The F-16 and the Forward Air Controller (Airborne) mission

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon is the western world’s most prolific fighter of the last 40 years.

Born in response to LWF (Light Weight Fighter) requirement for a small and agile fighter, the Viper has become U.S. Air Force’s standard multirole jet.

Among the many tasks that the F-16 can perform, there is also the Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC (A) mission.

In the cool video below you can see the strafing run of eight F-16CJs belonging to 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons from Spangdahlem AB, during a NATO FACs exercise held at Nordhorn Range in Germany on Aug. 20, 2009.

But which are the skills requested to perform a FAC(A) mission?

In this kind of mission, the airborne platform has also the task to allocate fighters to targets designated by the ground troops.

Even if the FAC(A) concept dates back to WWII and, later, Korea Air War, nowadays the job generally requires a single seat plane, with a quite busy pilot who runs the radios, coordinates the attack runs with the ground troops, writes down some specific data information and flies the aircraft.

Aircraft flying FAC(A) missions usually carry a wide variety of ordnance such as dumb bombs, white phosphorus rockets (used to mark targets for inbound attackers) and also 20 mm rounds which flank the latest precision guided munitions that the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and Sniper targeting pod (along with Link 16 and other on board tech) make more efficient.

The FAC(A) manages the Close Air Support stack, that is the vertical pier of airplanes that respond to the FAC(A)’s call for support.

While flying his own airplane and avoiding enemy Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) and Anti Aircraft Artillery (AAA), the FAC(A) must keep track simultaneously the CAS stack which is made up of different types of aircraft, with many different types of air-to-ground munitions most of the times, and furthermore they have different loiter times, airspeeds and ability to hit targets on the ground.

Moreover the FAC(A) also coordinates army artillery fires. Therefore, it’s a quite busy mission!

The F-16, a fast jet that offers its pilot an impressive visibility, can carry plenty of ordnance, is maneuverable even at low-speed and high AOA (Angle of Attack) and can effectively cooperate with different types of aircraft, is the perfect asset to perform FAC(A) missions.

Another aircraft quite good in the same role is the OA-10 Warthog.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force



  1. Please include all names on photo credits. In this case, the photo is mine and was initially used without permission by the 52 FW PA. After many letters back and forth, they added my name as credit. I’m not an AF photog either, so it’s my property.

    Jeff Stoermer

    • Proof… You’ll need it

      Otherwise, I claim every on uncredited pic on the net, porn included

    • Hi Jeff,

      the problem is that the AF posted it as theirs on their websites. Solved the problem by using another image.
      Thanks for letting us know.


  2. The perfect asset to perform the FAC(A) mission was(and still should be) the USN F-14 Tomcat. They invented and wrote the book on the FAC(A) mission during operations in the Balkans in the late 90s. Read ‘Black Ace High’ for a better look at the FAC(A) mission than the Viper can or will ever provide.

    • Are you a pilot? Do you know that for sure? The new tech in a Viper makes it a lot better than a Kittycat

      • I am not a pilot and I do know that for sure. If the Viper was the better aircraft for this job then why was it not even glanced at by campaign commanders as a FAC(A) asset until now? The Tomcat was still active in both OIF and OEF(well into 2006) and was given all priority work in the FAC(A) role that they could take on. Read some history, and then explain to me how exactly a single seat aircraft with the shortest legs in the entire US inventory is even a suitable option for FAC(A) work let alone better than the F-14D. New tech in the Viper???? Really? I’ll pull up a chair while you explain?

    • Dude, we all liked the F-14. But, you guys that think that it’s still relevant are crazy. It’s only relevance in a modern conflict would be as an interceptor, slinging long-range AIM-54s. For anything else it’s terribly outclassed by American, European, and Russian designs in all categories.

    • Flew the A-10 during multiple Balkan deployments to include Allied Force. The Tomkitties were categorically scoffed as inept FACs. It’s a fleet defense fighter absolutely not optimized for the CAS much less FAC mission set.

  3. Back when the F-100 Super Sabres were used for the “Misty” fast FAC mission, the 2-seat
    F-100F was used:


    “Officials from the Seventh Air Force decided to use the two-seat F-100F
    so that the second man, sitting in the rear, could be free to scan the ground,
    read maps, handle the radios, and take notes.”

    So why did the USAF select the single-seat F-16C for this mission, instead of the 2-seat

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