Certain ground combat capabilities are an Airman’s responsibility and require unique surface operations that are integral to the application of air and space power. To meet this responsibility, the Air Force recognized the need to organize, train, and equip a force of Battlefield Airmen (BA) capable of delivering distinctive expertise in a ground combat environment with unequaled firepower, accuracy, responsiveness, flexibility and persistence. These BA include Combat Control, Pararescue, Tactical Air Control and Battlefield Weather professionals. BA provide skill sets not commonly found across the Air Force and typically operate in combat zones outside the perimeter of Air Force bases, often in the deep battle space.
Each of these fields have unique missions in support of both Special Operations Forces and conventional forces. However, many core disciplines are common to the majority of BA. These commonalities include areas such as methods of employment, mobility, force protection methods, communication, and advances in mission planning and rehearsal. To better understand the needs of each BA expertise, a short summary of each career field’s mission is provided below.
The Air Force Combat Controllers are Special Tactics ground operators who work as members of Air Force Special Tactics Teams and as members of Army Special Forces, Navy SEAL, and Joint Special Operations teams. Combat Controllers are certified to act as air traffic controllers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers in hostile and dangerous environments. They can be deployed by sea, air, and land to take over or construct an airstrip, set up navigational equipment, and direct airplanes and helicopters to a safe landing without the use of a tower or elaborate communications system. They also establish drop zones and control parachute drops of personnel and equipment, and control airstrikes and air attacks from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft from all military services.
Pararescue Airmen, known as PJs, conduct conventional or unconventional rescue operations. These PJs are the ideal force for personnel recovery and combat search and rescue. PJs’ primarily function as personnel recovery specialists with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. They deploy in any available manner, to include air-land-sea tactics, into restricted environments to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured personnel, while acting in an enemy-evading recovery role. PJs participate in search and rescue, combat search and rescue, recovery support for NASA and conduct other operations as appropriate. They are among the most highly trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military, maintaining emergency medical technician-paramedic qualification throughout their careers. With this medical and rescue expertise, along with their deployment capabilities, PJs are able to perform life-saving missions in the world’s most remote areas.
Battlefield and Special Operations Weathermen are meteorologists with advanced tactical training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather and interpret weather data, and provide intelligence from deployed locations while working primarily with Army (Battlefield Weather) and Special Operations (Special Operations Weather) forces. They collect localized weather information, assist mission planning, and generate accurate, mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of conventional and special operations. They deploy into restricted environments by air, land or sea to observe and analyze weather data. They also train joint force members to take and communicate limited weather observations. Additionally, Special Operations Weathermen conduct special reconnaissance, collect upper air data, organize, establish and maintain weather data reporting networks, determine host nation meteorological capabilities and train foreign national forces.
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) personnel advise U.S. Army conventional and special operations ground maneuver commanders on the integration and execution of air and space power. Qualified individuals, serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, provide final attack control to aircrew when aircraft are inbound to the target, ensuring the aircrew identifies and attacks the correct target, minimizing the risk to friendly ground forces and preventing unwanted collateral damage. Operating on the forward edge of the battle area and behind enemy lines, TACPs coordinate with Theater Air Ground System elements through the use of state-of-the-art communications, and maintain proficiency in the tactics, techniques and procedures of their aligned Army units. When deployed, the TACPs live under austere field conditions, and coordinate, de-conflict, and execute air-to-ground missions within the Army’s area of operation.
To continue to maintain superiority over our enemies, research and development to improve the effectiveness of Battlefield Airmen is vital. The Air Force Research Laboratory seeks to address capability gaps, limitations or deficiencies through this Broad Agency Announcement.