TWENTY-NINE PALMS MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FIELD, Calif., June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- US Marine Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) cleared a flight of civilian A-4 Skyhawks to drop inert, practice ordnance on a USMC target range on May 27th. JTACs controlled the pilots and A-4 Skyhawks of Airborne Tactical Advantage, Co., known as ATAC, the US Navy's tactical aircraft training provider. ATAC, the US industry leader in DoD airborne tactical services, is the first civilian company cleared to employ Mk-76 inert training munitions in support of DoD JTAC training. ATAC also flies the supersonic F-21 Kfir and Mk-58 Hunter, and is the only civilian company certified to train the US Navy's "Topgun" weapons school and USAF F-22 Raptors. ATAC also trains every aircraft carrier battlegroup prior to deployment from bases across the US and the Pacific regions.
Demand for USMC, Navy and USAF JTAC-qualified personnel to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq has increased dramatically in the past 5 years. The NATO sponsored 13th Annual Joint Close Air Support (JCAS) Symposium emphasized that the most challenging part of training JTACs is the requirement for tactical aircraft for JTACs to control. Lt Col Christopher DeLong, credited with initiating this new training capability for the USMC said, "Having Contract Close Air Support (CCAS) aircraft deliver inert ordnance for the USMC allows us to close the loop on the training evolution from CAS check in and 9 line passage through aircraft acquisition, ordnance delivery, corrections to impacts and bomb damage assessment." Although JTAC requirements have increased dramatically in recent years, so have the demands on a shrinking US fighter and attack force. In order to professionally tackle the challenges of JTAC support, ATAC brought on USMC Maj Gen (retired) Jon "Goose" Gallinetti, to help guide ATAC's efforts with the Marines. ATAC's Air-to-Ground Program Manager, Lt Col (retired) James Reed, is a former USMC F/A-18 fighter pilot who served as the Operations Officer for the USMC's Weapons School located in Yuma, AZ, the premier air-to-ground training school for the USMC. Reed said, "Through-put at JTAC schools such as EWTGPAC is a challenge. Ultimately, the USMC has contracted ATAC to fly in support of JTAC training to help alleviate the bottle-neck of this critical combat training."