Controlling the Skies by Peter Seal

I maybe the FNG in AFVN, but I grew up during the “First TV War”. This sparked my interest in ‘Nam, firstly building scale models, and subsequently collecting war era militaria. However, I am not new to “Living History”, being the founder member of “Bersayap Tentara”. I have particular fascination with the vehicles and aircraft utilised during the conflict, how they were used tactically, and the men that operated them. So, I am geared up for “Phantom Pilot” to “M113 Commander“…..One of my portrayals is that off Air Liaison Officer (ALO)…..



The following explains their role and the system they operated in:

Tactical Air Control System (TACS)

TACS Organization


The Tactical Air Control System (TACS) was the means by which the senior Air Force commander in Southeast Asia was able to plan, direct and control tactical air operations and coordinate air operations with other services.   The TACS consisted of control agencies and communications – electronics facilities which provided the means for centralized control and decentralized execution of missions. (7th AF Pamphlet 55-1,1968)
The Tactical Air Control Systems epitomized the military's fascination with acronyms. Hopefully this page will help to bring some sense to this alphabet soup.
Here are some of the more important terms:-

ALO — Air Liaison Officer

TACS — Tactical Air Control System

TOC — Tactical Operation

CTOC— Corps Tactical Operations Centre

DASC — Direct Air Support Centre

FAC — Forward Air Controller

TACC — Tactical Air Control Centre

TACP — Tactical Air Control Party

TOC — Tactical Operations Centre

Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) as utilized in South Vietnam, a subordinate operational component of the Tactical Air Control System designed to provide air liaison functions and coordination for the control of aircraft; operates at corps, Field Force, division, brigade or cavalry squadron, and battalion levels; may consist of Air Liaison Officers (ALO's), Forward Air Controllers (FAC's), radio operators and equipment.
The Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) provides an Air Force communications system down to the battalion level.
TACP radio jeep



At the head of the team is an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) who is a key member of the ground commander's staff. The ALO attends the ground commander's meetings, briefs on air activity in the area, and advises on the use and capabilities of tactical airpower. Additionally, the ALO is a senior forward air controller and the supervisor of the FACs in the TACP. These FACs are Air Force pilots who perform a number of vital missions from their airborne positions in light observation aircraft. They maintain close contact with local ground forces, help keep ground units linked by providing timely airborne radio links, direct air-strikes, forward Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) reports, and perform valuable visual reconnaissance during daily patrols of their sector.
The TACP's are located with the ground units down to the battalion level and provide the link from the Army commander to the Direct Air Support Centre (DASC) for acquisition of supporting airpower.
This is a subordinate operational component of the Tactical Air Control System designed for control and direction of close air support and other direct air support operations; it is under the operational control of a tactical air control or tactical air direction centre and is normally located near the command post of the supported ground unit.
Reference: Seventh Air Force In Country Tactical Air Operations Handbook 7AF Pamphlet 55-1
Saigon: Headquarters Seventh Air Force, 20 March 1968


During the Vietnam War when a Forward Air Controller (FAC) was directing an air-strike and had briefed the fighter aircraft, and all participants had identified the target and the location of friendly forces, it was the FAC that issued the clearance to strike the target: 



This drawing illustrates how a (1) flareship worked in concert with a (2) forward air controller (FAC) and (3) strike aircraft to provide close air support. By flying patterns to either side of the target, the flareship and FAC avoided each other and the strike aircraft. [Graphic extracted from: Study (U), Lt. Col. Ralph A. Rowley, The Air Force in Southeast Asia: Tactics and Techniques of Close Air Support Operations, 1961-1973 (Washington: Office of Air Force History, Feb 1976)]