RAF JTACs hone skills and equipment in Finland

Royal Air Force personnel are working with colleagues from across the globe to develop new innovative ways to work together.

Bold Quest has seen armed forces from as far afield as Canada and Australia nations deploy to Finland with the aim of improving the interoperability of coalition forces. 

Among the UK personnel involved are Royal Air and British Army Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs). Army Air Corps Warrant Officer Class 1 Norrie Kennedy, is the Standards and Evaluation Officer for all UK JTACs. He said: “A JTAC’s job is to coordinate the attack of aircraft in close proximity to friendly soldiers. Such Close Air Support is a team effort, each participant, whether the JTAC on the ground, a pilot in the air or the air command and control, all have a part to play.

From an observations post situated high on a disused ski slope, a pair of UK JTACs were afforded a commanding view of the Finnish countryside for miles around. Using FireStorm, a high precision targeting system, the RAF Regiment and Royal Artillery personnel were practising locating simulated targets. Once identified the JTACs generated highly precise coordinates and passed them digitally to other users and combat aircraft which in turn would simulate an attack. 

 “We’ve come here to trial our equipment in an environment where we have all the assets required to both train and to advance our equipment and our capability.”

Warrant Officer Norrie Kennedy

Army Air Corps

“This affords the opportunity to put our processes through their paces and have them analysed with a view to informing future investments and improving interoperability.”

Aircraft available included Finnish Air Force and US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, French Rafales and a Vietnam-era O-2 Skymaster. The 1968 vintage civilian aircraft, flown by an experienced former military pilot, provides a cost-effective service by remaining on station for hours at a time.

“The aircraft has a few bullet holes in it from Vietnam when it was an Air Force aircraft but it’s a good solid platform with which to support JTACs” explained Steve Brown of Abacus Technology.

Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment the O-2 is able to provide the JTACs with exactly what they would receive from a fast jet. The vests worn by the JTACs also has a camera which enables the aircraft to see what the JTAC is looking at. 

“With the UK forces we’ve been replicating a close air support platform," said Mr Brown. "The UK troops were identifying a building and they could see what the aircraft was looking at from above.’ 

“This isn’t the first time we’ve operated with it,” said WO1 Kennedy. “It works very well, it’s persistent and for trials, it’s ideal and very cost effective.”

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