a term, seeing as 'Air Forces don't have ground units'.

Doing a bit of research however, in the American model it seems there is a career field known as 'Special Tactics' comprising Combat Controllers and Pararescue Jumpers. The roles here being to sieze and operate enemy airfields, and to carry out combat search & rescue of downed aircrew or other lost personnel. Would this be an accurate description or is there something I have missed?

If we could have discussion on the nature of air force special operations and the forces that undertake them, rather than 'my special operations unit could beat up your special operations unit anyday', that'd also be appreciated... ;)


USAF "operator" types fall into three career fields, basically:

 

Para-rescue (PJs) who do combat search and rescue (and peacetime SAR as well).

 

Combat Controllers (CCTs) who function as forward air controllers.  They can call airstrikes, which is what everyone associates them with, but can also manage battlefield airspace and put into operation and operate forward air bases under austere conditions (i.e. like right after the Rangers have gotten done evicting the previous owners).

 

The last guys are even more obscure as far as the usual civilian understanding of SOF assets go -- TACPs.  This is a seperate career field from CCT (I think the AFSC codes are 1C2 for CCT, 1C4 for TACP), though kind of related, in that they're specialists at directing CAS (but can't do other aspects of the CCT job).  Not all TACPs are "operator" types -- most support conventional units, but a segment of them are direct support assets for the Rangers, SF, etc.

 

Some non-US nations have their own traditions of special troops of some sort in the Air Force.  Keep in mind that some nations originally had their airborne forces as part of the air force rather than army.  Off the top of my head, the Brazilians have PJ equivalents (Para-SARs), while Spain (and possibly some other Spanish speaking countries) have Para-Zapadores who have some resemblance to CCTs.  I think Portugal has something similar as well.  There are probably others, though nothing comes to mind at the moment.

Don't forget the "combat weather" team guys, yes geeky name but they do some HSLD stuff too they are in the ST squadrons too

Spains AF SOF unit is the EZAPAC, they do CSAR/CC

 
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mough       10/25/2007 1:40:42 PM
Nothing odd about it, the CCT/PJ's/CW are all assigned to ST squadrons, each speciallity has their own training pipline, it takes a long time to qualify in each, quite a bit longer then a green role SEAL for instance and yes  all CCT/PJ's/CW guys qual in to become shooterts as well as their own  specialisation, it seems to have worked well so far they have been doing it for the last few decades
I've got to say, it seems odd to me to have the option of joining the USAF as a Combat Controller or as a Pararescue Jumper. Surely you can have CC or PJ units, but you can hardly have CC or PJ individuals. Take Combat Controllers, I would think the unit would be a mix of parachute-trained SOF soldiers (and maybe some FACs/JTACs) and Air Traffic Control officers and assistants doing a tour in/having specialised in Combat Control. The unit can then take and operate an airfield - two distinct functions. But CCs are advertised as 'doing it all'... can you really have a half SOF soldier, half Air Traffic Controller hybrid individual and hope to achieve the same standards in each field as you could if you had specialised individuals to take care of each function? As for PJs I suppose it is easier to give SOF soldiers some paramedical training but having a unit of half SOF soldiers and half medical technicians could be another approach...
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 1:55:48 PM
I suppose if you're hoping to train a SOF soldier in how to communicate with aircraft for landing/ground attack, and set up ILS beacons on a captured/improvised landing strip, that is pretty feasible - its probably not so much different from what FACs/JTACs/TACPs do.
 
But if you hope to have these SOF soldiers fully replicating the organisation that lets an airfield function, I'd say you're better off bringing in specialists in that field (i.e. the ATC career field) for a tour or two with the CC unit. Like I say, I'm no expert - is it a case of take the airfield, set up beacons and talk them down, or is it more involved than that, like with ground-based radar sets?
 
I imagine if British Forces had to seize and operate airfield you would see the initial storming being carried out by SOF or similar raiding forces, but then you would have to bring on the specialised technical staff from the Air Force with the right kit and experience in how to run an airfield - i.e. Air Traffic Control, Flight Operations Support, Engineers to clear and repair the runway, the list goes on. You can't do all that stuff with what is effectively a well-trained light infantry/SOF force, can you?
 
Same thing with the PJs, the British approach has modified helicopters, specifically trained aircrew, medical staff, and RAF Regiment for searching and securing... Yes I know that PJs receive paramedical training, and all servicemembers need a grounding in medical matters, but surely you'd be better off incorporating a medical officer and technicians into the team to do their thing, and let the 'shooters' do (predominantly) their thing?
 
 
 
 
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mough       10/25/2007 1:59:58 PM
There is the old RAFR joke where members of 2 SQN used to refer to themselves as part of the "Big 3" units....the other 2 of which are 3 letter acronym ones...it was a joke among the RM and Paras not the RAFR

and the SFSG (Crap name should have been the SRG) originally the idea was for just a souped up light infantry unit to back up UKSF assets, thats changed and continuing to evolve, under pressure from H there will be a selection process to get in, you must have served 2 years in whatever unit your coming from before applying, the SFSG is morphing into a SO unit, it will carry out similar missions to the Rangers/SEAl's/Aussie commandos, the RAF elementt will take on the CSAR/TAC/retrivel of SEP role, there are photos floating around of Group guys in action, particularly when the Lynx helo was shot down in Basra,   the CSAR team were on full display
What do you think of the British model?
The RAF Regiment isn't 'special forces', but they do fulfil some of the roles you've outlined above that USAF Special Tactics carry out.
They provide personnel to the Special Forces Support Group, the new 'Ranger-type unit' you may have heard being recently formed.
 
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Iano_returns       10/25/2007 2:04:12 PM
I suppose if you're hoping to train a SOF soldier in how to communicate with aircraft for landing/ground attack, and set up ILS beacons on a captured/improvised landing strip, that is pretty feasible - its probably not so much different from what FACs/JTACs/TACPs do.
 
But if you hope to have these SOF soldiers fully replicating the organisation that lets an airfield function, I'd say you're better off bringing in specialists in that field (i.e. the ATC career field) for a tour or two with the CC unit. Like I say, I'm no expert - is it a case of take the airfield, set up beacons and talk them down, or is it more involved than that, like with ground-based radar sets?
 
I imagine if British Forces had to seize and operate airfield you would see the initial storming being carried out by SOF or similar raiding forces, but then you would have to bring on the specialised technical staff from the Air Force with the right kit and experience in how to run an airfield - i.e. Air Traffic Control, Flight Operations Support, Engineers to clear and repair the runway, the list goes on. You can't do all that stuff with what is effectively a well-trained light infantry/SOF force, can you?
 
Same thing with the PJs, the British approach has modified helicopters, specifically trained aircrew, medical staff, and RAF Regiment for searching and securing... Yes I know that PJs receive paramedical training, and all servicemembers need a grounding in medical matters, but surely you'd be better off incorporating a medical officer and technicians into the team to do their thing, and let the 'shooters' do (predominantly) their thing?
 
 
 
 
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