MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. — Airmen with the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and their AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft participated with allied and partner nations in a weeks-long interoperability training, Bold Quest 21.2, November 3 to 18, 2021.
Bold Quest is a recurring training event that allows allied and partner nation joint terminal attack controllers and aircrew to navigate and develop new ways to communicate and work together while showcasing their abilities and strengthening the overall partnership.
The 73rd Special Operations Squadron staged its AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in order to support the joint, multinational ground forces as they conducted combat scenarios. The forces included Marines, Soldiers and service members from multiple allied and partner nations.
Additionally, the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron and Air Force Special Operations Command Headquarters provided virtual reality training to allied and partner nations on how to communicate with the AC-130 Js.
Liaison officers at MUTC played an integral role of connecting U.S. and foreign joint terminal attack controllers while proactively working through potential roadblocks and providing clear guidance on aircraft capabilities.
“My job is to be a point of contact for the units and countries that are here,” said 1st Lt. Will Bachmann, a 73rd SOS pilot.
“I’m here to meet face-to-face and shake hands, to build relationships and have dialogue between someone that knows the weapon system and the people who are going to be using it.”
Bachmann explained that being a “problem solver” is the best way to label the duties he performed throughout the exercise as a liaison officer.
“I handle a lot of scheduling conflicts, and I have to be the one to put my hand up and let everyone know what the aircraft capabilities are and what it can’t do,” said Bachmann.
One of the main focuses of this specific Bold Quest iteration has been testing interoperability with digitally aided close air support (DACAS) which allows for a more modern approach to air-to-ground fire support.
“If you imagine Call of Duty, where you have a mini map that has blue and red dots, our DACAS systems allow us to see that in real time,” said Bachmann.
“The JTACs can use the system to ping potential threats and we can do the same allowing us to share the data faster and make decisions on how to engage.”
Bachmann went on to say that it’s all about quickly and effectively sharing information between the ground forces and the air assets. Overall, DACAS allows for less time on the net communicating and less chances of miscommunication between JTACs and aircrew, whether U.S., allied or partner.
“We are here to demonstrate our capabilities to utilize digitally aided close air support,” said Jay, a Norwegian Special Operations Forces (NORSOF), JTAC instructor and evaluator from Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK).
“The DACAS system allows us to generate good data on the target and send them in quick bursts rather than having a lot of voice communication with the aircraft.”
Bachmann briefly outlined his past experiences working with foreign JTACs and applauded them on their professionalism and expertise.
“NORSOF and the gunship community have a long and good relationship,” said Jay. “We just want to show the coalition that Norway is looking ahead in support of the DACAS mission.”
Throughout the training, JTACs also worked with the AC-130Js in live-fire mission scenarios where they will be able to ping targets and work through DACAS as well as traditional close air support.
Story by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs