Australian Army Captain helps train Afghan pilots and Joint Terminal Air Controllers
22 April 2016
The initiative of an Australian Army Black Hawk pilot deployed to Afghanistan has increased the effectiveness of Afghan Air Force pilots, their aircraft and the Afghan Joint Terminal Air Controllers who direct air launched munitions onto ground targets.
Captain (Capt) L, deployed in October last year to the General Command Police Special Units (GCPSU) at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) as a senior mentor.
Shortly after he arrived, he realised there was limited use of Afghan Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACS) and the integration of them with their Air Force intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
"Towards the end of October the GCPSU operational tempo increased significantly," Capt L said.
"One of the deficiencies of the Afghan Air Forces' Special Mission Wing (SMW) was they didn't have fire support aircraft to protect their helicopter assault force, which is used to insert special forces operators into high-risk areas".
"Although the conventional Air Force had aerial fire support assets, GCPSU did not regularly have access to them."
When these aircraft were available, the Afghan JTACs often lacked the skills to support training or missions.
Identifying the capability gap, Capt L decided to improve the situation.
"I approached the two schools that trained Afghan JTACS and asked them how they were trained, and liaised with the SMW ISR platforms to generate an exercise which best demonstrated their capabilities and limitations," he said.
"I discovered their JTACs received training, but were not always given opportunities after their training to practise their trade."
Capt L then, along with a group of officers from Afghanistan and six other coalition nations, established a working group named TOLO AFTAB or Rising Sun.
"Once a week we meet to develop training for Afghan JTACs in fires and ISR integration," he said.
"So they could receive some training currency and become a more effective asset for their ground force commanders."
Capt L and his group then set about organising a series of training activities, which culminated with a TOLO AFTAB live-fire exercise.
"So far we have had a significant number of JTACS develop currency through the program after initially giving them a three day refresher course," he said.
"After the three days they come out to a TOLO AFTAB exercise with their mentors.
"During the live-fire exercise the mentor talks the JTAC through what he's about to do with respect to ISR and fires coordination, giving him targets and direction on what type of fire to direct onto the target."
The first live-fire TOLO AFTAB exercise was conducted on January 23.
"So far we've run a number of TOLO ATAB exercises and we've had overwhelming feedback from the police and air force that support them," he said.
"In a recent exercise completed in mid-March, we had a number of ANA JTACS graduate and they were then deployed to units around Afghanistan to support Afghan forces.
"Those students have successfully called in live-fire from their own air force aircraft during real missions."
The training and TOLO AFTAB exercises have increased the Afghans fighting capability utilising their own aviation and JTAC assets.
"This exercise will soon hopefully be organised and conducted entirely by Afghan pilots and JTACS utilising Afghan assets," he said.
"The training and exercise concept now has the backing of the chiefs of both the Afghan Air Force and Defence Force, with some units now utilising it as a requirement prior to deployment or graduation."