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Forward air controller

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A Forward Air Controller (FAC) is an pilot, or other individual with a deep understanding of the capabilities of aircraft and weapons available for close air support, who is responsible to the supported ground organization for the proper employment of air support. FACs may be attached to foot-mobile special reconnaissance teams or to conventional combat units. They are part of the overall structure of controlling close support to ground forces.

The FAC may be on the ground with the supported troops, or in a specialized aircraft (i.e., airborne FAC or "fast FAC"), optimized for observing ground threats and designating them for attack. Ground FACs may operate as teams, with a combination of team leader, radio operator, laser designator or other marking specialist, etc.

Ground-based FACs may use special vehicles, which include a laser designator, laser rangefinder and precision position transmitter (e.g., GPS), and multiple sets of radios. Ground troop communication tends to be on very high frequency (VHF) while air-to-ground and air-to-air is ultra-high frequency (UHF). Communications security devices now may be separate; reduction in the number of separate radio and security devices is one of the goals of the U.S. and allied Joint Tactical Radio System.

Some organizations, such as the United States Marine Corps, require their FACs to have training in leading ground troops as well as aviation knowledge. Other organizations start with air-qualified personnel, but give them extensive ground training (e.g., U.S. Air Force combat control teams).

An equivalent person that coordinates artillery or naval gunfire support is called a forward observer.