Air Weapons: Solving the JTAC Shortage


July 23, 2006: The U.S. Air Force is trying to cope with an embarrassing situation. The new smart bombs have been very popular with the ground troops, but the increased demand for close air support has been difficult to fulfill. The air force has agreed to increase the number of "JTAC" (Joint Tactical Air Controller) teams, the specialized ground troops that talk to the aircraft and "call in" the smart bombs. To be JTAC qualified, you have to be able to call in JDAMS, AC-130s, helicopters, artillery, and so on. This is in line with the new army doctrine of having people out there with the combat units who can call in all flavors of what is now being called "fires."
Trying to figure out how to meet the exploding demand for JTAC qualified "fires" guys is complicated by the fact that the people who can train others to be JTACs are currently deployed in the combat zone. Same problem exists for creating more SEALS, Rangers, Special Forces, Recon Marines, and so on. Hard to increase the numbers if all the instructors are deployed fighting the good fight. The air force is scrambling trying to recruit retired JTACs as instructors, and use more computerized training.


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