The mission of the FAC was to be the eyes and ears of the fighter pilot. The FAC was assigned an Area of Operations – AO – and his job was to know the AO so well that he could spot anything out of place or new. This was called Visual Reconnaissance – VR. If he found a target, he would coordinate with local commanders, such as ground commanders and tribal chiefs, and get permission to expend ordnance on the target.
Once he obtained clearance to attack a target, the FAC would call the Direct Air Support Center – the DASC – and get fighter aircraft assigned for the airstrike. The job of the DASC was to make sure that the right strike aircraft and munitions were assigned to the target in a timely manner.
If more than one set of fighters was assigned, the FAC would have to prioritize which set to use first. Perhaps one set of fighters had the perfect ordnance load for the target, but had lots of playtime, while another set of fighters, with less-than-optimum weapons, may have only a few minutes of playtime. It was the FAC’s job to determine what order to employ the fighters, and to de-conflict the fighters by making sure they were holding at different altitudes, or in different locations.
Once the fighters were on-scene, the FAC would mark the target, usually with 2.75-inch white phosphorous rockets, called willie petes, and then direct the fighters to place their bombs on target.
Typically, the FAC would be talking to the ground commander on FM radio, talking to the DASC on VHF, and conducting the airstrike on UHF. He had to constantly listen to all three radios to make sure everything was coordinated. Then, he had to keep track of the results of each airstrike: the call sign, type and number of fighters, the munitions, the time on and off target, the location of the target, and the results, called bomb Damage Assessment – BDA. All of this needed to be reported to the Intelligence department at the end of the flight.
During the entire airstrike he had to keep his airplane out of the way of the fighters, keep the airplane in a position to constantly see the fighters and the target, and keep from getting shot down.
Other than that, being a FAC was pretty easy.