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WWII Forward Air Controller radio?

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An interesting aspect of FAC activities is what occurred in Burma. The earliest close cooperation between air and ground units occurred there, since use of aircraft for both supply and close support was intrinsic to operating behind enemy lines. The USAAF Air Commandos were equipped with P-51A's still fitted with HF SCR-274-N radios. The RAF units had gone over to the SCR-522 VHF set - and thus could not talk to the ground units - and they asserted they had no need to, since they could properly brief their pilots before takeoff. But the P-51A's still had the SCR-274-N, could talk to the ground units, and the Air Commandos considered that using ground observers to call in air strikes to be a great idea. The result was that backwater war in Burma was way ahead of the rest of the Allies.

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While the Air Commandos were certainly innovative - earliest air-ground cooperation and developing the TTPs used today was in NATO/MTO. Theaters in WWII didn't often get their innovations shared between theaters, so often practices developed at same time but unawares of others doing the same or similar things.

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I wonder how much of the failure to develop true FAC capabilities was due to attitude and careerism and how much to technology. I have an SCR-522 - it's a BIG set, and using one in the field would be like carrying around two of today's microwave ovens along with a 1960's TV set. There were huge advantages to using VHF for aircraft comm, but other than strapping an SCR-522 to a jeep there was no way for forward ground units to use it. And of course ground units already had HF sets in use.


But the other thing was that airpower theories focused on an independent air force fighting its own battle rather than being an "Army Corps" supporting the infantry in the same way that the Signal Corps and the Tanks Corps did. Before WWII some in the Air Corps feared that lightweight communications technology would allow a Private on the ground in a forward area to take control of a air force bombing mission and divert it from the targets selected by the air staffs. Of course for some CAS missions the only thing that made sense was for a FAC in the battle area to tell where they needed the bombs. This even continues today. Using USAF, Army, USN, USMC to tell the B-52's where to drop their bombs in Afghanistan was decried as wresting authority from the staffs in the Air Force units.


By the way, I have only read of a few cases of BC-611's being used to talk to airplanes and they were all rescue operations in Burma. In those cases the C-47's would drop supplies and rescue personnel and then be able to discuss the situation using the handi-talkies. Mostly the BC-611 was too short ranged to be able to hail an airplane unless it was right overhead and looking for someone.

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