FORT MCCOY TOTAL FORCE TRAINING CENTER, Wis. --
The 179th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard provided cover with its Block 50 F-16CM fighter aircraft to Special Operations Forces personnel from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, who jumped from C-130s assigned to the 133rd Airlift Wing over Fort McCoy’s Warrens and Badger Drop Zones June 23-25, 2021.
Close Air Support, or CAS, is defined as air action by aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and require detailed integration. CAS provides firepower in offensive or defensive operations to destroy or disrupt enemy forces.
These CAS scenarios proved the concept of integrating multiple units within a relevant high threat scenario in nearby Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center, Wisconsin. This training opportunity included both Minnesota Air National Guard flying wings, the 148th Fighter Wing and 133rd Airlift Wing, as well as personnel from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, U.S. Army Training Range and U.S. Air Force.
“Our primary goal in this scenario was to identify and exercise a scenario associated with having Special Tactics Operators infilled via C-130 and live jump into a Drop Zone while F-16s provided Suppression of Enemy Air Defense against Surface-to-Air Missiles and Air Defense Artillery,” said 179th Fighter Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Grant Brown. Simultaneously, Forward Air Controllers (Airborne) provided support until Special Operations Forces could get set up on the ground.
These scenarios provided a paradigm shift from more traditional CAS missions because they required the F-16 Forward Air Controllers to go in first to find and destroy threats to the jumpers, build an initial ground picture and prepare the area for CAS operations.
“Proficient and competent SOF Operators cannot be mass produced during times of emergency,” said Senior Airman Nathanial Betterton, Combat Controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “SOF Operators must continue to hone their skills and maintain their proficiencies with unique training opportunities,” added Betterton.
During CAS training, it is important to build trust between fighter aircraft and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, JTACs, on the ground. “Because of these high impact, low cost in-house, face to face training scenarios, the 26th Special Tactics Squadron has developed a level of trust and confidence in the abilities of the 179th Fighter Squadron,” said Brown.
“No one asset or force can defeat advancing threats alone,” said Brown. “It takes execution in training to understanding both the capabilities and risks associated with these missions,” Brown added. The 179th is already planning following on scenarios for live jumps with SOF Operators into its advanced SEAD training plan.
Situated on 60,000 acres of rolling hills in west-central Wisconsin, U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy trains members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, living up to the nickname “Total Force Training Center.”