Close Air Support for Ground Commanders (Appendix 1)

Page Title - Fire Support Coordination
Grunt Logo - Grunt in Cover
Close Air Support for Ground Commanders (Appendix 1)


This information pamphlet has been prepared to assist you in the safe, effective employment of tactical air support. The subject items listed are not intended to be all inclusive. It is obvious that each unit may have unique situations which may call for more stringent precautions or undesired identification. In any case, it is your responsibility to be thoroughly cognizant of the precautions and procedures necessary for the safe and successful employment of tactical air support. Your Forward Air Controller will assist you during each strike, and he is just as anxious as you to get "Charlie" off your back.


a. Marking Devices and Procedures.

(1) Each maneuver element must have adequate smoke grenades to mark their position repeatedly should conditions warrant. Each man in each maneuver element should carry smoke. Commanders should carry even more. HAVE ENOUGH.

(2) Mirrors are very effective during sunny weather conditions.

(3) Penlite flares are very useful especially in dense jungle where your smoke may hang at tree top level.

(4) Marking panels are useful for permissive terrain and where disclosure of precise location may be hazardous. It you use panels, do not transmit their color, geometric pattern or shape - wait until the FAC verifies it for you.

(5) Strobe lights - effective for night strikes. Use flares for initial location, then strobes for precise location.

(6) Balloon marking device - gives continuous location of friendlies. Currently undergoing field testing. See S-4 for issue and tests with your unit.

b. Communication.

(1) Battalion/Company/Platoon Commanders must remain on the radio to:

(a) Confirm location of his marking device relative to his location.

(b) Confirm proper placement of FAC's mark.

(c) Adjust subsequent air delivered ordnance.

(2) Except in extreme emergencies, Ground Commanders should be in direct radio contact with the airborne FAC. A radio operator should not relay instructions and corrections unless absolutely necessary.

c. Location of Elements. The exact position of all your elements must be known.

d. Troop Protection. You must know if your troops have any protection and cover. It is an essential requirement that the FAC be advised of the protective cover available to the ground forces. Tell him if you are dug in or behind trees, or in the clear, or what. Be specific. Then when the strike begins all troops must keep their heads down - don't sight-see an airstrike!

e. Air Request. Know the proper terminology for requesting strikes - don't request air for a single sniper; but, if you have significant contact, get a request for a FAC to have a look. Then, jointly determine your need.

f. Artillery. Be prepared to check fire supporting mortar and artillery fire on the request of the FAC. He can best help you if he can have a couple of minutes to locate the target before the fighters arrive. He can't pinpoint a position, yours or the enemy's, if he is busy dodging friendly artillery rounds.


a. Friendly Location. Be as precise as possible; know your location, use land marks and prominent geographical features to convey your location in relationship to target area. By all means, you must know which way your elements are in relation to your position. If you aren't certain, you're asking for trouble. Find out and explain your line of elements to the FAC utilizing compass directions as well as terrain features. BE PREPARED!

b. Enemy Location. Try to be as specific as possible to insure the first strike is right on target. Give the FAC a reference to gauge your estimate of distance, i.e.; "The distance from my smoke to the large clearing to my south, I estimate to be 100 meters. The target is 300 meters to the east of my smoke." Now the FAC has a better idea of how to correlate your directions and corrections to what he sees on the ground.

c. Marking Procedures.

(1) Wait till the FAC tells you to mark, then do so immediately.

(2) Do not divulge the color of your mark; the FAC will tell you what he sees. You confirm his sighting after he calls the color.

(3) Mark your boundaries, i.e., lead and flank elements. Elements should mark their position nearest target area. When it looks close to the FAC, he will insist on at least three smokes - both flanks and center. Give them to him!

(4) Give FAC a verbal description of the perimeter orientation. Use compass azimuth, i.e., "Im facing 220 and my elements are oriented northwest to southeast."

(5) Be prepared to re-mark for the fighters during the course of the air strike. Many times the smoke is blown away, and the terrain features may not be easily retained by the FAC and fighters.

d. Adjustment of the FAC's Mark. Be prepared to observe the FAC mark the target. He will tell you: "I'm going to mark, you adjust from my smoke." The easiest target for a fighter pilot to hit is the FACs marking rocket. If at all feasible, try to adjust him right on the enemy location you want destroyed. He usually has an ample supply of rockets, so let him mark again if the first one or two are way off.

e. Adjustment of Air Delivered Ordnance.

(1) Ordinarily, the FAC will have one of the two fighters drop ordnance, then ask you how it looks. If you can, on the FAC's request only, raise your head and see where the first bomb or napalm hit. The FAC will hold the fighters high and dry until you verify the ordnance on target. Your guidance may place the next bomb precisely where the tactical situation dictates. You, as the ground commander, are most knowledgeable of the changing course of the battle. By moving the ordnance in response to specific and clear instructions, the FAC can better provide the air support you need. Remember: If the ordnance is being dropped close-in, keep your heads down until the FAC tells you to look and adjust.

(2) Be familiar with the lethal radius of the forthcoming ordnance. Your assigned FAC or ALO has this information. Should you desire impact of the ordnance such as to place your own perimeter within the lethal radius of the specific ordnance, the FAC may suggest another location or refuse to commit the fighters on that location. In an extreme emergency, if you insist on moving the strike closer than the FAC deems safe, he will ask you to assume the responsibility. This is a tough decision, but it has been made before.

f. Precautions.

(1) Be positive of your smoke and the relationship of the FAC's mark both to your location and to the target.

(2) Report any overflight of the fighters to the FAC immediately. If you can anticipate that your position will be overflown immediately advise the FAC to send the fighter through dry. We can always make another pass. Normally, the fighters never fly directly over the friendlies while in an ordnance delivery pattern.

(3) Be sure of your ground orientation. The target may be 200 meters East, and if you authorize an east to west pass, you may be in for trouble. Check the compass and be sure of the target azimuth and the proposed run in. Check the fighters to insure your location is not in jeopardy.

(4) Insure you know the exact location of all your positions and troops. An element only 100 meters further away than you think may place them inside the lethal radius of ordnance and cause friendly casualties.

(5) Know the ordnance limitations. The FAC will brief this item, but every close air strike mission is different. A lot depends on your cover, weather, proximity of the enemy, their cover, type of ordnance being delivered, etc.

(6) Advise the FAC of all movement of your troops. Hot pursuit of the enemy has taken friendlies into the strike area without the knowledge of the FAC. This is a short round in the making! The wisest decision is to keep all your troops down and in place until the strike or strikes are completed.

(7) If you hear or see the enemy firing at the FAC or the fighter, advise the FAC at once. He must advise the fighters of ground fire so they can maneuver to avoid it.


a. Plan ahead for additional air support. This keeps constant pressure on the enemy. If the first strike is missing the target area, or you receive fire from a different location, advise the FAC and get more air on the way .... BE PREPARED.

b. Plan to reinstate your artillery support as soon as the FAC clears the target area. Close coordination on the gun target line and a mutually agreed FAC holding area enables you to apply continuing pressure. If subsequent strikes are forthcoming, advise artillery you will be calling for a check fire when the next set of fighters are on station and ready to go to work for you.

c. Relay an estimate of residual enemy resistance and the locations to the FAC. This will assist him in locating the enemy before the next strike arrives. If you are able to put a WP mortar round in the target area after the fighters and FAC have cleared the target area, the more effective TACAIR will be.

d. The FAC relies heavily on you for his BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment). If you see results of the strike, either from your location or from a subsequent sweep of the area, tell the FAC. If he isn't on station at the time, relay the info to the Brigade S-3 Air. The fighter pilots would like to know when they've done some good work as much as you are pleased with your work. "Killed by Air" and other results of air strikes are the things which make good fighter pilots better fighter pilots!


The application of tactical airpower in a close-air support environment is, at best, a difficult task. The FAC with whom you work has been highly trained, as have the fighter pilots. Their prime mission is to place the ordnance on the enemy to relieve the pressure exerted on you. To do this, the FAC must rely on your knowledge of the ground situation before he can safely and effectively direct the air support. The responsibility for this mission cannot be carried solely by anyone. It is a team effort of you, the FAC and the fighter pilot. Here's hoping you are never in dire need of TACAIR, but if you are, BE PREPARED!!

Grunt Logo - Grunt in Cover


Vietnam Lessons Learned No. 77 : Fire Support Coordination in the Republic of Vietnam. United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 20th May 1970. Appendix 1 "Close Air Support Information for Ground Commanders", prepared by United States Air Force Division Air Liaison Office, 4th Infantry Division, 1st June 1969.


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