Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) personnel are specifically trained and tasked to assess, train, advise and assist foreign aviation forces in airpower employment, sustainment, and force integration. They help friendly and allied forces employ and sustain their own airpower resources. When necessary, CAAs integrate those resources into joint and combined (multi-national) operations. CAAs serve the combatant commanders’ advisory needs throughout the range of military operations–from small military-to-military contact events and contingency operations to major regional conflict. Air Force Special Operation Command’s 6th Special Operations Squadron is the only unit in AFSOC (and the USAF) whose primary mission is to execute combat aviation advisory operations worldwide, in support of Special Operations Command’s tailor-made theater security cooperation plans.
Combat aviation advisors possess specialized capabilities for foreign internal defense (helping friends and allies apply airpower while countering the internal threats of subversion, lawlessness and insurgency), unconventional warfare (providing battlefield flexibility through non-standard air platforms supporting special operations surface forces) and coalition support (integrating foreign airpower into the theater-campaign, promoting safety and interoperability, facilitating airspace deconfliction, and upgrading host-nation aviation capabilities).
A principal mission objective in all operating arenas is facilitating the availability, reliability, safety and interoperability of participating foreign aviation resources supporting joint and combined operations. Mission execution is approached primarily through hands-on, adaptive training and advisory support geared to practical airpower applications. The squadron can also function in a direct-execution role. These airpower training and advisory capabilities are extremely relevant in current Overseas Contingency Operations, particularly in cases when US forces have to fight as coalition partners or when allied forces have to carry the tactical initiative with US training and advisory assistance.
Advisory teams also assist theater combatant commanders and subordinate commands in operational-level planning and joint, combined force integration in fixed and rotary-wing operations. Assistance to the theater combatant commands includes assessments of foreign aviation capabilities, liaison with foreign aviation forces and assistance in theater air campaign planning for combined operations. The squadron also performs safety and interoperability assessments of foreign aviation capabilities prior to initiating joint, combined operations and exercises. Once the foreign aviation unit has achieved satisfactory levels of proficiency and safety, CAAs, in their coalition support role, can serve as a force multiplier by fielding advisory teams to draw foreign units into joint and combined operations.
CAAs are all required to complete a demanding training and education curriculum intended to produce foreign language proficient, regionally-oriented, politically astute, and culturally aware irregular warfare aviation advisory experts.
AFSOC CAAs, representing 32 separate Air Force Specialty Codes, also receive intensive language training, to speak a variety of languages including Russian, Polish, German, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, French, Dari, Urdu and Thai.
CAA training and advisory capabilities in the employment arena include airpower applications, tactical employment and mission planning. Tactical flying activities include fixed and rotary-wing operations for combat search and rescue, close air support and airlift/aerial delivery (resupply, air drop). Assistance in the sustainment arena includes aviation maintenance, supply, munitions, ground safety, life support, personal survival, air base defense, C3 and other sustainment functions supporting combat air operations.
Advisors are qualified to operate and maintain a variety of aircraft, including the Russian Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters, the Spanish CASA 212 transport, the Cessna 208, the Beech King Air 350, the French AS-332 Super Puma, the Canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter, the Bassler BT-67, all models of the US Huey helicopter and several USAF C-130 variants. Due to their high levels of maturity and experience, AFSOC CAAs are authorized to advise on nearly any rotary wing or fixed wing mobility platform flown by their partner nations, and receive extensive specialized training and civilian certifications.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which created the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), identified foreign internal defense (FID) as one of the principal activities of special operations forces. Subsequently, in 1990, the Commander, USSOCOM validated and strongly supported the establishment of a dedicated Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aviation-FID organization.
In the spring of 1991, a FID office was created in the Plans, Programs, and Acquisition Management Directorate of Headquarters AFSOC, and an aviation-FID concept of operations study was published. In July 1992, the organization conducted a “proof-of-concept” deployment to Ecuador with the US Army 7th Special Forces Group. The success of the deployment led to a Commander, USSOCOM request for an early unit stand-up. In August 1993, the organization became Detachment 7, Special Operations Combat Operations Staff.
In March 1994, the first major aviation-FID deployment was conducted in Ecuador, and in April 1994, the organization was renamed the 6th Special Operations Flight and realigned under the 16th Operations Group of the 16th Special Operations Wing. The unit was upgraded to squadron status in October 1994 to reflect its growth in mission and personnel. In 2006, and then again in 2010, the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review directed the doubling in size and capability of AFSOCs Combat Aviation Advisory force.
AFSOC CAAs stand ready to respond on short-notice wherever tasked worldwide. Commensurate with tasked commitments, they continue to hone their combat advisory skills and exercise bilaterally with foreign friends and allies.
Inventory of Aircraft Used
- Bell 212
- CASA 212
- Cessna 208