JTAC students graduate with a bang – literally

Army and RAAF personnel put into practice their newly learned skills in coordinating close air support for soldiers on the ground during Exercise Black Dagger.

CAPTION: A soldier, participating in the Number 67 Joint Terminal Attack Controller Course, confirms target coordinates during Exercise Black Dagger with a RAAF PC-21 forward air control aircraft. Story by Flight Lieutenant Georgina MacDonald. Photo by Corporal Nicci Freeman.

The exercise held twice a year and is the final activity for students on the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Course.

The latest exercise was held from 3 to 14 May at RAAF Base Tindal and Delamere Air Weapons Range, and provided the students an opportunity to coordinate aircraft and ordnance in simulated and live air-to-ground strikes.

Joint fires observer and course participant Lance Bombardier Aaron Oblea, from the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, said the course opened his eyes to the wider ADF.

“So far, I’ve been really happy with my achievements on the course and I am excited to apply what I have learnt to my role at Robertson Barracks ultimately to support troops on the ground,” said Lance Bombardier Oblea.

“Having come from an artillery background, learning to speak to aircraft meant I had to become more flexible, open and free when calling in support.

“Thanks to this course, I like to think that I can now speak two different languages.”

Commanding Officer of No. 4 Squadron Wing Commander Sean Jobson said the exercise was a critical component of JTAC training as it consolidated everything the students had learnt throughout the five-week course.

“The JTACs executed all phases of a typical close air-support mission, from the planning and briefing to the controlling and reporting,” Wing Commander Jobson said.

“Black Dagger is a live-fire activity, which ensures the JTACs are operationally ready to use air power in support of the joint force.

“On this course we had students from both the Army and Air Force and they had the opportunity to control aircraft during several close air-support scenarios.

“Supporting the exercise were F/A-18A/B fighter aircraft from No. 75 Squadron, PC-21 forward air control aircraft from No. 4 Squadron, Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment, as well as 81mm mortars from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.”

Australia is one of 21 nations, mostly NATO-linked, that hold US JTAC training accreditation via a Memorandum of Agreement with the Joint Fire Support Executive Steering Committee intended to ensure commonality in JTAC tactics, techniques and procedures.

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