US Marines with 31st MEU Coordinate Air Strikes

U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) coordinate multiple close air support drills during a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) exercise on range W-174, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 05, 2020. The TACP consisted of Marine Corps joint fire observers and joint terminal attack controllers who coordinated with aircraft to conduct close air support drills. The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.

US Marines with 31st MEU Coordinate Air Strikes
US Marines with 31st MEU Coordinate Air Strikes

TACPs are Special Warfare airmen who operate in multiple contexts. A United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party, commonly abbreviated TACP, refers to an individual or team of United States Air Force Special Warfare Airmen with AFSC 1Z3X1, who are aligned with conventional, Special Operation Forces, and Tier 1 combat maneuver units to provide precision terminal attack guidance of U.S. and coalition fixed- and rotary-wing close air support aircraft, artillery, and naval gunfire; establish and maintain command and control (C2) communications; and advise ground commanders on the best use of air power.

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US Marines with 31st MEU Coordinate Air Strikes
US Marines with 31st MEU Coordinate Air Strikes

Most commonly, TACPs serve as the principal Air Force liaison element to the United States Army (USA), where they align with combat maneuver echelons from Corps to Battalion level. The TACP provides its aligned Army unit with expertise in planning and executing airpower in support of the land component commander’s scheme of maneuver. In special operations settings, TACPs deploy with “white” SOF units, including Air Force Special Tactics, Army Special Forces, and Navy SEAL teams, as well with Army Rangers and Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Units, acting primarily as precision airstrike controllers and communication and command-and-control experts.

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