Photo: Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller marks ground target for a Navy Hornet under starry sky. In Kuwait.

Taken on Sept. 11, 2012, the following picture shows U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Drew Parks, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, as he communicates with a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet supporting Operation Spartan Shield Southwest Asia.

Although the exact location is “undisclosed”, Spartan Shield is the name of the U.S. operation in Kuwait, hence the image was taken during an exercise in the desert over there.

Role of the JTACs, previously known as FACs (Forward Air Controllers), is to provide precision terminal attack guidance of U.S. and coalition close air support platforms from a forward position.

The JTAC acts as a sort of “broker” between the commander of the troops on the ground and the pilot, working embedded on a patrol, in the vicinity of the enemy, in an armored vehicle, or from the Tactical Operations Center of a Forward Operating Base. Through the  ROVER (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver) system made available by the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod that the F-18s carry on the left side of the fuselage, the JTAC receives on a portable terminal similar to a Playstation, realtime footage he then uses to determine whether the pilot is cueing the weapons to the correct ground target (and avoid friendly fire or collateral damage).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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About David Cenciotti 3645 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.